Sea-Dweller | 'Great White'
The Sea-Dweller was first developed to fulfil a narrow mission statement: survive the harsh deep-sea conditions of saturations divers. In the late 1960s, oil and gas exploration moved offshore, creating a new need for divers to go deeper than ever before and spend extended periods of time underwater, welding pipelines or installing underwater communications cables for hours at a time. The United States navy experimented with underwater habitats to prove the viability of saturation diving during SEALAB.
During SEALAB I and II, the divers were issued Rolex Submariners, however during decompression, the helium used in the breathing gas mixture would brutally expel the plexiglass on the watch as the helium forced its way out. As a response, Rolex developed a new watch featuring a helium escape valve on the side of the case (Swiss patent CH492246). It also delivered a greater depth rating, improving it from 200 to 610 meters. To be used by deep-sea divers, Rolex aptly named the model the Sea-Dweller. It was subsequently used by the U.S. Navy during the SEALAB III experiments, by the mythologised COMEX divers, and by many other professional divers since.
This particular example of the Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 follows the ten-year production of the Double Red Sea-Dweller ref. 1665, from 1967 to 1977. Keeping the same reference number, it introduced a range of new features produced for a short period of 5 years, with the current example having been manufactured in 1978. The most notable difference was the replacing of red text on the dial with white writing, hence the nickname ‘Great White’, bestowed upon it by collectors. The ‘SUBMARINER 2000’ writing on the dial was also removed, clearly indicating that the Sea-Dweller would exist as its own model, rather than as a modified Submariner.
Further, the newer ref. 1665 features a modified engraving on the caseback, which is curved along the periphery, as opposed to engraved straight across. It was also the last variation of the Sea-Dweller to feature a plexiglass crystal, a feature considered by many as crucial component of a vintage watch.
This particular Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 features a MK1 matte dial, identified by the fact that the edges of the first two lines of text at 6 o'clock line up. Further, it includes an 'open 6' instead of a closed one, which is consistent with the dial variation and the production year of the watch. The dial is in excellent condition with creamy lume and matching original hands; the warmth of the patina complements the crisp black and white dial.
The original fat-font bezel has also aged gracefully, displaying grey or blue tones depending on the light. It is worth noting that the bezel is demonstrably taller than on Submariner’s from the same period, providing more grip when handled under water. The case of the watch appears to have been lightly polished and retains sharp, thick lugs.
Inside the Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 sits the 26-jewel automatic 1570 caliber. It is a non-quick set piece that runs at 19,800 BPH and is chronometer certified. As per usual, the movement is controlled via a triple-lock crown.
This watch was previously sold by Andrew Shear, of Sheartime (you can see it in his archive here).
Viewings can be arranged in Central London by appointment.
|Model:||Sea-Dweller 'Great White' Ref. 1665|
|Movement:||Mechanical automatic caliber 1570|
|Functions:||Date, hours, minutes, center seconds|
|Features:||Helium escape valve|
|Case:||40mm stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||Rolex Oyster riveted bracelet (with two additional links )|
|Box & papers:||Original inner box, original outer box, punched official chronometer certification, two Rolex leaflets and 'auto-lock' bezel instruction leaflet|
The watch comes with its original inner box, original outer box, punched official chronometer certification, two Rolex leaflets, 'auto-lock' bezel instruction leaflet and two additional links - all of which have been very well kept. It’s guaranteed for authenticity and comes with a two-year warranty from A Collected Man.
All of our pre-owned watches have undergone thorough mechanical inspections, including being ultrasonically cleaned, serviced and resealed if appropriate and tested for at least four days, to ensure they meet our highest timekeeping standards. Our pre-owned and vintage watches are covered by a full, or a limited twenty-four month warranty. For example, due to their age, some vintage watches should not be subjected to the same conditions as when they were new. Please see our Terms & Conditions for further information.
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