Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

Why We Love It

Every once in awhile, a contemporary timepiece -- even one as rooted in history as a Rolex diving watch -- comes along and becomes an instant classic. The Sea Dweller Reference 116600, known to enthusiasts at the 'SD4K' did exactly that.

Released in 2014 and only produced for two years, the SD4K was a return to the classic 40mm case proportions of the original Sea Dweller, that had been missing from the line since the introduction of the Deep Sea model in 2009. 

Featuring all the hallmarks of modern Rolex production, including a ceramic bezel, solid end links, Super Luminova indices and hands, and an absurd depth rating of 4000 feet (hence the '4K' moninker), the 116600 is perhaps the penultimate expression of the professional grade Sea Dweller produced with the traditional case proportions favored by Rolex purists.

This particular examples dates to 2016 and comes complete with a full set of bracelet links, diving extension, boxes, papers, and warranty card. It is in exceptional unworn condition throughout with partial factory stickers still in place on the case and clasp.

We aren't ones to hyperbolize the significance of contemporary wristwatches - hell, this is really only 5 years old - but we have a pretty strong feeling that this model will be the one to own in the coming years...if it isn't already!

The Story

Rolex designed the Sea-Dweller specifically for professional divers with the Compagnie Maritime d'Expertise or COMEX. At the time, the divers at COMEX were already using watches by Rolex, specifically the Submariner Reference 5513. Unfortunately, the Submariner Reference 5513 encountered problems when exposed to the extreme depths at which the COMEX divers worked. Simply put, COMEX employed a new diving technique, called saturation diving, in which the divers used a mix of hydrogen, helium and oxygen rather than the standard nitrogen and oxygen. When not working, the divers would rest in a pressurized chamber, breathing helium-infused air and allowing the built-up helium to leave their bodies.

Since saturation diving decreases a diver's decompression interval, the helium molecules left their bodies faster than they left their watches, causing a build-up of pressure that would blow the crystals off their watches. COMEX approached Rolex with this problem, and Rolex presented a solution: install a titanium Helium Escape Valve on the case at 9 o'clock, which would allow the helium molecules to escape the watch faster. A waterproof O-Ring secured a spring-loaded piston to the outside of the case, which pressed against the O-Ring when the watch was exposed to increased water pressure. Rolex gave COMEX a few of these special prototype 5513 Submariners with Helium Escape Valves, and the problem was solved. Later, in 1967, when COMEX requested a hundred more, Rolex issued a new Reference number, 5514, and placed the COMEX logo on the dial. 

These Reference 5514 Submariners proved such a success that Rolex decided to release them to the public in a brand-new Reference: 1665, the Sea-Dweller. This first Reference of Sea-Dweller was equipped with the Calibre 1575 movement and a thicker crystal, enabling the public to buy a watch capable of descending to the punishing depth of 2000 feet (or 610 meters) at which the COMEX professionals worked. 

In 1978, the Reference 1665 Sea-Dweller was replaced by the Reference 16600, which was fitted with the Rolex Caliber 3035 movement. Now fitted with a synthetic sapphire crystal, the Reference 16600 boasted an even greater depth rating: an impressive 4000 feet (or 1220 meters). This was possible, in part, due to a larger Helium Escape Valve.

A quintessential tool watch with a solid construction, the following versions come fitted with a heavy duty Oyster bracelet with solid end links (SEL) and additional depth rating. Modern Sea Dwellers are the perfect example of a precision instrument that can take a beating (and a bath!) and still run, and is a lesser-seen alternative to the omnipresent Submariner. 


SKU: AS04790

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 116600, Rolex Calibre 3135 automatic winding movement with quickset date. Circa 2016.

Overall Condition: Case is in exceptional condition overall, showing only light wear from careful handling. Partial factory stickers in place. Luminous glossy black dial is in as-new condition with matching handset.

Includes heavy duty 20mm steel Oyster Bracelet with solid end links and signed locking clasp. Also includes inner and outer boxes, full set of links, booklets, diver's extension, bezel protector, receipt and guarantee card dated 2016 from Chow Tai Fook Jewelers in Hong Kong.

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