Sea Dweller vs Submariner: A Rolex Luxury Dive Watch Skirmish

Sea Dweller vs Submariner

If you are in the market for the best dive watches, you have your work cut out for you. When it comes to diving watches, it’s hard to go wrong with a Rolex. However, even when you decide to go for a Rolex dive watch, you’re not out of the woods yet. Many people find themselves choosing between the Rolex Sea Dweller vs Submariner.

Today, we’re going to pit the legendary Rolex Submariner against its brother from another mother, the Rolex Sea Dweller.

Both Rolexes are exceptional timepieces that are designed for aquatic activities. If you’re asking which one I prefer, I have to give it to the Submariner. It’s a legendary dive watch for a reason and I can wear the Submariner in just about every possible occasion.

When you’re stuck between a Submariner and Sea Dweller, it’s really a good problem to have. Let’s dive right in, pun intended.

Rolex Sea Dweller Review

 

As of this writing, Rolex has already announced the Sea Dweller 126603 which is the shiny, new 2019 version – basically the “luxe” version of Rolex’s middle durability dive watch.

However, for this review, we’re going to take a look at the Rolex Sea Dweller reference 116600. The Sea Dweller is well considered a true diving tool for professional divers. After all, it’s a dive watch that can go a whopping 4,000 feet underwater.

Design

Between 2009 and 2014, Rolex didn’t release a 40mm version of the Sea Dweller. However, the Swiss luxury watch did release the 44mm Sea-Dweller Deep Sea which offered an insane water resistance rating of 12,800 feet. Despite the unmatched water resistance, many collectors felt that it’s too large at 44mm and yearned for a contemporary Sea Dweller that followed the original design.

Then the Sea Dweller 116600 came.

The Rolex Sea Dweller 116600 is 40mm in diameter and features a slight-domed crystal. Just like the original, the 116600 doesn’t have the “cyclops” feature that magnifies the date window at 3 o’clock. The watch also comes with a helium escape valve on the side of the case at 9 o’clock. This design feature helps with enhancing water resistance and expelling helium gas during a saturation dive.

The 116600 keeps up with Rolex’s modern lineup with the addition of Cerachrom bezel and a Gildelock clasp.

Just by the looks alone, it’s clear that the Sea Dweller shares many design elements with the Rolex Submariner. Although the basic design of the Sea Dweller is more than 60 years old, it still looks like a modern timepiece. One reason for this is the bezel. The ceramic insert is now more scratch-resistant when compared to the easily marred aluminum insert.

I have always been a fan of Submariner’s dial so it’s not surprising that the Sea Dweller’s dial is also a winner in my book. The matte finish dial is the stuff dreams are made of. Shame about the lack of magnifier for the date aperture.

Construction and Wearability

As mentioned, the Sea Dweller can handle depths to 4,000 feet essentially making it a tough timepiece for all sorts of conditions. Although many Rolex users are only willing to go as deep as the kitchen sink with their watches on, it’s still nice to know that you have such a heavy-duty watch.

The addition of the Rolex Oyster bracelet and Glidelock extension system are some of the most noteworthy upgrades to this iteration of the Sea Dweller. Adjustability becomes a non-issue since you can adjust the watch from 2mm for up to 20mm increments. Since this is a dive model, you can extend the bracelet up to 26mm to make way for dive suits.

As you might expect, the bracelet feels supple and comfortable on the wrist. The addition of the 904L steel protects the watch from corrosion. It also comes with a Triplock crown with five insulators for keeping moisture away.

With that said, the Sea Dweller is built like an absolute rock and probably one of the most durable watches I’ve owned.

Timekeeping

The Dweller is powered by Rolex’s venerable 3135 movement. It’s worth noting that it’s the same movement found in the 116610 Submariner Date. The movement features a power reserve of 48 hours and comes with a Parachrom hairspring and COSC certification.

On a side note, the newer Sea Dweller models (126603, 126600) have received a movement update with the inclusion of the 3235 movement.

As for the 3135 movement that comes with the Sea Dweller, it’s the most successful and widely-used movement by Rolex. It’s simply a robust, accurate, and reliable movement. The 3135 is a faultless movement and I have no problems with it.

Rolex Submariner Review

Going head-to-head with the Sea Dweller is the ever-popular dive watch Rolex Submariner. The Submariner is a classic dive watch through and through, and depending on what you choose to believe, it’s the original dive watch ever released.

