Watch in Focus – Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000

When the Sea-Dweller was discontinued, it would have been considered a safe bet to assume a new version was on its way soon. The Submariner had been updated to the new chunkier style the year before and the GMT-Master II a year before that. The announcement of a Sea-Dweller for the new millennium was what betting types would call a ‘sure thing’.

Rolex

But we were presented instead with the Deepsea, a forty-four millimetre slice of billet steel and thick crystal, a monster by Rolex standards and a huge divider of opinions. That was six years ago, and only now have Rolex given in and presented hungry watch buyers with what they really wanted all along: a new Sea-Dweller.

And it’s exactly what you’d expect. It’s well made, has a ceramic bezel, a chunkier case, comes with a superb bracelet (that’s not quite as good as its bigger brother’s) and, price-wise, sits dead in the middle of the Submariner and the Deepsea. If the near-£7,000 RRP is no problem for you, it’s a watch that won’t bite you with any nasty surprises, and is sure to carry the rock-solid residuals of its stainless-steel brethren.

Rolex Sea-Dweller
As a nod to the first Sea-Dwellers, the 4000’s dial has a satin finish in contrast to the gloss of the Deepsea

There are a few unexpected touches (and by touches I mean the lightest of brushes — this is Rolex after all), such as the satin dial, the gradated minute markers on the bezel and the thicker caseback, all nods to the brand’s diving heritage. There is of course the addition of a helium escape valve (side note: contrary to popular belief, the helium escape valve has nothing to do with a watch’s ability to be submerged in water. The valve simply acts as a release, allowing the build up of helium to expel safely during decompression in a hyperbaric chamber, rather than popping the crystal off) and the removal of the date cyclops, à la the original Sea-Dweller. Water resistance remains untouched at 4,000 feet.

A helium escape valve protects against crystal blowout following
a deep-sea saturation dive

Needless to say, the new Sea-Dweller will perform a lot better for Rolex than the Deepsea did. The Submariner will always be king of the three when it comes to outright sales, but the Sea-Dweller’s name (and more wearable proportions) will draw fans in their thousands. Why Rolex held off making it for so long, we’ll never know — maybe the Deepsea was a toe in the water to evaluate the trend in larger watches. Or perhaps it seemed, to the people at Rolex, like a logical evolution in the Sea-Dweller line.

 

Haters of the Rolex cyclops date magnifier will be pleased that the Sea-Dweller does without one

Whatever the Deepsea was supposed to be, the designers at Rolex still pay their dues to it in the design of the new Sea-Dweller. In among all the historical influences and traditional touches, there’s a nod — albeit a subtle one — to the gentle giant of Rolex.

[Note: This is an updated post of a Guest Article published earlier on our website by Gary Robery from Watchfinder.co.uk]

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