The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 was my first sports activities Rolex again in 2003. After proudly owning it for over 10 years, I made a decision to commerce it for one thing else. Solely to return to the belief — just a few Rolex sports activities fashions later — that the Sea-Dweller is, the truth is, the one for me.
After I began taking my first steps into the world of watch gathering within the late 1990s, I needed to study the whole lot from scratch. Magazines like Uhren Journal, Chronos (later WatchTime), and web sites like TimeZone, taught me numerous the issues I learn about many manufacturers, together with Rolex. Though the costs (and availability) had been way more enticing on the time, being a pupil, buying a Rolex was fairly merely out of the query.
Again then, leafing by means of these magazines, I learn all concerning the indestructible actions inside Rolex watches. The Triplock crown ensured water and mud wouldn’t enter the Oyster case. Even the clasps on the time, which can be thought-about rattly and uncomfortable by as we speak’s requirements, had been praised for his or her robustness. Again when screwed bracelet hyperlinks and solid-end-links (SEL) mattered, these had been the times. Dry materials, as there was not a lot curiosity in shopping for these watches as a life-style accent, however I beloved to study concerning the precise product. One thing many manufacturers have let go lately, the place it’s extra about FOMO and way of life than concerning the product itself.
Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600
Not lengthy after I obtained my first actual job in 2003, I purchased my Rolex Sea-Dweller. Within the years earlier than, after I was a pupil, I had already began gathering watches. Their costs being way more on the reasonably priced facet than they’re as we speak, my assortment was principally comprised of classic watches. Not solely this, but additionally as a result of it was enjoyable to undergo the method of finding out the actions, dials, arms, and instances earlier than you lastly made a purchase order.
Being a pupil, I had on a regular basis on the planet for this stuff. Although solely too costly, and realistically unobtainable for a jobless pupil, a Rolex was nonetheless excessive on my wishlist. This modified in 2003 after I graduated and located a job in IT. If my reminiscence serves me appropriately, I had a wage of €1,900 per 30 days, earlier than taxes (in all probability round 30%).
However the good factor was, on the time I nonetheless had one leg within the pupil life, which included residing in a less expensive pupil flat. Being clever with cash was by no means my robust swimsuit, so when my pal Gerard supplied me a Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 16600 he had in his watch store, I didn’t hesitate in saying sure. Although I don’t have the bill to show it anymore, it was a 1996 Sea-Dweller reference 16600 with a tritium dial and arms. I feel the value will need to have been round €2,300. Exhausting to think about in as we speak’s market.
16600 – The Skilled 16610
I used to be fully in love with this watch, for various causes. I wasn’t a fan of the cyclops of the Submariner Date, and the Submariner 14060 had an inferior motion. Inferior, at the very least, in my view on the time, because it didn’t have the chronometer certification (and thus lacked the “Superlative Chronometer Formally Licensed” textual content, taking over two traces on the dial). On prime of that, the 904L metal Sea-Dweller was typically thought-about to be the extra skilled piece in comparison with the Submariner. That includes a water-resistance of 1220 meters (four,000 ft) and an automated helium escape valve on the facet of the case. What I discovered to be one of many coolest options, was the raised crystal. This extremely thick chunk of sapphire, was important in ensuring that the watch might deal with a lot stress.
…and the Submariner 14060 had an inferior motion
These options resulted in a case a lot thicker than those of the Submariner and Submariner Date. The Sea-Dweller 16600 was a really well-engineered watch, and I used to be at all times shocked at how so few individuals would acknowledge it as a legit a part of the Rolex lineup. One instance of this, which I can nonetheless bear in mind fairly vividly, passed off as I used to be standing in line for the film theatre with my then-girlfriend. Although I used to be not paying a lot consideration, I couldn’t assist however discover the man in entrance of us (who was sporting a Rolex Submariner) looking at my watch. As quickly as he seen I used to be conscious of his scrutinizing stare, he requested me what sort of watch I used to be sporting. So, I advised him about it, briefly after all, as discussing watches in a queue could be somewhat awkward. Although at the very least as issues had been again then, there was a bit much less danger concerned. In comparison with the Submariner fashions of the time, the reference 16610 for the Date and the 14060 for the model and not using a date, the watch certainly had some substantial variations. Maybe even warranting the stares it obtained that day.
