SEADWELLER

 

Following an industrial boom and the Second World War Oil reserves were on their way to creating the first real energy crisis. And this meant that new technology was developed to reach these new sources of oil which were much deeper than the normal 200 feet.

When a diver ascends from deep water too quickly the sudden reduction of pressure releases the nitrogen compressed in the air he breathes and forces it out of suspension in the blood as bubbles. This basically turns your blood into sparkling water and also created a problem for the ever durable Submariner.

There was no problem as long as the diver remained in high pressure environments. But when the chamber was decompressed, it was not possible for the helium to escape from the watch as rapidly as the chamber was decompressing. The air pressure in the watch would blow the crystal straight out of the case.

This problem occurred so frequently that COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertise) the French company that had built the compression chambers decided to do something about it. They approached Rolex and began working on a solution. They firstly took a normal Submariner and modified it, including a gas escape valve immediately opposite the winder of the watch. These modifications worked extremely well and Rolex decided to put the watch into production with a strengthened case in 1971 as model 1655 the Sea Dweller. The prototype Sea Dweller was model 5513, a non chronometer, plastic glass Submariner with the dial marked 660 feet/200 meters. On the back it had Comex' s full insignia and on the side was the gas escape valve. Comex divers were equipped with an assortment of Rolex watches, the Sea Dwellers were used on "saturation"dives where as the Submariners both date and non date were used in "atmospheric" dives.

Due to the extreme conditions in which these divers operated every six months the watches went back to Rolex for an overhaul. These watches were not just meticulously overhauled but in many cases upgraded each time the went back to Rolex. It is not unusual to see a 1970's watch with the later "hacking" movement with a 1990's dial.

The first Sea Dwellers were actually called the "Submariner 2000 Sea Dweller" which was printed on the dial in red writing. However this disappeared in 1973 and in the revised form the watch continued until 1980, when it received its major overhaul from model 1665 to 16660. Like most other Rolex models this watch now had a sapphire mineral glass, a rapid date change mechanism, a new gas escape valve and the watch could no as a standard reach 4000 feet/ 1220 meters.

The bracelet also differed from that of the Submariner. Both the end piece and the expansion link were different to the Submariner. The "Flushfit" was now machined out of solid steel instead of being pressed from sheet on a Submariner . The expansion link is made from sheet steel: on the Sea-Dweller the second link from the clasp is machined from solid steel with a cut out for the expansion link spring bar.

The Sea Dweller has maintained this immense popularity since it was first introduced and since then has not been out of the catalogue in over twenty years. As a professional tool for the people whom it was developed for the Sea Dweller is without peer. No diver working for Comex has been allowed to dive without one since 1976.

Like the Submariner the Sea Dweller is one of Rolex's most popular models with waiting lists swooning to over two years in some places now.

Second time round © 2017