Tool Watch Time: Rolex Watches for Diving
Rolex’s claim to fame goes as far back as 1926 when the company unveiled the first truly waterproof and dustproof watch, dubbed the Oyster. Thanks to its screw-down caseback and screw-down winding crown fitted with rubber gaskets, the Rolex Oyster watch achieved a level of water resistance never before seen in the watch world. In fact, the Rolex Oyster accompanied Mercedes Gleitze on her historic swim across the English Channel in 1927. The Oyster survived over ten hours in frigid waters, completely intact.
Given Rolex’s groundbreaking foray into waterproof watches, the next logical evolution would be dive watches. Continuing our series into Rolex Tool Watches where we explore the history and progress of purpose-built Rolex watches, today we take a look at Rolex watches for diving.
Rolex Watches for Diving #1: Submariner
Continuing on the legacy of the first Oyster watch, Rolex launched the Submariner in 1953. It was the first diver’s watch water resistant to 100 meters (330 feet) deep. The early models of the Submariner were a tool watches through and through. Rolex purposely built them for scuba diving, hence its impressive depth rating. It’s important to note that Rolex enhanced the water resistance of the Submariner throughout its history. Today it has a depth rating of 300 meters (1,000 feet).
Other design details of the first Submariner that considered the needs of the scuba diver were the rotating bezel marked to 60 units to keep track of immersion times, the luminescent dial for legibility underwater, and the robust and corrosion-resistant stainless steel construction of the watch.
Although Rolex developed the Submariner as a tool watch for underwater divers, the tough timepiece quickly became a favorite among a much wider audience too. The Rolex Submariner eventually evolved to become the most sought-after and recognizable sports watch of modern times. Plus, no longer just available in stainless steel, Rolex also offers more precious versions. There are full gold Submariner watches, as well as two tone steel and gold options. There are even some Submariner models with diamonds on the dial too. What’s more, there are a range of bezel colors (black, blue, and green) and materials (aluminum and Cerachrom) to choose from. Finally, there’s also the option between a no-date Submariner and a Submariner with a date window.
An incredible sports watch for scuba divers and desk divers alike, the Rolex Submariner is an absolute icon.
Rolex Watches for Diving #2: Sea-Dweller
In 1967, Rolex took the diving capabilities of the Submariner even further with the Sea-Dweller professional diving watch. The Sea-Dweller was actually developed at the request of a commercial diving company COMEX. Essentially, COMEX needed a diving watch that could accompany the company’s fleet of deep-sea divers.
Early Sea-Dweller models were actually modified Submariner watches. Most notably, they were equipped with a Helium Escape Valve and boasted a water resistance of 610 meters (2,000 feet). The HEV releases built-up gasses to avoid the crystal from popping off during decompression periods. Due to the watch’s notable capabilities as a professional diver’s watch, the Rolex Sea-Dweller eventually spun off into its very own collection.
Enhancing its status as a sturdy tool watch, all versions of the Sea-Dweller are in stainless steel. Water resistance doubled in the late 1970s to 1,220 meters (4,000 feet). Similar to other Rolex sports watches, the Sea-Dweller’s bezel went from aluminum to Cerachrom ceramic in the mid-2010s. Up until 2017, the Sea-Dweller always had a 40mm case; the same size as the Submariner but much thicker. In 2017 however, Rolex presented the latest edition of the Sea-Dweller sporting a larger 43mm case. Moreover, Rolex added a Cyclops lens on the sapphire crystal—something that previous editions of the SD never had.
Rolex Watches for Diving #3: Deepsea
While the Rolex Deepsea includes the label “Sea-Dweller” on the dial, it really is an entirely different watch. Introduced in 2008, the Deepsea offers an incredible water resistance to 3,900m (12,800 feet) and includes a hefty 44mm case. However, the case wears and feels even bigger. This is due to its 5mm-thick sapphire crystal protecting the dial and the thickness of the case to accommodate the H.E.V. and the Ring Lock System.
To accompany the black dial version of the Deepsea, Rolex released a special edition in 2014 to commemorate James Cameron’s 2014 historic dive to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the world’s oceans. Named the D-Blue dial, this commemorative Deepsea features a blue-to-black gradient dial. There are also bright green details on the dial as a nod to Cameron’s submersible.
Since the Deepsea made its debut in the late 2000s, it has always had a Cerachrom ceramic dive bezel on its stainless steel case. Just this year at Baselworld 2018, Rolex updated the Deepsea to include thinner lugs, thicker bracelet, longer seconds and minute hands, and a new movement.
With an impressive lineup of dive watches, whether it’s the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, or Deepsea, it’s clear that Rolex is the king of watches that seamlessly blend luxury and utility.