Rolex service and restore
An fascinating facet observe is that with this watch, I additionally discovered that you just shouldn’t simply depend on each watchmaker (even when it’s a certified vendor). In 2008, after just a few years of possession, I had my Sea-Dweller serviced. This was carried out at a certified vendor in The Netherlands, the place they tousled the sides on the lugs. They had been fairly merely buffed away in an overzealous sprucing job. The sapphire crystal was additionally changed with one which simply didn’t sit fairly as excessive as the unique (it appears the sooner 16600s had a thicker crystal). The latter is a matter of accepting service components, I suppose. What really bothered me was that the attractive sides on the case had been fully gone, as they’re — to me — an enormous a part of what makes the Oyster case so enticing. After my preliminary shock and full devastation, I made a decision to speak to them about it they usually took the watch in once more to have it restored.
I advised that the one means to do that correctly was to have it carried out by Rolex themselves. Which is simply the way it went down. After 6 weeks or so, I obtained a name that my Sea-Dweller was able to be picked up. I couldn’t imagine my eyes: the sides had been again. I requested them to get a Sea-Dweller from the show (when this was nonetheless attainable) to do a side-by-side comparability. No distinction. I began to doubt whether or not this was my watch, or that they only changed the case. After I obtained residence, I checked the serial, and it was certainly the unique case. Rolex positive is aware of methods to do a correct service or restoration. A lesson discovered the arduous means, from that second on, I’ve change into fairly choosy the place I’ve my watches serviced.
Saying goodbye to the Sea-Dweller 16600
I wore that Sea-Dweller for a few years. This included going out and on vacation. Let’s simply say that it confirmed. It was, even by the requirements again then, an costly watch, however as we speak’s craziness surrounding metal sports activities fashions from Rolex is one thing nobody might have predicted on the time. I’m additionally undecided if this is able to change how, and the place, I wore that watch. Again in 2014, after 11 years of possession, I made a decision to swap it for a Rolex GMT-Grasp 1675. I had additionally owned a Rolex GMT-Grasp 1675 earlier than, with field and papers, that I bought early on (too early, maybe). The GMT- Grasp that was supplied to me, dated from my birthyear, which might solely imply one factor: I needed to have it!
Although I loved it for various years, ultimately, it turned out that the GMT-Grasp 1675 isn’t the look ahead to me. I bought it once more in 2017. Not having a vast price range, I made a decision to shift my deal with gathering Speedmasters. A spotlight which stays as we speak.
Successors of the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600
In the meantime, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 was discontinued in 2008 and succeeded in 2014 by the Sea-Dweller ‘4000’, reference 116600. A really short-lived reference, produced solely over the course of three years. The 116600 (sure, an additional 1 added in entrance of the reference quantity), had a Cerachrom bezel with a different-looking scale and an all-new bracelet. Because it was so short-lived, the costs are excessive in comparison with the earlier 16600, of which extra items had been remodeled its 20-year manufacturing interval. As a little bit facet observe, in 2008, Rolex additionally launched the Sea-Dweller DeepSea. A 44mm case Sea-Dweller with a water resistance of three,900 meters. However this story isn’t about all these different references… The later fashions made enhancements by way of bracelet really feel and high quality, use of ceramic, and of their motion know-how. Nevertheless, regardless of the enhancements, I nonetheless discover myself entranced by the 16600 and its predecessors. With the present 43mm Sea-Dweller (Ref. 126600) that includes a cyclops and crimson printing on the dial, I really feel Rolex tried to make a Sea-Dweller that might actually promote. I’ve no clue if it does or not. It’s arduous to say as they’re not within the boutiques, however my guess is that something in metal sells now anyway.