However, I’m not about to go into this watch’s rich history. Many others have done it before me. For this timepiece highlight, we’ll go with the Rolex Submariner reference 114060.

Design

The Rolex Submariner 114060 is a watch that went through several redesigns. With just a couple of subtle changes, Rolex has created another watch that made a profound impact on the industry.

The design of the 114060 harkens back to the design of the original models. The lack of the date aperture can be a deal-breaker for some people but I personally like this design choice. This makes the Submariner very simple to operate and adds an iconic and classic design.

Plus, not everyone likes the cyclops magnifier found in the Submariner date.

The unidirectional bezel comes with a ceramic insert. In contrast, previous Submariner models are equipped with aluminum inserts. This is good because ceramic inserts tend to be more scratch-resistant than aluminum ones. The bezel engravings add a great deal of detail and texture to the watch.

Of course, you can’t talk about the Submariner without mentioning the iconic black dial. The Sub’s black dial is a personal favorite of mine and it’s all here in its full glory. All of the markers are fitted with an 18K white gold frame which looks stunning and oozing with elegance. Legibility is also on-point, thanks to the larger and Chromalight-infused indices.

Construction and Wearability

Everyone forgets that the Submariner is also a dive watch and can handle up to 300 meters or 1,000 feet depth rating. However, when it comes to water resistance rating, the Sea Dweller vs Submariner is a no-brainer since the former can go down to 4,000 feet.

It’s more like a casual dive watch than a dedicated diving tool.

The crown is fitted with the Triplock waterproofness system which prevents moisture from finding its way inside the case. The middle case is made from 904L corrosive resistant steel which is a standard fair for Rolex timepieces. Like a good wine, the stainless steel case becomes even more beautiful over time.

The solid-link Oyster bracelet is stellar as always and I have no complaints as far as comfort goes. The bracelet comes with the Oysterlock safety clasp and glidelock extension system which make adjusting a breeze. Since you can adjust the bracelet by 2mm increments without needing a specialized device, finding a great fit is all too easy.

Timekeeping

Rolex 3130 Movement

The Rolex Submariner 114060 is equipped with Rolex’s Calibre 3130. This self-winding movement is a straightforward, time-only timekeeping feature that’s purely functional but exquisitely designed. It features a 48-hour power reserve and it’s COSC certified.

It might be a rudimentary movement but it’s a timekeeping solution on which Rolex built its legendary reputation.

The 3130 movement won’t blow anyone’s mind but many collectors will surely appreciate its reliability and robustness. The Submariner will keep running despite the occasional bumps and knocks.

Side by Side Comparison

Here’s a side by side comparison of the Sea Dweller vs Submariner.

Model: Rolex Submariner Rolex Sea Dweller
Series: Submariner Collection Sea-Dweller 4000
Reference #: 114060 116600
Case Material: Oystersteel Oystersteel
Dial Color: Black Black
Bracelet/Strap: Oyster, flat three-piece links Oyster, flat three-piece links
Clasp Type: Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Rolex Glidelock extension system Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Rolex Glidelock extension system
Movement: Self-Winding 3130, Manufacture Rolex Self-Winding 3135, Manufacture Rolex
Bezel: Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated, scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic
Crystal: Scratch Resistant Sapphire Scratch Resistant Sapphire
Water Resistance: 300 meters / 1,000 feet 4000 feet / 1220 meters
Case Diameter: 40 mm 40 mm
Case Thickness: 13 mm 14.8 mm

Sea Dweller vs Submariner: The Verdict

As you can see, the Sea Dweller and Submariner are obviously cut in the same cloth of superior Swiss craftsmanship. Both dive watches share a number of common features such as the Folding Oysterlock safety clasp, Triplock crown, 48-hour power reserve, and more.

However, there are also many key differences between the Sea Dweller 43 vs Submariner.

The Sea Dweller is like the Submariner but has been hitting the gym for quite some time. The former is a sportier and bulkier watch that focuses on pure utility. The 4,000 feet depth rating means that it’s the go-to piece for any serious divers. It’s a thicker piece than the Submariner but it has more elegant lugs. The Sea Dweller doesn’t have a mainstream appeal and that’s perfectly fine.

