In 1966 Rolex developed the Sea-Dweller, at first marketed as a particularly water-resistant version of the Submariner. (It is now a separate collection.) The first Sea-Dweller (Ref. 1665) was water-resistant to 600 meters. In 1978, Rolex introduced the new Ref. 16600 with a sapphire crystal and an improved helium valve. (These days, Sea-Dweller models have helium-release valves, Submariners don’t.) This watch withstood depths to 1,220 meters. The 1665 existed for several more years, but after 1981, the company produced only the heftiest version of the Sea-Dweller, the 16600.
It was not until 1981 that the Submariner was equipped with a unidirectional bezel. It took so long because starting in 1952, Blancpain held a patent for a ratcheting rotating bezel, which it used on its Fifty Fathoms watch. This kept Rolex and other watch companies from using the bezel.
In 2008 Rolex brought out its Deepsea Sea-Dweller, which withstands water pressure to a very impressive 3,900 meters thanks to a new case design that incorporates what Rolex calls a “Ringlock System.” It consists of an interior support ring, a 5-mm-thick domed sapphire crystal and a titanium caseback. It’s a far cry from the Oyster case of 1926, but in its unprecedented impermeability, a direct descendant.
Check out our watch test of the Rolex Submariner Date, along with a detailed portfolio of the various models available in the series, in our March-April 2012 issue, on sale as an iPad or iPhone edition!
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