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Old 23 August 2007, 09:47 PM   #1
nimm12
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The Rolex Sea-Dweller

There is no denying that Rolex has a certain mystique that goes with its name, and until you own one it is hard to comprehend what it is. So I took the plunge, after reading tons of reviews and literature like this one that I am writing now, on most of the Rolex Professional Collection, such as the Submariner Date, the Explorer 2, the GMT Master 2, the Yacht Master 1and of course, the Sea-dweller. I finally settled for the legendary Sea-dweller (Oyster Perpetual Date, reference 16600, recommended retail price USD$5,350 at the time of this article, August 2007). I took into consideration factors such as the respect this watch commands among the dive watch fraternity, its incredible technical specifications and capability, the classic timeless cosmetic appeal, and also, the rich illustrious history behind it. It sure took me some time to come to this decision, but I have not regretted a single bit.


I cannot begin to describe just how excited I felt when I first saw my Z-series Sea-dweller. There it was, sitting in the new design, large and heavy Rolex box. To side-track a little, in my opinion, this new design box that was introduced somewhere in the early 2005 is a huge improvement over the scrawny looking old wooden box that Rolex had been using for the past 20 to 30 years. I feel any Rolex watch sits much safer and look more secured in this huge solid box with a nice soft padded cream interior, compared to the old one. I am not sure what material it is made of, but it feels too heavy to be wood. Could be hardened plastic, I guess.


The Sea-dweller (which I bought on that very day I first saw it, and now happily strapped on my wrist) was totally brand new, glaringly shiny, as if it left the Rolex factory in Geneve, Switzerland barely a couple of hours ago. Holding the stainless steel Oyster case, precisely milled from a single piece of cold-formed solid 904L block, is like holding a piece of finely-crafted jewel. (Incidentally, the 904L is known to be 3 to 4 times more expensive than the most commonly used stainless steel, the 316L in the watch making industry, for its superior anti-corrosion properties). I understand it takes Rolex no less than 150 steps of operation to create every Oyster case. The chrome mirror-like finish of the case, bracelet links and clasp sides adds to its elegance and gives it a touch of class. I am not sure, but I have a feeling Rolex produces the best high-polished mirror-like finishing in the watch industry. The Z-series Sea-dweller doesn't have drilled-through lugholes on the side of the case for the spring-bars to attach the bracelet to the case. This makes the watch looks all the more elegant I feel.


On the Oyster case, the meticulous polish extends to the horn-like shoulders that protects the ingenious Triplock Crown, something which I really appreciate, and feel that no crowns on any other watches come close to when compared. I love the Rolex Coronet Signature engraved on the Crown. To label it majestic is an understatement. The 3 small dots below the Coronet signify the Rolex patented Triplock system which utilizes an extra O-ring gasket on the stem tube for the first line of defense against harmful elements such as water, dust and humidity in the surroundings. The crown is the Achilles heel of every dive watch. Having a good crown contributes significantly to the longevity of a watch and is even more important for dive watches that are designed to withstand high water pressure at great depth. Functional wise, the sheer size of the Triplock Crown (7mm diameter) makes it easy to grip, hence winding the movement is so simple yet pleasurable. I would say its pure enjoyment. I have a few other watches like the Breitling Superocean and the Omega Seamaster, all using the ETA movement, and I know for sure that none of these come close to the perfect silky smooth feeling of winding the Rolex Caliber 3135. (I will cover more about the renowned 3135 movement later). The stem tube looks thick, and the screw threads, together with the threaded cylinder within the case, acts as yet another gasket that serves as the final line of defense. The crown feels solid and does not wobble at all while winding. I could do this the whole day, if not for the fact that too much screwing and unscrewing causes the threading to be worn out prematurely. Perhaps my worry is uncalled for, after all, the technology that the Triplock Crown seals the Oyster case is similar to that of the hatch of a submarine vessel. Such is the assurance of the Sea-dweller for professional divers, especially those of COMEX (a French commercial company doing underwater projects such as oil rigging).


