A good diver’s watch should be a staple in every connoisseur’s collection, and if you’re in search of a brand that has dedicated decades to mastering the art of an expert diving tool – Rolex would be it. The company has created several watches that pay homage to its links to sailing, yachting, diving and exploration – the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller being the main two. But what are the differences between these two Rolex diving watches? And how do they fair up to one another when they sit side-to-side in this comparison article? We’re going to look at the history of the Rolex Submariner and the Rolex Sea-Dweller, as well as each model’s spec to help you decide which diving watch is right for you.
The Rolex Submariner was released in 1953. It borrowed all the best features of the Oyster case – its special monobloc steel middle, a screw-down case back and a screw-down crown to name just a few. It was the first diver’s watch that offered a water resistance of 100 meters. Despite originally being developed for divers and underwater exploration, the Submariner’s emblematic design also doubles-up as a status symbol, hence its cult-like fan base.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller is classed as “the watch that conquered the deep”. It launched in 1967 promising a staggering 1,220-meter water resistance. Since then the Deepsea version of the Sea-Dweller has been released (2008) offering 3,900-meter water resistance, yet the original Sea-Dweller has remained a popular favorite thanks to its exceptional strength, pressure resistance, and water resistance.
Currently, there are Rolex Submariner watches available in 18k yellow gold and steel variations (Rolesor), solid 18k yellow gold, 18k white gold, and steel. The standard 40mm steel model is also available with a green dial and matching green Cerachrom bezel, whereas the blue dial versions can be found in white gold, 18k yellow gold Rolesor variations. The Submariner has received some modifications over the years. It is endowed with a 40mm unidirectional rotating bezel with a 60-minute graduated Cerachrom insert adorned with legible numerals. The crown is integrated with Rolex’s patented Triplock triple waterproofness system and 300-meter water resistance. There’s a date version which features a cyclops lens at 3 o’clock or a no-date version of the Rolex Submariner.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller is larger than the Submariner, bearing 43mm across the wrist. Available in just two variations, the Rolesor model featuring a combination of 18k yellow gold and steel, offers a slightly more luxurious look compared to the all-steel model. The black dial of the Sea-Dweller is kitted out with luminous hands and indexes like the Submariner, and a cyclops date window at 3 o’clock. It too features the same unidirectional rotating bezel and Triplock screwed-down crown as the Submariner but boasts better underwater capabilities with 1,220-meter water resistance and a helium escape valve.
Some Rolex Submariner watches are fitted with one of the brand’s oldest yet most reliable calibers - the self-winding caliber 3135, Others are equipped with the 3130. Both provide a 48-hour power reserve courtesy of a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour. The younger models have a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring built into the movement for greater efficiency.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller, unlike the Submariner, is equipped with the Caliber 3235 as its beating heart. It provides a longer power reserve of 70 hours compared to the Submariner and is also equipped with a Parachrom hairspring.
The Rolex Submariner models secure around the wrist with a sturdy Oyster bracelet crafted from the brand’s most expensive 904L-grade stainless steel material. A Glidelock system fitted in conjunction with an Oysterlock safety clasp will allow you to fit the watch over the top of heavy diving gear by expanding the metal bracelet in 2mm increments.
The Sea-Dweller is also completed on the same 3-piece link Oyster bracelet with a folding Oysterlock safety clasp and Rolex’s Glidelock extension system.
Comparing both models, the starting price for a Rolex Submariner is lower than the Sea-Dweller. Submariner models like the 114060 start at just under $8000. The more expensive collectible wristwatches from this range are those like the ref: 116619LB, featuring a white gold case and blue dial and bezel, costing around $30,000. Sea-Dweller watches like the model ref: 16600 which were created between 1988 and 2008 start at around £11,000, whereas the 50th anniversary Sea-Dweller watches manufactured between 2017 and present start at a little under $15,000.
Deciding between the Rolex Submariner and the Rolex Sea-Dweller all depends on what you want out of your watch. Do you want to wear your Rolex watch as a statement piece? If so, a less impressive water-resistant capability compared to the Sea-Dweller is a small compromise for a watch that will retain its value incredibly well in the long run. Even though the Submariner is more sought-after than the Sea-Dweller, both watches offer an impressive set of features. The Sea-Dweller has a longer power reserve and a helium escape valve as well as 4 times the water-resistance of the Submariner, so if you’re planning to get the most out of your watch on a diving level – the Sea-Dweller is certainly the best option for you.
More about Rolex collection here.