My Daytona was an anniversary gift from my wife that she left under my pillow the night of our 10th anniversary. It was completely unexpected and probably carries the most sentimental value of any of my watches.Read More
User MrSimba on the Rolex forums has posted the first picture of the hotly anticipated Rolex Ceramic Pepsi GMT, available exclusively in white gold. Check his pic out below and let us know what you think!Read More
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.
For anyone interested in vintage watches, a topic that invariably comes up when evaluating a potential purchase is overpolishing, the leading cause of thin lugs. This is definitely a major topic when discussing vintage Rolex, however it will affect most watches which have been polished over the years.
On first inspection, watch lugs aren't usually the first thing a buyer will notice. That prize will go to the hands and dial, maybe the crystal as well. But the lugs hold a lot of forensic evidence to figure out what has happened to a watch over the years, and is the most critical part of both watch comfort and watch stability.
Comfort, because they are engineered to curve in a certain way to 'hug' the wrist. Stability, because the lugs are where the bracelet joins the watch, springbars holding the watch on the wrist, keeping it from the bottom of the sea (or Mount Sauron...).
In reality, it's unlikely that thiner lugs are going to make it so your watch won't stay on your wrist or be significantly less comfortable. So why does this matter when talking about collectible pieces? For that, the polishing process must be discussed.
When you take a watch to be polished by a local watchmaker or the manufacturer itself, the act of polishing the watch is a process which removes thin layers of metal from your watch. If you have a deep scratch in a metal, the only way to remove it is to lower the metal around the scratch to leave behind a smooth surface. This is less of an issue on the bracelet, as parts of that can be replaced. But on the watch case itself, which includes the lugs, it cannot really be replaced without a fundamental destruction of value and authenticity (if you can do it at all).
Here is an incomplete list of things to know when dealing with a vintage watch:
- Measure, or at least carefully eyeball the thickness of the lugs. Bring a blow up photograph or a tablet with a picture of the same watch in perfect condition so you can compare.
- Take a look to see if the edges are very sharp and precise, especially on the bevels (the top of the lugs). Rounded off corners and edges are a very obvious sign of many polishes over the years, making it somewhat less interesting to collectors later on.
- As a general rule, if you are planning on selling a watch, never polish it beforehand to make it look nicer. Assume the buyer wants it unpolished, and offer to have it polished should they choose.
- To see if the sides of the watch have been thinned out, take a look at your reference picture to see what 'time' the metal goes under the bezel. Like thin lugs, a thinned case is not as desirable for all the usual reasons, plus it is technically less water resistant. See where I marked below on this Rolex 'Hulk'
Based on all that, the watch case lugs can tell us a lot about what has happened to the watch before it got to us. Part of the fun when admiring any fantastic timepieces, is the precise workmanship; the perfectly angled and polished bevels and strong lugs with matching thickness.
To understand the mind of a vintage watch lover, those elements can be as important as a good dial and original hands. Indeed, the history of scratches and nicks is always preferable to a mediocre polish before they were sold the watch. Then they get to make up the history of people who wore it through the decades, and what they were up to when wearing and admiring it. Who could it have been they wonder...