Battle Of The Bi-Color Sports Rolex: Sea-Dweller versus GMT-Master II
Rolex made a bold move this year by introducing their Sea-Dweller in Rolesor. Rolesor is Rolex’ definition of combining stainless steel and gold, as it combines the words ‘Rolex’ and ‘Or,’ French for gold.
Although you can expect anything from Rolex, a bi-color Sea-Dweller was not something I was prepared for. The Rolex Sea-Dweller is a watch I always saw as their serious diving watch. The Submariner was available in different versions, ranging from a die-hard divers watch in steel to shiny sports watch fully executed in 18-carat gold. And in bi-color, of course, with several dial options including one with precious stones (serti dials).
And you know what? I think the new Rolex Sea-Dweller with reference 126603, is actually looking good in bi-color. There, I said it. However, it means that the Sea-Dweller transformed from this hardcore tool watch into a watch that blends in nicely when visiting Le Club 55 Beach Club in Saint Tropez. So, in the left corner, we have this Rolex Sea-Dweller bi-color, and in the right corner, we have the Rolex GMT-Master II bi-color. The version that was introduced in 2018, with reference 126711CHNR. Stainless steel and Everose gold, making it a long-awaited successor of the watch nicknamed Root Beer, or Clint Eastwood. A watch with the soft tones of Everose gold combined with brushed stainless steel and brown ceramic.
Sea-Dweller versus GMT-Master II
In the past, things were less complicated. All these Rolex sports models, had a 40mm diameter, except for the ladies versions of course, and the Explorer (36mm). But since a decade or so, Rolex started to come up with their sports models in several different sizes as well. The Explorer increased its diameter to 39mm, and at first, Rolex forgot to increase the size of the hands as well. The Explorer II went from 40mm to 42mm, and the Sea-Dweller finds itself divided into two different versions. No more 40mm case diameter like it used to be in the past, but now we have a 44mm Deepsea Sea-Dweller, for the professional divers, and the Sea-Dweller ‘4000ft’ with a 43mm diameter. Still following? Making the collections a bit more complicated, as there are different sizes to choose from, it also makes it less hard to pick one of them. Especially when the case size, or diameter, is your starting point to make a choice. So, the bi-color GMT-Master II 126711CHNR is slightly smaller than the Sea-Dweller 126603 with its 40mm case diameter instead of 43mm.
Rose Gold vs. Yellow Gold
If you’d asked me a few years ago to choose between rose (or Everose for Rolex) gold and yellow gold, I would have voted for rose gold. It’s a bit more forgiving on a pale skin like mine and perhaps considered less tacky. Today though, I am not so sure. I have both rose and yellow gold watches in my collection, and I don’t have a strong preference towards one or the other. Between the Rolex GMT-Master II 126711CHNR and the Sea-Dweller 126603, it boils down to the accompanying colors. For the Sea-Dweller, it is black. A very classic looking watch that reminds me of the bi-color Submariners (and perhaps some GMT-Masters) from the 1980s and 1990s. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t even consider this combination. Now, I feel a bit different towards it and think it is quite OK. However, the GMT-Master II, with its Everose combined with the black and brown toned bezel is something else. I feel it is an amazingly done color-scheme, and it has grabbed me from the moment I laid my eyes on it. Frankly, I would select this specific combination over the full gold and the Pepsi/Batman models.
In the end, it is a matter of taste. And comfort. If you feel comfortable with a 43mm case, you have two good options here from Rolex; If you think 43mm is too much, then the Sea-Dweller can be crossed off the list. It is an excellent watch with amazing technical specifications, but if a watch is uncomfortable on the wrist, I think you should never purchase it, even if you fancy the other features of this watch. I used to have a Sea-Dweller 16600, and I hardly wore it (and owned it for just over 10 years). It wasn’t the size, but the case back that was just too ‘fat’ that made the watch a bit wobbly on my wrist. For me, it lacked wearing comfort, and I found myself grabbing the GMT-Master II 16710 or Yacht-Master 16622 way more often.
Both watches have the comfortable and much-praised Oyster-bracelet. The clasps are different though, with the 5mm extension link for the GMT-Master and the Glidelock extension system for the Sea-Dweller. The clasp of the Sea-Dweller is a bit longer, and might therefor be a bit more uncomfortable on a smaller wrist. However, if a 43mm case isn’t an issue to start with, neither will be the clasp.
Instead of steel
I don’t want to redo the debate on the availability of stainless steel (as we did so here), which has been a drama for around two years now, but we can all agree that those market prices do not make much sense. If someone really wants a stainless steel Rolex Submariner, Sea-Dweller or GMT-Master, you either have to be on the waiting list, be an amazingly well treated client (=returning customer) or just willing to pay way over its retail price. The latter is for many people a serious option. The bi-color Sea-Dweller 122603 and GMT-Master II 126711CHNR are a bit easier to obtain, waiting lists are shorter and if you are willing to pay over retail, the amount could be perceived as being acceptable. You can check for the prices yourself on websites like Chrono24, for example. The retail price of the Sea-Dweller in bi-color is nearly €15000, whereas the GMT-Master II 126711CHNR is somewhat friendlier with its €13000 price tag. That’s quite a bit above the retail prices of their steel equivalents, but compared to the market prices, the mark-up isn’t that big. Especially if you are willing to shell out serious money for a steel watch and prepared to pay over retail price, the bi-color models might come into play again.
Whether the Sea-Dweller 122603 tick a lot of boxes for you, or the GMT-Master II 126711CHNR, the most important thing is to question whether you are ready for wearing a bi-color watch. Steel is the norm in many countries and cultures so that you might expect some comments or unwanted staring. If you can live with that (you shouldn’t really care what others think of your watch anyway), and simply like the warmth of a bi-color watch, these two sports models are very serious options.
If I had to choose between the Everose GMT-Master II and the yellow gold Sea-Dweller, my pick would be the GMT for a variety of reasons. The rose gold and brown combination, the size but I also like the future of an extra timezone. But that might be entirely different for you. Just know that there are some alternatives to the stainless steel sports models from the Geneva brand and that these watches aren’t perceived as tacky anymore like they were a decade ago.
More information Rolex.com.