I am not sure if the underwater rating of 4000ft=1220m is for real. After all, Rolex does not subject every single piece of Sea-dwellers its produces to such a depth where no human can even survive to tell the test results. Anyway, the physical dimension of the Sea-dweller does seem to tell us something about what it is capable of. Weighing a hefty 148grammes and measuring a substantial thickness of 14.5mm, somehow I feel Rolex claims of 4000ft could well be justified. Even the Sapphire Crystal itself is 4mm thick, and it is due to this very thickness that the renowned Rolex Cyclops (also known as the Date Magnifier or Bubble) is left out for the Sea-dweller. I know many go for this cleaner look. I am one. I like it. It just makes reading time so much easier without the Cyclops. I hate it when the minute hand goes under the magnifier and distort its shape. Makes it so difficult to tell time. I also feel the date is over-magnified at 2.5times with the Cyclops. Kind of look weird and out of place. I prefer the date unmagnified. Looks simple yet pleasing to the eye.


Although there is no Anti-reflection coating on the Sapphire Crystal, I certainly do not feel legibility of the dial reduced in any degree. This could be due to the fact that the 4mm Rolex Crystal is flat, and not domed-shaped as in the case of the Breitling Superocean and the Omega Seamaster, both of which are AR-coated for that matter. Besides the lack of the Cyclops and a high degree of legibility, the other one thing that I like about the Crystal is the polished edge. Feels ultra smooth to touch. Because of its thickness, about 1mm of the Crystal protrudes above the bezel. I guess Rolex did a pretty good job at finishing the edge of the protruded portion. Specification wise, the hardness of this Crystal is right next to diamond, at a stunning 9Moh. Totally shatterproof I think.


Surrounding the Crystal is the uni-directional rotating Bezel that uses the traditional 60-minute marker. This 120-clicks Bezel turns pretty smoothly with a precise delicate ratchet. The tiny serration that runs around it makes it extremely easy to grip. The Bezel on the Sea-dweller is significantly thicker than any other bezels employed in other Rolex references, due to an extra ridge on the underside to accommodate the much thicker Crystal on the Sea-Dweller. It is perfectly functional and gives an added piece of security to compliment the electronic gadgets that virtually every divers use in deep-sea diving today. I like the fact that a glass coating now protects the Luminova coated on the 12 o’clock position of the Bezel. Also, the deep and rich black coating of the Bezel matches that of the classic enamel dial, which is pitch black and has a fine consistent shine to it that resembles the lacquer of a grand piano. I must say the eminence and gracefulness that the pure black enamel dial exhibit amazes me. Simple is beautiful. The applied white gold indices, the clean-cut Luminova filling, the crisp white dial print and the chrome finish of the hands are but flawless. Immaculately executed. I particularly like this hassle free look of the dial, and its simple tuxedo black and silver appearance. Such perfect contrasts yet utterly unpretentious. I feel this understated appearance belies a hint of strength and toughness of the Sea-dweller unknown to onlookers. . I've heard grumbling about Rolex's QC when inspecting the dial with a loupe or even a microscope, but I certainly can live with a few minor faults. After all, no one tells time from a watch using a loupe.


I especially like the literature printed on the dial. I like the fact that Rolex label its Caliber 3135 movement a ‘Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified’. The word ‘Superlative’ seems to suggest it is top notch, one that is better than any other COSC (Controle Officiel Suisse des Chronometres) Certified Chronometer. Rolex uses no less than 220 components for its movement, amongst which include the famous Breguet overcoil hairspring and the Glucydur balance wheels with a screw fine adjustment system called 'Microstella'. The free sprung mass inertia balance is found in few other movements nowadays (Patek Philipe is one) and is a superior form of regulation. Because the balance is freely sprung, the addition of a Breguet Overcoil is feasible and appropriate. By allowing the hairspring to shrivel and expand symmetrically, the overcoil stabilizes the rate of time keeping with respect to positional changes. The huge escape wheel is solidly anchored under a bridge that connects to two ends of the plate, which ensures a more secured attachment. No doubt the Caliber 3135 lacks the meticulous finishing of a Patek Phillipe or Jaeger LeCoultre, the Rolex movement is designed for robustness and reliability, thus in this aspect, it fulfills its role without doubt. I would say the Caliber 3135 is an example of fine craft, marvelous engineering, robust construction and impeccable design. This movement is designed to withstand rough use, its massive 28.50mm diameter and 6.00mm thickness allows the use of sturdier, more robust parts with higher tolerances for wear and tear. This translates to extreme durability, reliability and stability. Such are the reasons Rolex label its Caliber 3135 a ‘Superlative Chronometer’, one that combines accuracy, long term stability and robustness into a single movement. Power reserve is 47 hours and it has 31 Jewels (these are almost frictionless synthetic rubies used in modern watch movement's bearings, quite as hard as diamonds) and 28,800bph (beats per hour). Other features include the red oxidized click wheel reverser, the KIF shock protection and decorated plates and bridges finished with circular graining (known to prevent dust accumulation). Very few watch companies spend resources and time to develop in-house movement from scratch, and an overwhelming number of watch manufacturers today uses the reliable ETA movements. ETA has been around 50years longer than Rolex, and they produce fine movements that are the base ebauches for many of today's Swiss renowned watch manufacturers such as Breitling, Omega and IWC. Nonetheless, I am attracted to Rolex for the fact that it continues to develop and build its very own movements. The numerous well-aged Rolexes ticking away healthily out there is a testament to the fact that Rolex movements are amongst the best. Now you realize what’s all this fuss with the celebrated Rolex movement.