On the other hand, you have the Submariner which is possibly the most immediately identifiable timepiece ever made. The Submariner is available in many different sizes and models. Everything about the Submariner is just so well-done and it’s a highly-accessible watch. It’s no wonder that it’s the most popular introductory model to the Rolex brand. Plus, if budget is an issue, the Submariner is certainly the cheaper choice.

Choosing between the Sea Dweller vs Submariner is not the worst problem to have. This is one of those cases where it’s impossible to make the wrong choice. The choice depends on what you need from a luxury dive watch.

Rolex 16600 vs 16610 Review: Should I Purchase a Rolex Sea-Dweller or Submariner?

Rolex Sea Dweller vs Submariner

Time to dive into a Rolex faceoff, pun intended, featuring two of Rolex’s top dive watches. The Rolex Sea-Dweller model 16600 and the Rolex Submariner model 16610. There is no doubt that both of these are fantastic, expertly made watches. But which one is better? That’s what I am here to answer for you! Before we dive into specifics of each watch (getting old already), let’s go over a brief history of dive watches. Professional divers need watches to keep track of time while they are thousands of feet underwater. Hence, a need for watches that can take immense pressure under the sea. If a diver does not time their dive properly, things can get pretty ugly. So this created a market for watches that can be a reliable and life-saving device for divers all over. The original dive watch by Rolex is actually a Sea Dweller, made specifically for COMEX DiversThe market for dive watches has expanded exponentially since then.

Dive watches are no longer solely for divers. These watches have become a must-have for watch enthusiasts and business professionals. You need to own at least one to hold the title “watch collector.” That being said, these two watches we are discussing today are true classics in the dive watch game and items you should seriously think about purchasing if you are building a collection.

Rolex Sea-Dweller

Rolex Submariner

Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 Rolex Submariner 16610
Helium Escape Valve No Helium Escape Valve
No cyclops Rolex Cyclops
Stainless steel bracelet Stainless steel bracelet
40mm case 40mm case
Oyster lock clasp Oyster lock clasp
Aluminum Bezel insert Aluminum Bezel insert
Black dial w/ luminescent hands Black dial w/ luminescent hands
31 jewel, 3135 Calibre movement 31 jewel, 3135 movement

The Functionality

Movement

If you are a diver, the functionality of a dive watch is DIRE. It can be a life or death situation. If you are not a diver, well, it still matters, if you’re buying a Rolex I assume you want a top notch watch. Both of these watches are very similar on the inside. Both feature a Rolex Calibre 3135 movement. No doubt, this is considered one of the best inner devices by Rolex. It is the most widely used movement in all Rolex timepieces. Just look at the complexity of this type of movement, it is insane! The caliber measures 28.50 mm in diameter and 6.00 mm in height, which is pretty large for a watch caliber. This allows the watch to perform extremely well and reliable with a frequency of 28.800 vph (vibrations per hour).  A higher vph means a smoother running timepiece! 

 

 

Diving depth

Again, important if you’re a diver, interesting fact if your not. The Sea-Dweller 16600 can reach depths of 4,000 feet. The Sea-Dwellers are the original dive watches for Rolex, so the diving depth was important on this one. In contrast, the Submariner 16610 can handle water resistance of only 1,000 feet. I personally am not a diver, so I will let leave this part on you!

Appearance

Now time for the important stuff, the look of the watches. At first glance, you may not be able to tell them apart. But any watch geek can pick out some major differentiators right away!

Rolex Sea-Dweller

Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

Rolex created a great looking classic with this watch. The Sea-Dweller was the first watch to feature a Helium Escape Valve. Helium escape valves do exactly what they sound like they do. Release helium when at depths of 250 feet or greater. Besides that, it is just a unique looking addition to your watch. 

 

 

One main piece that the Sea Dweller lacks is the signature cyclops, which magnifies the date. Although this sets this watch apart from the rest and is actually a necessity for the diving depths,(the cyclops can crack, no good for divers) the Rolex brand is not the same without the cyclops in my opinion. What I do love about this watch is the size of the case. It is a 40mm, which is no longer in production. The Sea-Dwellers that are made today are much bulkier, at 43mm in diameter.

The newer model Rolex Sea-Dweller DeepSea  is very heavy and large; better fit for a wrist like Shaquille O’Neal.

