This is an examination of a diving Rolex, but of the deepest of them all: the Sea-Dweller. Kick up your feet, pour a glass and relax, it’s time for a Holiday installment of TBT with the vintage Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665.
The Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 or any Sea-Dweller for that matter. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had seen modern versions of them on the wrists of colleagues and came away with one thought and one thought only; why would any of them fork over the extra cash to buy what, to me, looked like a Submariner with a hole on the side? Of course, I knew about the enhanced capabilities of the watch, but it just smelled an awful lot like conspicuous consumption because, after all, none of these folks were engaging in saturation diving. But I get it, when one has the funds to buy either a Submariner or a Sea-Dweller, I can see how enough people have been upsold over time and cajoled into buying the “top of the line” diver from Rolex even though a normal Sub could handle any recreational dive with aplomb. But for the same reasons that we’ll discuss shortly, it seems I was a bit too hasty in my dismissal of the ultra deep diver.
I had chalked them up to being “much ado about nothing”, but reading is dangerous. Heading to well-known sites like Double Red Sea Dweller and Hodinkee (Louis Westphalen penned a wonderful and easily digested history on the model line), I read about the history of these watches and their significance. Reading about the COMEX history was interesting, but I also came across stories of former astronaut Scott Carpenter’s time as a US Navy Diver and most importantly, his involvement with the Sealab project. The project studied the viability of saturation diving and its effects on humans. Carpenter, at one point, even spent nearly 30 days in the underwater habitat. The watches on the wrists of these aquanauts? Well, they were Submariners at the beginning of the studies and apparently transitioned to Sea-Dwellers. To read it here, it seems that Rolex worked with both COMEX and the US Naval divers over time to develop the Sea-Dweller. When considering the fact that the watches were designed to “live” underwater, the name makes sense.
I can recall two underwater dwellings within a lagoon on the premises. One was actually built by the US Navy in the 1970’s as part of the Marinelab program and it still functions as an educational platform. The second dwelling is “Jules Undersea Lodge”, which exists as the world’s only underwater hotel. It was in the latter underwater chamber where Scott Carpenter introduced a class to help simulate the activities of underwater workers. So, yes, the Sea-Dweller at least has a relation to a place where I resided – albeit for only one week. J I told you, loose connections live within my head, but the end result was that a Sea-Dweller was in my future.