The other one thing that defines the Sea-dweller is the Helium Release Valve (HRV). This was a joint development in the late 1960s by Rolex and Doxa. Rolex holds the patent though. The HRV was developed to eliminate the need to unscrew the crown when saturation divers were decompressing in the decompression chamber. Under pressure, tiny molecules of helium gas are able to infiltrate even the tightest of seals on dive watches. If this gas is not released, pressure within the watch will build up immensely as the diver decompresses, and can blow the Crystal off the watch. This unique problem was discovered by COMEX divers back in the 1960’s, and Rolex integrated the HRV into the Sea-dweller case to be automatically released when pressure within the Oyster case builds up to a critical level. The HRV is made of Titanium and looks darker than the 904L stainless steel case.


Moving on to the Oyster Flip-lock bracelet (reference 93160), its design excels in simplicity and functionality. I had to remove 1 link from the bracelet to fit my wrist. The tapered links with their fine-brushed finish give the Sea-dweller an undeniable aesthetic appeal, and also provide exceptional durability. The Sea-dweller was the first Rolex Professional watch to receive the Solid End Links, which are not only more pleasing cosmetically, but also less noisy than the rattling hollow end links of the older Oyster. The Sea-dweller bracelet tapers from 20mm to 17mm at the clasp. The side links are solid as are the end links, but the middle links of the bracelet are hollow. This reduces the overall weight of the watch, and some says it balances the watch on the wrist rather well. Screwed pins are used to join the links. I would prefer all the links to be solid though, as over time, the hollow links become worn and the bracelet tends to sag or stretch. One of the major criticisms of the Sea-dweller, in fact, of most of the Rolex Professional Collection, is the clasp. No doubt it is thin and feels cheap, I feel it does its job in locking the bracelet pretty well. Nothing much to complain here in my opinion. I particularly like the way the Sea-dweller springs out when the link with the small O stamped on it is depressed. Its cool, yet another piece of genius innovation from Rolex. This releases the hidden diver's wetsuit extension on the Oyster bracelet. It is a work of art. Try it for yourself and you will get what I mean. The Sea-dweller comes with a spare set of wetsuit extension (just incase the one provided doesn't provide enough length) and the Sea-dweller tool (reference 2100) for adjusting the bracelet length, both contained in a green leather wallet. That's a nice touch.


The Sea-Dweller is the only Rolex that has writings painted pitch black on its caseback. It says 'ROLEX OYSTER ORIGINAL GAS ESCAPE VALVE' and also has 2 Rolex coronets. I understand Rolex has stopped issuing the green hologram stickers on the caseback of new watches. My Z-series doesn’t have it. Somehow I prefer the cleaner look without the sticker. And ever since the F-series in 2004, they have also stopped issuing the iconic stainless steel Anchors (engraved with depth ratings 300/1000 for the Submariners and 1220/4000 for the Sea-dwellers). A pity I think.

The final thing worth noting on the front of the watch is the tiny laser-etched Rolex Coronet Signature at the 6 o'clock position on the Sapphire Crystal. Since about 2002 Rolex have etched this minute and almost unnoticeable Coronet into the Sapphire Crystal of all its watches as an anti-fake identification. You have to tilt the watch at an angle under strong illumination to see it. A loupe helps.

Hope you enjoy reading my review for the Sea-dweller, do feel free to email to me at nimm12@hotmail.com

Last edited by nimm12; 25 August 2007 at 02:38 PM..
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Old 24 August 2007, 01:44 AM   #2
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One of the best reviews i ever read Stunning pics what you did is amazing
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Old 24 August 2007, 01:46 AM   #3
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One of the best reviews i ever read Stunning pics what you did is amazing
Agreed! A really, really great review with amazing pictures. Well done.
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Old 24 August 2007, 01:58 AM   #4
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Beautiful pictures, and a beautiful watch!