Rolex Sea-Dweller

A PERFECT FIT

The Sea-Dweller 16600 is a perfect size and sits nice and comfortably on the wrist. Everything about the case on this watch is pristine. When looking at the face up close, the detail of everything is overwhelmingly noticeable. It is sad to hear when watch newbies compare this watch to a cheap Invicta. Why there may be some similarities from afar, there is no comparison to the detail of the Sea Dweller.  The Sea Dweller also features the sapphire crystal glass, an expensive, scratch proof glass that is a beautiful addition to the watch.

The band is pretty interesting on this one. It has the stainless steel Oyster Bracelet, like many other Rolex watches, but the flip lock clasp makes it more adored. Add the sturdy solid end link and you have a handsome and unique band. A solid end link makes it easier to fit on the wrist. This piece secures the watch in place and takes away the kinkiness that has your band twisting and shaking compared to the normal clasps.

Now let’s get to the dial. The Sea-Dweller has a Rolex black dial with illuminating markers. The black dial gives this watch the professional look and goes great with the black bezel insert. Black and silver create a look that is very professional. Make this a watch to wear with business attire.

Rolex did a great job keeping the Sea-Dweller a classic while adding some unique features as well. The lack of a cyclops is a bit unappealing to me, but it does make this watch unique. The overall look is clean and professional, I will rate it a 4/5 in appearance.

Rolex Submariner 16610

Not to be unfair to the Submariner, but there are a vast amount of similarities in appearance. I would be repeating myself with almost everything, so I will cut straight to the differences.

Rolex Submariner

For starters, the Submariner DOES come with the Rolex trademarked Cyclops. The classic Rolex look is exemplified when your date is standing out at 2.5 magnification. The Submariner does not have a helium release valve, oh darn it, so be wary of this if you are a diver. For looks though, the lack of a helium escape valve tarnishes the look of a dive watch. If you are not a diver and own a dive watch, wouldn’t it be neat to have a little piece that has a very important job? To better clarify, I am disappointed with the Submariner model skipping the helium escape. Add it with the Cyclops and the two would go great together!

Everything else about this watch is basically the same. 40mm case diameter, black dial with luminescent hands, stainless steel oyster band and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The Submariner is also expertly handcrafted like the Sea-Dweller and can be worn with similar attire. One thing to add, although the size is the same, for some reason the Submariner sits higher on the wrist and feels a bit bulkier. I like my watches to have a good weight, but not too much weight.

Overall, when it comes to appearance, I have to say I prefer the Submariner. The cyclops is the main reason behind this decision, I just can’t get over a lack of cyclops, that IS ROLEX. With that being said I’ll give the Submariner a 4.5/5.

Value

Besides the look of a watch, this may be the most important factor when deciding what watch to purchase. Now let it be noted that there is a difference between price and value. The prices vary for both of these watches and you can find different deals everywhere. Generally, I would say they are worth the prices you find online. When buying a Rolex be CAUTIOUS. There are many fakes out nowadays, so be sure you buy from a trusted site like Amazon.

I would say both watches are worth the price tag at the moment. Both are top grade beautiful watches by Rolex and once you own one of these watches you can treasure the time and effort put into building these fantastic watches. Overall, the winner for value goes to the Sea Dweller 16600. I chose the Sea Dweller for the best value for a few reasons.

The Sea-Dweller model 16600 is a pure classic. It is based on the original Comex model, yet features newer materials and technology. This watch is no longer in production, so it holds more sentimental value. Sub Mariners are continuing to be produced similarly to how they were for years. Only Sea-Dweller Deep Sea watches are made today, and like I mentioned earlier, they are not the same as the Sea-Dweller 16600. If you purchase the Sea-Dweller, keep this asset in good condition and hold onto it for many years. Do not be surprised if you begin to see the prices skyrocket for this vintage piece.

So Which Is The Winner?

Time for what everyone has been waiting for. Which watch takes the cake? This took a lot of thought to come up with, because like I said several times, both are OUTSTANDING watches. Without further ado, I give you the winner: The Sea-Dweller Model 16600. It may not have sounded like a clear winner in the article, but due to its immense history, it is the better choice of the two. The Submariner is almost a copy of the Sea-Dweller. You have so much more history and worth in the original Sea-Dweller. Although it does not have a cyclops, I still say to go with this watch.