A stunning example of the highly collectable Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref.16660, aka "The Triple Six". With the Sea-Dweller range celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017 there's never been a better time to add a vintage Rolex Sea Dweller to your collection!
Originally developed to provide saturation divers with a reliable watch that could withstand the pressures of the deep, the first Rolex Sea-Dweller was released in 1967 with the Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 1665.
During the mid 1960’s the US Navy was undertaking experiments on the effects of saturation diving on equipment, human endurance and physiology. Carried out through their SEALAB program, “aquanaughts” would spend days or even weeks in an underwater pressurised habitat. The story goes that during a decompression, the crystal from a reference 5514 Rolex Submariner violently exploded off one of the aquanaught’s watch.
One of the aquanauts, the now-famous Bob Barth knew it was caused by the habitat’s breathing gas mixture. Having entered the watch, during the decompression process it would then expand until the pressure difference between the inside of the watch and the outside became so much that it would explode out of the weakest point – the crystal.
As luck would have it, Bob Barth would go onto share his troubles at a dive trade fair with a certain T. Walker Lloyd. Lloyd would then share these insights with Rolex and go onto become an Oceanographic Consultant for the brand. The stars aligned and a solution was found via the use of a one-way helium valve that allowed the gas to escape in a controlled manner.
When compared to the Submariner, the Sea-Dweller has a thicker case, a helium escape valve, domed crystal, no cyclops lens and engravings on the case-back.
The first Sea-Dweller was the reference 1665 also known as the Double Red Sea Dweller (DRSD) in reference to the two lines of red text “Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000” on the dial. Produced from 1967 to 1977 the DRSD was produced with four main dial variations often referred to as MkI to MkIV.
In 1977 Rolex introduced a new version of the Sea-Dweller; "The Great White". Whilst still a reference 1665, the Great White got its name from the switch from red to white text for "Sea Dweller".
In 1978 the watch we have here, the Sea-Dweller Ref. 16660, aka the "Triple Six" was introduced. It was produced alongside the "great white" until the early 1980's when the ref.1665 was finally retired. Often known as a transitional model, it was the Sea-Dweller's longest running model and remained almost unchanged throughout its decade of production.
The ref.16660 saw the addition of a sapphire crystal, larger helium valve, improved depth rating of 4000 ft and a safer unidirectional bezel. It also featured a new automatic movement, the C.O.S.C. Certified Chronometer calibre 3035 and with it for the first time on the Sea-Dweller a quick set date function. This movement also featured a significantly improved vibrational speed from 19,800vph to 28,800vph which helped reduce the impact of shocks and knocks on the watch.
Early examples of the Rolex Sea Dweller ref.16660 featured matte black dials without surrounds on the tritium hour markers. Later examples would see a switch to glossy dials and white gold surrounded hour markers. From 1980-1984 special versions of the ref.16660 were produced for Comex. In 1988 the Sea-Dweller ref.16660 was replaced by the reference 16600.
If you're looking for a watch that has genuinely impressive build quality, but also looks good with a suit and will probably continue to appreciate, then there are few watches better suited than the Rolex Sea Dweller!