To top it all, a brilliant review to go with them!

enjoy!
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Old 24 August 2007, 02:06 AM   #5
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Excellent review and commentary, in addition to great photos!

Makes me cherish my SD more!
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Old 24 August 2007, 03:33 AM   #6
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Great writing and pictures. Makes me want to get another SD soon......
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Old 24 August 2007, 04:05 AM   #7
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Great stuff!!!
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Old 24 August 2007, 05:10 AM   #8
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Congratulations.....one of the best reviews i have had the pleasure of reading on TRF.

I own an A series Sea Dweller, i have owned it from new and would never part with it.

I am a watch collector and own a few different makes and find (in my opinion) that the sea dweller is Rolex and has not gone through as many changes as other models(well i hope not, dont like the recent modifications of other models)
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Old 24 August 2007, 05:27 AM   #9
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Good stuff! Excellent pics!
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Old 24 August 2007, 08:53 AM   #10
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Makes me want to go out and purchase one, I think Rolex should hire you as their spoke person
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Old 24 August 2007, 10:12 AM   #11
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Excellent review, I hope you buy every Rolex there is.
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Old 24 August 2007, 02:41 PM   #12
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Downing needs to see this. He just bought a new SD. Great write up!
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Old 24 August 2007, 03:50 PM   #13
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Excellent review on a beautiful watch! Makes me want to go and buy an SD!

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Old 24 August 2007, 10:31 PM   #14
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Excellent review thank you.
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Old 24 August 2007, 11:04 PM   #15
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I'm speechless!

PERFECT review in every respect: choice of words, descriptions, facts and above all: Stunning macro shots!

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Old 24 August 2007, 11:20 PM   #16
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Awesome review and photos
Thanks very much, I love my SD, it's a keeper
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Old 24 August 2007, 11:31 PM   #17
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Best Rolex photos I have seen for a long time
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Old 25 August 2007, 06:00 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nimm12 View Post
There is no denying that Rolex has a certain mystique that goes with its name, and until you own one it is hard to comprehend what it is. So I took the plunge, after reading tons of reviews and literature like this one that I am writing now, on most of the Rolex Professional Collection, such as the Submariner Date, the Explorer 2, the GMT Master 2, the Yacht Master 1and of course, the Sea-dweller. I finally settled for the legendary Sea-dweller (Oyster Perpetual Date, reference 16600, recommended retail price USD$5,350 at the time of this article, August 2007). I took into consideration factors such as the respect this watch commands among the dive watch fraternity, its incredible technical specifications and capability, the classic timeless cosmetic appeal, and also, the rich illustrious history behind it. It sure took me some time to come to this decision, but I have not regretted a single bit.
Wow, a truly awesome review for a truly awesome watch.
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Old 25 August 2007, 01:27 PM   #19
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Great Review!!
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Old 25 August 2007, 08:03 PM   #20
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That Sir is an excellent review!!!!!
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Old 25 August 2007, 09:31 PM   #21
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Now THAT was a very detailled review.

The only thing missing were pictures of the caseback as well as the HEV.

You must have a lot of time on your hands.

Well done.


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Old 30 August 2007, 01:07 AM   #22
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Great review
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Old 3 September 2007, 03:37 AM   #23
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Great job and magnificent pics! People like you are what make this forum so good.
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Old 3 September 2007, 04:09 AM   #24
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AmazinglyWell Done

Thanks for this excellent review. I enjoyed reading it immensely. It really encapsulated my reasons for buying my S-D yesterday. And your pics are brilliant.

Regards,

James
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Old 3 September 2007, 05:18 AM   #25
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Absolutely amazing reveiw and the pics...well great!!

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Old 3 September 2007, 12:13 PM   #26
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Awesome review! Great read, thanks!
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Old 3 September 2007, 03:56 PM   #27
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You need to send that to a watch magazine for publication consideration. Seriously! Now you are making me feel bad for not having a SD!
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Old 3 September 2007, 11:31 PM   #28
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Nice read...Thanks
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Old 4 September 2007, 05:29 AM   #29
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Awesome, indepth review. I take it you work for Rolex
Seriously magnificent review.

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Old 4 September 2007, 01:20 PM   #30
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I would send it in for submission to any watch magazine
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