Getting again to the story, I bought — or traded — my first Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 in 2014 for a GMT-Grasp, which I then bought in 2017. Additionally in 2017, round Christmas time, I purchased a Submariner 114060. I assumed that this is able to absolutely be the look ahead to me. A contemporary, no-nonsense watch, with a ceramic bezel and the newer type bracelet. Taking the beefy lugs as a right, I did put on it fairly a bit at first. However it was lengthy till I found that the Submariner simply wasn’t for me, and ultimately stopped sporting it after some time.
Shopping for again a tritium Sea-Dweller
Quick-forward now to the top of final 12 months, when a pal of mine supplied me a Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 from 1996 in superb situation. As quickly as I laid my eyes on it, I noticed that I ought to have by no means bought my first Sea-Dweller again in 2014. Attempting to remain constructive, I additionally seen that this 16600 was in higher situation than my earlier Sea-Dweller ever was. I nonetheless don’t put on it very ceaselessly, however definitely no much less usually than the Submariner. After I seize it from the protected and put it on the wrist, it immediately brings a smile to my face. Not solely as a reminder of that first sports activities Rolex I purchased again in 2003, but additionally attributable to it fairly merely being a lovely, over-engineered watch.
A bit of outdated
Carrying the 16600 as we speak, 18 years after I purchased my first, I understand that the watch is a bit outdated, at the very least when straight in comparison with extra trendy watches. The arms are slim, the lugs are skinny, the bezel inlay is made from aluminum, the bracelet has hole middle hyperlinks, and the clasp feels a bit flimsy. The one watches you see as we speak with clasps of comparable high quality are the fundamental entry-level watches. Nevertheless, this stuff must be checked out in perspective. It took Rolex a very long time to improve these bracelets to the present technology, which simply ranks amongst the most effective I’ve ever worn. That being stated, the clasp on the 16600 by no means failed on me although, not on this one and never on my earlier Sea-Dweller. I feel the bracelet (and particularly clasp) of the 16600 is a part of what offers this watch character, identical to the drilled lugs. Not essentially the most aesthetically pleasing answer, however one which makes practical sense.
In terms of the motion, the Sea-Dweller makes use of the Rolex caliber 3135. This can be a motion which was launched in 1988, the identical 12 months of the Sea-Dweller 16600’s launch, and subsequently utilized in quite a lot of Rolex watches (e.g. Submariner, Yacht-Grasp, Datejust, and so forth.). It was additionally the primary Rolex motion to have a stability bridge (two screws) as a substitute of a stability cock (one screw). Its predecessor was the caliber 3035, launched in 1977 and used, for instance, within the Sea-Dweller 16660. The caliber 3135 additionally gives a 48-hour energy reserve, as a substitute of the 42 hours of the caliber 3035. The Rolex caliber 3135 has been in manufacturing for about 30 years and is taken into account to be one of many best actions to service. In keeping with our Fratello watchmaker Paul (@paul_divawatchmaker on Instagram), you’ll be able to take pleasure in a drink whereas servicing certainly one of these actions. And I do know he takes this very severely. Rolex used this and different in-house calibers whereas different huge manufacturers reminiscent of Omega, Breitling, and IWC — who turned in-house afterward — nonetheless used ETA-based actions. This has definitely modified within the final 10-15 years and the hole has closed fairly a bit. On the time, nevertheless, this was thought-about the main attraction for lovers of a Rolex in comparison with these different big-name manufacturers. At the moment, the main attraction in Rolex is totally different as soon as once more, as you all nicely know.
The one I like greatest
In comparison with another Rolex sports activities watches from the identical period, be it a Submariner or a GMT-Grasp II, for instance, its market worth has definitely crept alongside a bit slower. The Sea-Dweller 16600 was by no means the most well-liked of the bunch. But when something, that’s excellent news! No less than to me, it was, because it enabled me to purchase (again) one of many sports activities watches from Rolex that I like greatest: the Sea-Dweller.