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The Overlooked Rolex

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Given the very solid demand in watches from the Swiss brand one might think that all of their models are highly sought after by the community. This is not necessarily the case. In fact, there are different levels of popularity and collectibility across the Rolex line-up.

Professional Line models in stainless steel, in particular the Daytona, the GMT-Master II and the Submariner, generally mark the very upper end of the scale while the Cellini, Air-King and Milgauss generally sit on the lower end.

The popularity of each model is reflected in the availabilty at authorized dealers (ADs) and in the premium over the retail price. If you are after a stainless steel Daytona or GMT-Master II you will have to pay a substantial premium - or have very good relations with an AD.

There are execeptions to the rule and the Rolex Sea-Dweller is just that: an overlooked Rolex with rich history, incredible capabilities and a great presence on the wrist.

There are several reasons why this particular model is not getting the love it deserves.

Most buyers compare the Sea-Dweller with the Submariner and go for the less expensive option (not everyone needs a depth rating of 1200 meters and a helium escape valve). Before the current Sea-Dweller, reference 126600, the two looked very much the same. The Sea-Dweller has always been an incredible tool watch and yet it offered little visual differenciation versus its sibling. It's no wonder the Sea-Dweller historically struggled to position itself in the Rolex line-up.

Has this changed with the current model ref. 126600? Yes and no. The newest Sea-Dweller now comes with 43 millimeter in diameter, hash marks all around the bezel and a red line of text (celebrating its 50 year anniversary). Despite the cyclops (purists did not like it) this sets it apart from the Submariner.

Has this increased the popularity of the Sea-Dweller? To some degree, yes. Sales numbers may still be relatively small but it is a very good looking watch and they got the proportions right. The watch sits well and has a great presence on the wrist.

And the price? The premium over retail of a new Sea-Dweller in stainless steel is still well below that of a Daytona, GMT-Master II or a Submariner. That means prices are not super inflated yet and less likely to take a hit.

Will this watch hold its value? Definitely on the long run. Since the 126600 is the 50 year edition of the Sea-Dweller it will be discontinued at some point and prices are likely to jump.

What if you prefer the ultraclassic 40mm design instead of the new 43mm version? In our view, the perfect chioce then is a Sea-Dweller 116600. It already features the Cerachrome bezel and looks just perfect in every sense. However, prices for this reference have already picked up.

If you are looking for a real bargain we would go for the 16600. It had a very long production span and there are many pieces in excellent condition on the market. Prices are still very moderate and you should get one for less than CHF 10k, which you could almost call a bargain.

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