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Rolex Sea-Dweller Watch Review

by The Review CrewAugust 29, 2010

Without a doubt, the Rolex Sea-Dweller is one of my favorite watches of all time. It represents everything I look for in a watch of this sort: simplicity, quality, functionality, and stark beauty.

The Sea-Dweller is one of the less common Rolex sport models. While the Submariner is produced in several combinations of materials and colors, there is only one Sea-Dweller. It is only available in all stainless steel, and only with a black dial and black bezel. Rolex designed the Sea-Dweller purely as a dive tool — not a fashion accessory.

Features of the Rolex Sea-Dweller:

* Guaranteed waterproof to 1,200 meters, or 4,000 feet (that’s significantly higher than the 1,000 foot rating of the Submariner).
* 40mm stainless steel case which sits 14.5mm high.
* Ultra-thick synthetic sapphire crystal.
* Unidirectional rotating bezel with a corrosion resistant anodized aluminum insert.
* No date magnifier. I don’t mind the “cyclops” on my Explorer II, but I prefer the cleaner look of the Sea-Dweller.
* Helium escape valve. Developed in cooperation with the French industrial diving company, Comex, the helium escape valve allows helium molecules to safely escape without popping the crystal off the watch during decompression (I told you this is a hardcore dive tool).
* Dive extension. The dive extension on the Sea-Dweller is actually nothing to write home about, but it’s sufficient. This is one of the biggest improvements of the new Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA.
* Triplock screwdown crown. The Triplock system uses an additional rubber gasket (clearly visible when the crown is unscrewed) beyond the Twinlock system used on many other Rolex sport models like the old GMT Master II and the Explorer II. The crown threads beautifully, and feels incredibly robust and secure.
* Quick-change and quick-set date. Quick-change means that the date changes over to the next day instantly almost exactly at midnight (as opposed to changing gradually over the course of several minutes before and after midnight). Quick-set means that you can set the date while the crown is pulled out to the second position rather than having to change the time in order to change the date.

Some other interesting facts about the Rolex Sea-Dweller, and Rolex in general:

* The Sea-Dweller is the only Rolex with a date, but without the date magnifier. This accounts for a lot of its popularity as many people love Rolex watches, but aren’t crazy about the “bubble”.
* The Sea-Dweller is the only Rolex with writing on the caseback. It says “ROLEX OYSTER” and “ORIGINAL ESCAPE VALVE”. The new Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA seems to take all this writing, and put it on the front of the watch, creating a much busier face.
* The additional thickness of the Sea-Dweller’s case beyond that of the Submariner is to accommodate the helium escape valve.
* The bulbous shape of the hour hand which Rolex uses on many of their sport models allows it to be seen while directly under the minute hand. This may seem like an unnecessary detail, but it’s actually a great, widely copied, and under appreciated design. It also makes the hour hand more easily distinguishable in low light.
* This extraordinarily beautiful watch is being discontinued. It is being replaced by the admittedly interesting, but very different Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA. I can promise you that there will always be a market for the “old” Sea-Dwellers, however. They were classics even before being discontinued.
* Most, if not all, modern Rolexes have the Rolex coronet etched on the inside of the crystal at the 6 o’clock position. If you’re buying from anyone other than an authorized retailer, make sure you can see the etching before you buy it.
* Rolex is one of the few remaining Swiss watchmakers who still makes their own movements. Most brands purchase either movements, or movement kits, from companies like ETA. Rolex, however, designs and builds everything but a few oils themselves.
* Rolex is a privately held company which donates a great deal of it’s profits to charity. I think of Rolex as the Robin Hood of the watch world: take from those who can afford it, and give to those who cannot.

If you follow Watch Report regularly, you probably already know that I’m a big Rolex fan. Sure, I like plenty of other watches, and yes, I think Rolexes are getting to be slightly overpriced these days. But in my experience (I’ve owned a total of four Rolexes in my life, and started wearing my father’s in high school), they are some of the best built watches in the world. I love the fact that they design and build almost everything in-house, and cut no corners when it comes to quality. I love that Rolex manages to be both classic and innovative simultaneously. And I love that they donate so much money to charity.

What I don’t like about Rolex is that the brand has become a status symbol. I’ve actually met people with GMT Masters who didn’t even know how to operate them. And every time I see a someone in a suit at the airport talking a little too loudly on his Bluetooth headset and making a big production of looking at his Rolex, I cringe. To me, Rolex doesn’t mean status, or even success. It means achievement, a refusal to compromise, and a commitment to quality in a world where everything around me seems to be getting cheaper and flimsier by the day.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.

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