Grab the former Rolex Sea-Dwellers while you can!

I have to be honest, I don’t like the new Rolex Sea-Dweller Deep Sea very much. It is not that I dislike the inner ring that everybody is talking about, with the Sea-Dweller subscription, it is the size of the watch and the rather ‘small’ bracelet attached to it. Perhaps the watch has to grow on me, like the GMT-Master IIc (ref.116710) and the Milgauss (ref.116400(GV)) did in the meanwhile. I happen to like these last two a lot actually. So who knows, I might be able to like the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deep Sea in the (far) future as well.

However, I do not seem to be alone with regards to the new and [technically] improved Sea-Dweller Deep Sea 116660. The former Rolex Sea-Dweller ref.16600 (pictured above) is very hot at the moment, perhaps hotter than it ever was. Some unauthorized dealers have been buying the last produced Sea-Dweller ref.16600 time pieces ever since the introduction of the Deep Sea model, and it is paying off. The last known catalogue (or list) price was 4870 euro.

Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!

If you take a look at the small graph above, captured from the famous R-L-X Sales website, you’ll notice that in the last 2 years the average price of a Rolex Sea-Dweller ref.16600 (new & used) has grown towards the last known list price. Normally, [even] a Rolex sports watch in steel can be had with some discount, with the exception of newly introduced models or the famous Rolex Daytona ref. 116520. The last unofficial price for a Rolex Sea-Dweller at an unauthorized dealer – when the watch was still in production – was between 3950 and 4200 euro (list was 4870 euro). I know, because a few of my sponsors (see banners) are heavily into new & vintage Rolex watches.

On the Dutch Rolex Forum, new & unworn Rolex Sea-Dwellers (ref.16600) that are probably from the last batch of this model, are going between for 4650 euro and others have them on sale for even a bit more…(4950 euro at JKWatchStore).

Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!

On watch market portal Chrono24, the ref.16600 Sea-Dwellers are offered – depending on condition, age (tritium or luminova) and whether it comes with box & papers – between 3000 euro and 5500 euro. So, if you’ll do your best to get one for a price that is somewhere between 3000 and the last offered new & unworn models, I think you have a mighty good watch with classic appeal that will suit almost everyone’s wrist.

My own Sea-Dweller (1997) was one of the first watches I bought from the salary (= salaries) of my first job after college in 2003, and I still enjoy it a lot! I really tried the Deep Sea but it doesn’t appeal to me as much as the former Sea-Dweller model. The Sea-Dweller ref. 16600 seems to be a more civilized watch in comparison to the Deep Sea ref. 116660, which is a funny thing, since when I bought mine in 2003, it was regarded bulky and very ‘present’ on the wrist.

In fact, I can’t believe Rolex made such a giant leap (for Rolex, not mankind) from the former Sea-Dweller to the Deep-Sea model. One of the few things that give me hope for a more in between model, is that they went from reference number 16600 to 116660 instead of using 116600. Will there be a 116600? No one knows, only Mr Meier perhaps, CEO of Rolex.

Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!

Also, if you want to go a step further back in time, you can also opt for a Sea-Dweller ref.16660 a.k.a. ‘Triple Six’ Sea-Dweller. Rolex collectors like to talk about ‘transition models’ when they discuss the GMT-Master 16750 & 16760, Submariner 16800 and the Sea-Dweller 16660 also belongs in this list of transition models. Produced in the mid-eighties, the Triple Six Sea-Dweller is considered to be neo-vintage and a soon to be vintage anyway. If you are going to invest time in looking for a pre-116660 Sea-Dweller, you might want to look into these as well. The above pictured ref.16660 Sea-Dweller belongs to Remco, well respected Dutch Rolex Forum member from the first hour with a passion for (vintage) Rolex. As you can see, the tritium hour markers and hands show nice patina (the yellow-ish or vanilla color due to a proper ageing process) and the case and bracelet are in superb condition.

Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!

Complete with box and papers, expect to pay some more than the later ref.16600 model with tritium or the ones with luminova dials of course.

To cut a long story short, if you want to have this classic looking Sea-Dweller, ref.16600 or ref.16660, I think you should consider acting now, before they leave the collector’s market at all. The ref.16600 Sea-Dweller didn’t become very popular until 2007/2008 for the big [watch] public, so chances are big that there aren’t THAT many of them around (in comparison to Submariners). Especially the Triple Six Sea-Dweller from the 1980s (with caliber 3035 instead of the later 3135) and the later 16600′s with tritium dials will probably going to fetch some higher prices in the near future. Rolex started using luminova dials in 1998 with respect to the Sea-Dweller.

Let me know your thoughts about the former Sea-Dweller and the current ‘replacement’, the Sea-Dweller Deep Sea. Click ‘comments’ below to do so.

Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!
Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!
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Robert-Jan Broer

Founder & Editor at Fratello Watches
Robert-Jan Broer, born in 1977, watch collector and author on watches for over a decade. Founder of Fratello Watches in 2004.
Grab the former Rolex Sea Dwellers while you can!
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27 Comments

  1. The Prodigal Fool Reply

    Great post. I totally agree.

