Our new series 'In The Metal' will be hands-on posts. We specifically won't be bringing you a rehash of press releases for new watches, but when we actually get our hands on something special, we will give your our feelings and impressions.
I took a walk today to check out some Rolex SeaDwellers, the next watch on my hit-list. There are a lot of fantastic Seadwellers from a lot of era's, and I was specifically interested in the more modern stuff I hadn't played with before: the 16600 (90's-00's) and the just released 116600 (2014+). I found a vintage dealer with a nice tritium 'E' series 16600 which had a nice understated look: a perfect tough as nails little wrist tank that isn't the same Submariner everyone else is wearing. One of the biggest selling points of the SeaDweller is that there is a date window, but no Rolex 'cyclops' which some feel is a distraction on the dial. In addition, at most angles you can't even see the date. This gives it the classic clean look of the 'No-Date Submariner' but with the useful date feature.
I'm looking to the SeaDweller as 'daily beater'. Something special to wear anywhere while my more delicate vintage pieces relax on their winders. The 16600 was discontinued in 2008 after a 40+ year run, much to the dismay of Rolex fans. It was replaced with the Deep Sea SeaDweller (DSSD), a friggin' hulk of a watch at nearly 44mm and an insane depth rating of 12,800ft. There are a lot of fans of the DSSD, and if I didn't have such tiny wrists, I would certainly be one of them. For the rest of us, Rolex just introduced the new SeaDweller 4000, and I went to see it today.
Wrist Times Breakdown:
- Shinier than the older model due to the ceramic bezel and larger white gold plots on the dial.
- Bracelet is incredible, with both Glidelock and the Diver's extension off the DSSD.
- Bracelet is heavy as it is all solid links (older ones had some hollow links)
- Great weight on it.
- The ceramic bezel is beautiful, but also blinding in the light.
- They brought back a vintage staple, the 'matte dial' for this model. It cuts some of the shine out of the watch but as you can see above next to the vintage 1680 I was wearing, isn't actually all that matte, it feels a bit dull.
- Nice thick sapphire crystal pokes above the bezel.
- Winding the crown was effortless and totally smooth.
- The bezel clicks strongly and perfectly, but I find the half markers around the whole thing a bit busy, less sleek and elegant than SeaDwellers past.
- Blue Chromalight lume, which is awesome and looks like this
- Wears rather high on the wrist, hard to tell how comfortable it would be until the bracelet was sized properly, but I fear on my wrist it would be somewhat floppy.
- Very steady movement and seconds hand gliding across the dial.
- Priced right in between the Submariner and DSSD at $10,400USD.
So will I be buying it? No.
It is a fantastic piece of engineering, Rolex truly at the top of their game with all the modern bells and whistles thrown in. However I think it is just a bit too much. If I hadn't been spoiled by the soul and beauty of the older Rolexes, maybe I wouldn't care. But I have, and I do.
Take a look at this SeaDweller 1665 or this transitional SeaDweller 16660 (triple six). You can have either one with some cash left over for the same price, and they are becoming a great investment. They will never be made again and weren't made in huge quantities to begin with. The SeaDweller was never a particularly popular watch among the general population as it was more expensive than the Submariner, didn't have the cyclops and wore bigger in a time when smaller watches were the fashion.
In sum, the SeaDweller is a mass market professional super-watch, built like the engineers were daring each other to go further everyday. The new one is too, but I feel they subverted some of the rugged tool quality, in favor of a the trend of flashier bigger watches. It they had held back just a tiny bit more, this would be a truly must-have watch.