The Rolex Submariner is regarded as the most iconic diving watch on the market. However, Rolex was not the first company to introduce diving watches to the public. Blancpain had released the Fifty-Fathoms just 1 year before, and Omega had released the Marine 20 years prior to the Submariners existence.
The Sea Dweller was introduced in the 1960s. By this point the Submariner could already survive impressive depths of up to 200m (660ft). The Sea-Dweller was designed as a separate model to extend the range of depth underwater. The Submariner was the perfect daily diver, but with one major flaw as far as the significant deep was concerned. After long periods of intense saturation diving, users would notice that the crystal came loose, sometimes with velocity and often a resounding “pop” in the decompression chamber. This was because helium builds up within the watch and the pressure eventually gets expelled through the weakest point of the watch, which for the submariner, was its plexiglass.
The prototypes of the watches aiming to resolve this problem were nicknamed the Sea-Dwellers as they were designed to lurk in the deep for extended periods of time. The popping crystal was solved by a mechanism now patented by Rolex, the infamous Helium Escape Valve (HEV). This rather simple device allowed helium particles to escape in a controlled manner which lowered the internal pressure and stopped the gas from forcing its way out of the crystal. In 1967, the first official Rolex Sea-Dweller was released. Reference 1655 with single line of red text aka “The Single Red”
50 years later in 2017, Rolex released their new Sea-Dweller, model reference 126600. It would be the first time in 50 years that a single line of red text has appeared on the dial of a S.D. This was in homage to the original which was celebrating its anniversary. The Sea-Dweller had grown in size to 43mm and for the first time in its history was sporting a cyclops and a date.
At Baselworld 2019 Rolex implemented another change to the mighty Dweller by releasing a new variant – the first bicolour reference that the model line had seen.
This new version, in keeping with its closest relative, the 126600, has a 43mm diameter case and wears exactly the same as the all steel model with a ceramic bezel insert, brand new 3235 calibre movement, blue parachrom hairspring, and a power reserve of 70 hours thanks to the Chronergy escapement. Internally, absolutely nothing has changed.
Aesthetically, on the other hand, in true Rolex fashion, this otherwise dedicated tool watch has received a dose of polished yellow Rolesor gold going through the centre of the oyster bracelet, bezel and applied markers. A gilt dial print has replaced the red text. This helps to give the otherwise stark and rugged appearance an ironic sense of refinement and sophistication.
The new steel and gold Sea-Dweller can be purchased from Official Watches.