This years marks the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Sea-Dweller. For that occasion, there’s the new Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 122600 with red writing on the dial. A larger case, a cyclops, red writing on the dial and a new movement. Let’s have a look.

The New Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600

Almost 3 years ago, I wrote about the new Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 116600. You might remember that this was the long awaited successor of the 16600, but now with ceramic bezel and matte finished dial. Between 2009 and 2014, there was no Sea-Dweller in the collection. As of now, that reference is being discontinued (run for the stores, you investment buyers) and being followed up by this new Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600. A watch that some of you have been waiting for, with its red writing on the dial (an interesting nod to the vintage Sea-Dweller reference 1665 with red writing). Another interesting ‘feature’ is the applied cyclops. We asked Rolex why they decided to put a cyclops on the sapphire crystal of the Sea-Dweller, as a Sea-Dweller never had one before. Their answer was somewhat surprising. According to Rolex it was technically impossible to do a crystal with a cyclops before on a watch that is water resistant to great depths. With so much pressure on the crystal, the cyclops will be a very weak spot on the surface.

New Rolex Sea-Dweller Anniversary

With the new Rolex Sea-Dweller in 43mm, they solved this issue using a thicker crystal. The Rolex DeepSea Sea-Dweller remains to be without a cyclops, perhaps due to the fact that they haven’t found a solution yet for the pressure on a single point on the crystal at 3900 meters deep. The new Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 is therefore a bit more ‘in line’ with the famous Rolex Submariner Date collection and a perfect alternative for those who love the Submariner but find the 40mm diameter a bit too small.

New Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

The red writing is, as written above, a nod to the vintage double red Sea-Dweller watches. The Submariner reference 1680 also had a number of watches with red printing. Collectors love the red printing on the dials of these Submariners and Sea-Dwellers. Rolex decided to use this as inspiration for the new Sea-Dweller reference 126600.

New Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

Rolex Sea-Dweller ‘Red Writing’ and vintage Submariner ‘Red Writing’

Personally, I am not very keen on the red printing. I like it, but it is not something I would really fancy. But then again, I am also not that ‘blown away’ by the vintage models that used red printing on the dial. However, I realize that for others it might be a very big and important thing. When I saw this new Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 for the first time at BaselWorld, I frowned a bit upon the cyclops on the crystal. But now I know the reason behind it, I can imagine – from a technical standpoint – why Rolex added it to the watch. For me, like the red printing, it wouldn’t have been necessary though. The 43mm case size is what isn’t for me, but again I understand Rolex’s decision to come up with a watch that can be positioned between the 40mm Rolex Submariner and the 44mm Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller. From a commercial perspective, you give people more to choose from instead of having two watches (Submariner and Sea-Dweller) that come awfully close to each other. The Rolex Sea-Dweller was one of my first Rolex watches that I bought. A reference 16600 from 1996. I remember, it must have been around 2004 or 2005, that I was in the queue of the cinema and a guy in front of me (who was wearing a Submariner) noticed my watch and asked me about it. He’d never heard of the Rolex Sea-Dweller before, or seen one. I guess the Sea-Dweller was, for many people out there, second choice. The Submariner came first. Perhaps, with the new proposition in 43mm and cyclops, it is the new Submariner for people who require a larger watch.

New Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

From a purists perspective, it is not the watch for me. But Rolex doesn’t have to live off of purists and only a single digit percentage of their customers probably care about these things. If you belong to the purists category, you have to realize we’re a niche compared to the total number of Rolex buyers out there. On the other hand, Rolex knows and cares enough to realize that a little twist like the red writing on the dial will speak to the imagination of some collectors and purists as well.

New Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

What has remained is the typical Sea-Dweller feature, the automatic helium valve. The new Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 126600 also keeps the ceramic bezel with continuous minute markers, but has a gloss dial again (the 2014-2017 Sea-Dweller had a matte dial). Inside the new Rolex Sea-Dweller is also a new movement, the reference 3235 that I also briefly mentioned in yesterday’s article on the new Rolex Datejust 41. This movement has a Parachrom blue hairspring, a Chronergy with optimized energy efficiency and a power reserve of 70 hours. Of course, like all Rolex watches, the accuracy is guaranteed to be between -2 and +2 seconds deviation per day (on average).

The price has increased a bit since the last Sea-Dweller introduction in 2014 (with a – then – retail price of 8500 Euro) and now retails for 10.350 Euro including taxes.

More information via Rolex on-line.

  • SPQR

    I suspect that despite all the marketing nonsense from Rolex about “technical” problems with prototypes having a cyclops window the real reason they added it is so it can be identified as a Rolex. There are apocryphal stories of customers asking for the Milgauss with a cyclops so other people will know it is a Rolex despite the fact it has no date. The appearance of the cyclops on an ostensibly “professional” diver suggests that Rolex have acknowledged they now sell “status symbols” and are no longer horologists.

  • Menno Verschuur

    Hi RJ, has all the diameter come from just beefing up the bezel, or is the dial actually bigger too?

    My take on it: The red writing, feels a bit of a ‘cheap shot’ as they know people would suck that up. I do like it however, and is ok in my book as it is ‘historically correct’ compared to old SD’s. The added diameter I don’t like so much moves it from classical to ‘bling’ a bit too much. And adding the cyclops takes away one of the things that made the SD special, and less ‘Rolex’ to the casual observer. My eyes would like it as with age the date on my 16600 is slowly becoming useless.. 😉

    BTW had an older gent on the diving boat I’m working on, diving with an old battered up 1665. Beautiful!

  • RyanG

    It’s unfortunate to see Rolex’s sales department apparently spouting BS about a mythical “pressure point” or “weak spot” caused by the magnifier; that’s simply not how hydrostatic forces act.

    Nice watch, though — I think the Sea-Dweller looks better with a Cyclops than without, as the tiny, misplaced date window is my least-favourite aspect of the 116600. I just hope the bezel on the new one isn’t too bulky in person.

  • Hi Menno,

    Yes, the dial has become bigger too. So the entire watch has grown, not only the case diameter or bezel width.

    Nothing beats a 1665.