    The move from the Sea-Dweller to the Deepsea was – for Rolex at least – a huge one and, in my eyes, they’ve made a mistake. Where the Sea-Dweller was all cool, utilitarian tool watch, the Deepsea is all bling and flash.

    Calling it “the most over-engineered timepiece in the world”, I posted my own thoughts about the Sea-Dweller here:

    http://theprodigalguide.com/2007/03/31/rolex-sea-dweller-the-most-over-engineered-timepeace-in-the-world/

    And my reaction to the vulgar Deepsea, in which I plea with Rolex to “tone down the bling”, here:

    http://theprodigalguide.com/2008/06/01/a-plea-to-rolex-tone-down-the-bling/

    1. regina311e@yahoo.com Reply

      Can’t find any topic on rolex deep blue sea dweller limited edition.
      Can anyone help?

      Wilson yuloque

    2. Msevers141 Reply

      The DSSD is all bling and flash?? are you kidding me? it is a supreme diving tool at the least! I mean listen if the $10k price tag is a little high i understand, But “All flash and bling” Your kidding me right? This has to be a joke? Someone wake me please I’m feeling sick!

  2. Robert-Jan Reply

    Thanks for your comment and interesting links. Over-engineered might be the right word indeed.

    Best,
    RJ

  3. Remco Reply

    Great post RJ, thanks!!

    I must admit that I do like the Sea-Dweller Deepsea (SDDS), …only thing that keeps me from buying it is the bracelet, it’s just too ‘skinny’ for this size!! I’m not disturbed by the text on the ring. And yes, maybe ‘over-engineered’ is a good qualification for this extreme watch. But remember, it is still sold as a professional watch. And with that in mind, you either like the (hi)story or you don’t!

    I think the SDDS could be a next ‘wannahave’ (in a couple of decades). It has happend before with some other models, which at first wouldn’t sell for a penny! For Rolex sportsmodel lovers, Sea-dwellers have always been proven to be collectors watches …but only realy recognized after a couple of years.

    If you’re in it just for the money, check a 30 year old retail price list and compare it to todays trade values! For instance an early white Sea-dweller 1665, retailed at $850.- …now valued at a minimum $10,000.- until $20,000.- depening on dialtype, state, provenance etc. If you have ‘red text’ on the dial, even more! This could also happen to the 16600, triple 6 and even the Deepsea …who knows?! It’s always a gamble and you have to be patient ;-)

    All the best!
    Remco

  4. Curtis Reply

    I have both the Sea-Dweller and the Deep Sea. When the Deep Sea came out I thought great a Rolex and a larger 44mm watch (I have to to wear large watches and 40mm cases seem small now). However, after buying the Deep Sea it just does not have the same “feel” as the Sea-Dweller. I think the bracelet which narrows on the Deep Sea is part of the issue. Anyway, I find myself wearing teh Sea-Dweller more and more. If this continues and the Deep Sea does not win me over in the next year I will probably part ways and put the funds towards a non-Rolex (ie: IWC Big Pilot).

    Curtis

  5. Watch Strap UK Reply

    I have to agree I love my old Sea Dweller and didn’t like the look of the Deep Sea at Basel this year. I don’t think it helped that they put it so close to the window at the front of the display. This just made it look even bigger. Certainly for someone with a 7 inch wrist like me, it looks too big.

  6. Andy Sterke Reply

    I absolutely agree with the lot of you. I have a 2002 Sea Dweller (and a Milgauss 116400GV). I definitely wouldn’t even consider a Deepsea. Nothing wrong with its size (I also have a Luminor Submersible) but I enquired at a dealers if Rolex could supply me a Deepsea without all of the writing all over the dial and inner ring…. obviously no can do. Will keep my Seadweller (its not for sale). If I want to go deeper than a Deepsea I’ll wear my Sinn Hydro as its gauranteed to “more than” 5000m!!!

  7. Angle Reply

    I absolutely agree with the lot of you. I have a 2002 Sea Dweller (and a Milgauss 116400GV). I definitely wouldn’t even consider a Deepsea. Nothing wrong with its size (I also have a Luminor Submersible) but I enquired at a dealers if Rolex could supply me a Deepsea without all of the writing all over the dial and inner ring…. obviously no can do. Will keep my Seadweller (its not for sale). If I want to go deeper than a Deepsea I’ll wear my Sinn Hydro as its gauranteed to “more than” 5000m!!!

  8. MARDubai Reply

    I like the new SDDS, and feel like the older SD is a little small in the context of contemporary watches. 40cm just isn’t what it used to be! The SDDS is 43cm but wears like a 45cm due to its thickness. I like the size, WR, the ringlock system (e.g. being able to squeeze the watch and feel it “give”), the domed crystal etc. However, the text on the ring, while discreet when seen in person, is a little much. For me, the bracelet is the absolute deal breaker – it is just too tapered and mismatched to the heft of the watch. My solution is to get a custom non-tapering sailcloth strap made (or buy a 20 or 22cm strap off the shelf, the actual lugwidth is 21cm), or use a NATO strap with the SDDS. That would make the watch, on the whole, more comfortable, discreet, and distinctive (too many big stainless rolex guys around), but it certainly wouldn’t be all stainless steel anymore (and you would lose that fancy new clasp adjustment system). Rolex straps in general tend to taper too much, and this is an extreme case. A non-steel strap is a workaround in the absence of an appropriate bracelet from Rolex. It also could add some individuality to an otherwise fine dive watch.

