In our previous articles of our Then and Now series, we’ve compared the first reference of a specific Rolex model with its most current iteration. Typically, the first and last Rolex models have decades of history between them, particularly for older collections such as the Oyster Perpetual, Datejust, and Explorer. However, today, we’re delving into a Rolex collection that’s not only a mere ten years old but one that has only had two reference numbers throughout its history—the Rolex Deepsea. So, let’s compare Rolex Deepsea models, from the first model to the current.
The First Rolex Deepsea
In 2008, Rolex surprised the watch world with a dive watch that went well beyond the capabilities of the Sea-Dweller. That new Rolex watch was the Deepsea ref. 116660 and it came equipped with a very large 44mm Oyster case that measured a hefty 17.8mm thick.
The oversized nature of the Deepsea was not just for style but it was built to accommodate the patented Ring Lock System. The Ring Lock System comprises three parts: a titanium caseback, a 5.5mm domed sapphire crystal above the dial, and a nitrogen-alloyed steel ring embedded in the middle case. As a result, the Deepsea ref. 116660 can withstand three tons of pressure underwater and is capable of diving down to 3,900 meters (12,800)—100 times deeper than any human can safely go. Just like the Sea-Dweller, the Deepsea includes the Helium Escape Valve (HEV) to prevent pressure damage to the watch during post-dive decompression periods.
The Rolex Deepsea ref. 116660 includes a unidirectional dive bezel crafted from scratch-resistant and fade-proof Cerachrom ceramic. Matching the black bezel is a black dial with the famed Rolex “Maxi dial” layout including Chromalight luminescence on the indexes and Mercedes-style hands, which glows blue in the dark.
Accompanying the steel Oyster case of the Deepsea ref. 116660 is a matching steel Oyster bracelet fitted with a double extension system. The Glidelock system permits the wearer to extend the bracelet in 2mm increments for a total of 20mm, while the Fliplock system lengthens the bracelet by 26mm. When the two systems are used together, the bracelet of the Deepsea ref. 116660 can be worn over a 7mm thick wetsuit.
To power the Deepsea ref. 116660, Rolex fitted the extreme dive watch with the Caliber 3135, the same automatic movement at the heart of most of modern Rolex watches with the date function. Thanks to the Cal. 3135, the Deepsea ref. 116660 offers 48 hours of power reserve and operates at 28,800 beats per hour.
The Current Rolex Deepsea
For the tenth anniversary of the Deepsea, Rolex unveiled a new version at Baselworld 2018: the Deepsea ref. 126660. While at first glance the first and newest Deepsea references look almost the same, there are some notable differences to highlight between the two editions.
The steel Oyster case remains the same 44mm size, however, to improve the proportions of the watch, the lugs have been slightly redesigned and the Oyster bracelet is now slightly broader. To fit the wider bracelet, the Oysterlock folding safety clasp has also widened accordingly.
Design details that have carried over from the first Deepsea over to the newest Deepsea are the Ringlock structure, the HEV, the absence of the Cyclops lens on the domed sapphire crystal, the Chromalight lume on the dial, the unidirectional rotating bezel in black Cerachrom, and the pair of extension mechanisms on the Oyster bracelet.
When the first Deepsea ref. 116660 made its debut, it was only offered with a black dial. That changed in 2014 when Rolex released the D-Blue dial version in honor of James Cameron’s historic dive down the Mariana Trench. Now, the new Deepsea ref. 126660 is available with either the black dial or the D-Blue dial.
Slight exterior changes aside, the newest feature of the Deepsea ref. 126660 sits inside the case—the new generation Caliber 3235 self-winding movement. Boasting 14 patents and new barrel architecture, the Cal. 3235 provides the Deepsea ref. 126660 with an amped up 70-hour power reserve and the new Rolex accuracy rating of -2/+2 seconds per day.
The Rolex Deepsea, Then and Now
Since there have only been two references in the Deepsea’s ten-year history, it’s unsurprising that the first and newest models are more alike than they are different.
Yet, in true Rolex fashion, when we compare Rolex Deepsea models, the seemingly small changes made to the new Deepsea are indeed meaningful ones that improve the performance and proportions of the brand’s biggest and toughest dive watch.