Sunday Morning Showdown: Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660 Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob Nudds May 10, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. This week, we’re sticking with Rolex but going back to our original format. So what do you think, dear readers? How much do you rate or hate the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea?
Last week was a joy. A neck-and-neck contest that rolled all week. Over 1,500 of you voted (thank you, thank you, thank you), and your votes were split almost exactly down the middle…
Although a winner (me, yay!) emerged from the pack of two, for much of the week, things were knotted up at 50% apiece. That’s exactly the kind of reason we started this column — to shine a light on the real feelings out there, rather than regurgitating the same clickbait you’ll find littering the web. And so now we know, the people’s choice is root beer over Pepsi to the tune of 51% (zing).
This week, Jorg and I clash over the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea reference 126660. One thing we agree on: It’s big enough to require a dangerous weapons permit and its own seat on an airplane (remember those?). Everything else? Well, read on to find out whose opinions come closest to your own. And don’t forget to let us know exactly what you think in the comments below!
Let me pull back the curtain for a moment. We’ve been discussing behind the scenes who wants to take down the Submariner. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, no one has volunteered. It caught me off guard when Jorg expressed his hatred for the Sea-Dweller Deepsea (I’ll let him tell you why) because, to me, it is everything that is good about the Sub but a little bit “extra”.
…the Sea-Dweller Deepsea is not only just as good but even better.
The Rolex Submariner is an indisputable classic. In the same way that it would be fair to call the Rolex Datejust the quintessential dress watch, so too could you easily get away with calling the Submariner the quintessential dive watch. It is good because its form truly follows its function. Following that logic, the Sea-Dweller Deepsea is not only just as good but even better.
The 44mm Deepsea next to the 40mm Submariner
Okay. Let’s not get side-tracked. This isn’t a Sub Vs Sea-Dweller showdown (although that might a cool, if one-sided contest). This is just a straight-up assessment of whether the Sea-Dweller is a worthwhile addition to the Rolex catalog. It would be hypocritical for me to ask you to analyze this watch independent of its context, so please look at as I do — as the most extreme diving tool ever produced by the brand.
Yes, a Sub is more wearable. And yes, perhaps a Sea-Dweller Deepsea at 44mm and a height rivaling the Empire State Building is wholly impractical for everyday use. But this is a tool watch. It is meant for the deep sea. And it just so happens to benefit from one of the slickest design codes ever known to the human race.
…a worthy successor…
And if I’m being totally honest, the Sea-Dweller would be my choice over a Sub. My grail Rolex is a “Double red” 1665. I think it is just the perfect dive watch. The modern reference 126600 is a worthy successor to that watch, however it lacks the va-va-voom of the bigger and bolder 126660 featured here. Its dial is hands down the sexiest (and most extravagant) dial you’re likely to find on the Rolex professional series. But the best thing about the Rolex Sea-Dweller when compared to the Submariner?
Yes, that’s right — the lugs. The lugs of the Sea-Dweller Deepsea are sharper than the boxy lugs that you’ll find on every modern sub. That extreme tapering makes a huge difference to the wearability of the watch and, most importantly for a watch of these dimensions, its silhouette. Yes, it is bigger than the Submariner. Yes, it is “redwood tall” on the wrist. But, surprisingly, the Sea-Dweller — in my opinion — is just about the most elegant sports watch Rolex makes today. Convince me otherwise, JW.
Well, hatred is such a strong word Rob. Especially when it concerns Rolex. Although I must add that the current availability — or lack thereof — of their steel sports watches might be enough of a reason for a lot of people to hate on the brand. But that’s a discussion for another time. After Robert-Jan and I discussed the divisive Air-King some time ago in the Sunday Morning Showdown, we have now stumbled upon one of the very few other Rolex watches I am not a big fan of. And not a big fan means: I don’t like it…at all.
…it takes me back to a great time in my life…
With the Submariner and the regular Sea-Dweller as its direct siblings, the Deepsea’s relevance as a serious option to own is reduced to zero. Out of the current Rolex diver’s watches, my choice would be the Submariner No Date (ref. 114060). If we switch to vintage Rolex divers, I must admit that I’m with you in choosing a Sea-Dweller over a Sub. I have worn a Sea-Dweller (ref. 16600) daily for quite some time some fifteen years ago and I absolutely loved that watch. Whenever I see one, it takes me back to a great time in my life so that’s why it’s high on the list of future buys. Followed by so many other relevant Sub and Sea-Dweller options. And the Deepsea? It is not nor will it ever be on that list.
The Deepsea bracelet next to the Submariner Oyster bracelet.
But let me start off by putting the Deepsea into its professional context and acknowledging the fact that it’s one hell of an impressive extreme diving tool. I’m totally on board with you on that. Technically it’s an amazing watch. While writing this piece I even got caught up in James Cameron’s adventures traveling to the bottom of the Mariana Trench on YouTube. And I love how Rolex has translated Cameron’s travels to the bottom of the sea by creating the spectacular deep-sea dial color and using the ‘Kawasaki’ green wording referring to his Deepsea Challenger. It’s a great story!