  9. Daniel Rcplanes Garcia Reply

    I have a 1978 sea dweller that I had serviced by rolex and it has the dails you talking about? But not glowing anymore? I got the watch from my dad a few years ago. My doctor has been asking to buy the thing from me but I have told him no.

  10. Seigefell Reply

    i have a seadweller it was given to me, however i am unaware of the style that it is, at present it is nbot working i took to rolex they want $1400 au to repair and service i have been told by them that in working order it is and will be worth alot of money i was considering repairing it and selling to buy the new deepsea but from what ive read i think i will keep the sea dweller i have it is a beautiful watch

  11. ahoward Reply

    I have the classic looking Sea-Dweller, ref.16600 What is it worth? Considering selling it..

    1. Ralph524 Reply

      4,000.00 us dollars.

  12. Hooliia Reply

    I disagree with the author. There are millions of SD’s in circulation and you’re better off getting a 70′s era Submariner oe EXP2 which is already appreciating well, rather than speculating on a SD. The SD was always a bridesmaid. The Sub was the bride. Rolexe’s sans cyclops never do well unless its a Comex SD or 2x Red SD. And, due to fake or doctored faces, there seems to be 20 million double reds or Comex SD’s around.

  13. Carlos Reply

    I own a deepsea and it is great! It is the smallest of my three the PAM 270 and the PloProf.

    If people cant see the beauty of th sdds then great for me when it becomes a rare item in the future.

    The old sea dweller looks too dainty and lets face it our next generation of kids are getting taller and bigger.

  14. Fvu Reply

    I like the old SD 16600 because it’s a cool looking watch compare to the SDDS overside and uneven looking timepiece.  

  15. Menoski Reply

    rolex  made whit the sdds at last a real watch!

  16. Matt Reply

    Hi mate, I just purchased a triple six from a colleague. I was looking to buy a deep sea and was seduced by the older model when he showed me. That said I have to admit, I wasn’t even aware of the triple six before I bought it (just thought it was an 80′s sea dweller)…only having had Rolex do a service have I discovered it’s true identity….it is identical to the one belonging to Remko. Any idea what it’s current value is for insurance? Needless to say I’m not selling as I’ve fallen for it big-time, but am wondering if I’ve paid too little/much £2100. Many thanks. Matt. London.

  17. AE Reply

    A no-brainer, go for the older SD’s not the SDDS… not a nice watch at all. I have a SD 1665 circa late 70′s and that watch is in a whole other league of its own. I also have a SD 16600 and it is much cooler  and stylish ompared to the the newer oversize SDDS. Wear it with suits, boardies.. or what ever, this watch is the one.  I get so many comments on my SD’s and I wouldn’t wear a SDDS if it was given to me for free!! Super stoked on my 2 SD watches and I agree grab them while you can!!!

  18. Bayshoreguns Reply

    Sold a red letter sub for 4,500 boy was that DUMB!

  19. Steve Reply

    I am in Brisbane Australia (Wynnum) and I have just found a watch at a bus stop, which led me here, and is a Sea Dweller Rolex. I will be handing it to police tomorrow morning.

  20. Shenanigan Dude Reply

    You are one honest dude… as rare as a Sea Dweller ;-)

  21. Shaun Marsh Reply

    It’s refreshing to read interesting content like this. Your unique writing style brings forth thought in the reader. I agree with a lot of this content. Thank you for writing this engaging and intelligent article.
    Single Watch Winder

  22. Mike Ard Reply

    ladies, as a business investment there are far more better products to invest in.
    Rolex will never be auctioned as Patek or Vacheron. If you are looking into Rolex as an investment it’s bollocks. If you are willing to buy a watch with brand recognition then you are at the right place.
    Don’t believe the hype, trust me, it helps you with everything in life.
    Just my 2 cents.

  23. Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600 Reply

    […] who had a weak spot for the former people to get one while they still could in a little article (here). In 2009 I wrote “One of the few things that gives me hope, is that they went from reference […]

  24. steppxxxz Reply

    the trend toward big will reverse soon I suspect. Rolex to my mind has not improved any of their watches in the new generation, except perhaps the datejusts. The new explorer Im not sure yet. But the deep sea is an atrocity. The old seadweller was perfect. In the same way the old subs were perfect and the previous generation GMTs.. Those are iconic. Everyone from chuck yeager to Fidel and Che to several astronauts wore GMTs, pepsi or coke bezels. Somehow i doubt the new GMTs will have that panache. The sea dweller has always been the most over engineered watch (save for a few quite eccentric rarities)….and whether it was , really, it gave off that aura. It was plenty big, but balanced. The new wide lugs give a square chunky feel, and lack that perfect balance. Ill be curious to see where they go next, but i think Im going to invest a sea dweller before they start shooting up in pice.

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