…the case and the Oyster bracelet seem out of proportion.
Stupidly enough, my main issue with the Deepsea is with other parts of its aesthetics. You and I share the love for Omega’s stainless steel Ploprof. Just as much an effective tool to take other people’s lives as the Deepsea. And it is uniquely designed to do so. That’s why it works. It’s oddly shaped and a lot bigger and heavier than the Deepsea but its proportions are perfect. Every time I see a Deepsea up close, the case and the Oyster bracelet seem out of proportion. The case is simply too big and too thick for the bracelet. The so-called easy win Rolex is credited for that the Sub/Sea-Dweller technique can be altered to create an even more extreme divers’ watch, is certainly true. But saying the same about the Sub/Sea-Dweller looks is proven wrong by the Deepsea.
Which brings me to the overall design of the dial. Why is it that a more extreme watch seems to need more extreme looks? And with extreme I mean loud. From the moment the Deepsea was introduced the amount of visible text just bugged me. Who needs “Original Gas Escape Valve’ and “Ring Lock System” next to seven lines of text on the dial? I’m not looking at the specs sheet, am I? It’s a Rolex, we know it’s good. Stop shouting it in our faces.
Rob: That’s a very good point, and something I didn’t even mention simply because…well…I didn’t even notice… Some people are highly-tuned to noticing too much text on the dial. I’m not one of them. I actually love it. In our line of work, it’s pretty common to hear someone bashing the “essay” written at the bottom of the Daytona, or scoffing at the “resumé” one finds on the bottom half of a Tudor Pelagos LHD. And while I do also love a nice, clean dial, I really adore well-placed text. I think it makes the whole thing look super technical. And, for a watch this size, what’s the problem? It’s big enough to pull it off without looking cluttered, I think.
Jorg: That brings me to my last point and that’s creating a social context. Loud watches attract a loud crowd. The Deepsea is a qualified diving tool but out of all its buyers, less than 1% will ever use it for what it is intended. The other 99% is looking for a big Rolex because it’s a loud luxury statement. And that’s exactly what this Deepsea has become.
…how far does your inner Joe Exotic go?
It’s more in the Joe Exotic spectrum of watch buyers with all the other blingy Rolexes than it is a serious option for Rolex enthusiasts. The fact that prices for a pre-owned Deepsea haven’t skyrocketed — as happens with all the other steel Rolex sports watches — only seems to prove that. So tell me, Rob, how far does your inner Joe Exotic go?
Rob: My inner Joe Exotic must be roaring (my wardrobe would concur), and aside from the list of felonies I don’t see a problem with that. You know, I get your point. Everyone has a limit. And yes, the Deepsea is a big watch. But it is only 1mm bigger than the regular Sea-Dweller (the modern single red from 2017), which I know you love. And okay, on this scale, 1mm is a big deal. But that’s all it costs for that remarkable dial!
…its ability to be eccentric without being crass or ostentatious.
You are right. This is a loud watch. Not only is it a chunky beast, but it also has the vibrant green text and a horizontal fade dial, which marks it very much as the Rolex family’s oddball. But I love it for its ability to be eccentric without being crass or ostentatious. There are no diamonds. There are no unusual dial materials. No, this is simply a more characterful tool, which loses none of its functionality by being so. Can’t you cut it a bit of slack for that reason?
Jorg: I understand what you are saying. It breaks from the iconic Rolex divers’ design straitjacket by adding a bit more character. And I love nothing more than a characterful tool watch just as much as you. Hence our great love for the Ploprof. When it comes to Rolex divers, more often than not we are discussing a different look as having a different colored line of text or a different number of lines. Which in essence is a bit silly if you think about it.
And it would be stupid not to acknowledge that the Deepsea is part of that legendary lineage of Rolex divers’ watches. And therefore a lot about the watch is obviously very good. But the reason why the Deepsea evokes such negative reactions with me has everything to do with my love for the legendary design of the Rolex divers. I simply love that straitjacket for Rolex divers! And the Deepsea breaks free from it by ridiculing it in my opinion. And that’s why there is a line in between the current 43mm regular Sea-Dweller – that I do like – and this Deepsea, which makes it a hard pass for me.
But let’s ask our readers whether they are a fan of straitjackets or like to go wild like Joe Exotic. Can’t wait to find out!
(Re)Introducing the “Komfit” mesh watch band that once adorned the wrists of astronauts Partner Content April 13, 2020
Sunday Morning Showdown
This week, it's Pepsi Vs Root Beer — what's your flavor? by Rob Nudds May 03, 2020
Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob Nudds April 26, 2020
The SMS column takes a different tack with Lange's latest showstopper by Rob Nudds April 26, 2020
Rolex Explorer II Reference 1655 by Robert-Jan Broer April 24, 2019
by Robert-Jan Broer July 24, 2018
by Robert-Jan Broer July 18, 2018
About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
Watch reviews in your inbox.
Even when it’s not Speedy Tuesday.Original Article