Rolex Submariner vs Sea-Dweller: Battle of Two ICONIC Divers!
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rolex submariner vs sea dweller

Rolex Submariner vs Sea-Dweller: Battle of Two ICONIC Divers!

Rolex is the legitimate king of luxury sports watches; its dive watches carry huge significance, history, and importance to its sports watch lineup. Using the oyster case that has been fundamental to its sports watch reputation and water resistance, the Submariner is the quintessential dive watch. 

Among the first purposely built watches for diving, innovated, and made better generation upon generation, the Submariner is the champion of Rolex’s pursuits into the deep. 

Rolex’s huge success in marketing, capitalization of growth, industry-leading evolution of its collection, originality, and high brand value, has made the Submariner an unchallenged icon 70 years since its inception. 

A fundamental partner and participant in the huge success of its dive watch history is the Sea-Dweller in its many forms, essentially a hardcore variation of the Submariner. Sometimes this does bring forth the debate about which is better.

About the Rolex Submariner

The Submariner first saw light in 1953 and would make its official debut the following year. It was one of the earliest examples of a modern dive watch, only to be beaten to the market by the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms by a few months. The 6204 was the first Submariner reference and would be the first watch to reach a record depth of 100m.

The Submariner would follow an evolutionary development path throughout its 70-year existence and would see many variations with minor details and upgrades that make it one of the most collectible watches of today.

In 1954 the reference 6205 first featured its synonymous Mercedes hour hand; this was followed by the 6200 in 1955, which was the first “Big Crown” Submariner and also the first to feature 200m of water resistance. 1956 saw the introduction of 6538, which was made famous for being worn by Sean Connery as James Bond in Dr. No (1962), giving the Submariner celebrity stardom early in its life, which hugely impacted its popularity. 

1957 marked the first appearance of a military-issued Submariner with the reference A/6538, featuring fixed spring bars and a larger bezel made with German Silver for easy gripping and a tendency to dent and not crack. This would be followed in the 70s by the 5513, double-stamped 5513/5517, and the 5517. These were made to MOD specifications inspired by the MOD Seamaster, featuring updates like sword hands, crown guards, and a fully graduated bezel.

In 1959, the 5512 was the first commercial model to receive crown guards, and in 1967 the Submariner gained a date feature with the reference 1680 equipped with the iconic cyclops. This split the range into two, with a date or a no-date offering for purists who preferred the symmetrical dial. The date watches would also become available in precious metals like today. 

The 5512 would be followed by the 5513 from 1962 to 1990, the longest production run to date, during which many changes would be made to the Submariner, replacing the gilt gloss dial with a meters first matte dial, followed by non-serif typography and larger indexes known as Maxi-dials. 

The 5513 would share a timeline with the “Date Models”, 1680 and the 16800 (1977-1987). The latter would feature a sapphire crystal and a Triplock crown, making it the first Submariner waterproof to 300m, a number unchanged today in the modern line. 

A new model would also be added to the steel or full gold offerings, which would be the first two-tone reference in 1984 available in either a bright blue or black, the watch that made the 80s a very successful and memorable era for two-tone watches. 

The 168000 would introduce us to Rolex’s now proprietary 904L-Steel, followed by the 16610 (1987-2010), considered the first modern Submariner with premium white gold surround indexes and a modern movement, the COSC-Certified 3135. The “No-date” 14060 Submariner shared this modernity between 1990-2002. The 14060M would follow between 2002-2010 and became a Certified chronometer in 2007 with the 3130 movement; it would be the last Submariner to feature drilled lugs.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Submariner in 2003, we were introduced to the “Kermit” Submariner 16610LV, replacing the black aluminum bezel of the 16610LN with a green one for the first time. The first of its kind to properly execute a daring color amongst luxury watch brands and a fitting color to commemorate its anniversary. 

In 2008, to celebrate its 100th anniversary, Rolex paved the way for a newer, more luxurious, and indestructible Submariner, the “Smurf” 116619LB, that impressed with a host of updates like a maxi case, more durable and high-end ceramic bezel insert with gold/platinum markers, solid link bracelet, and new generation Glidelock extension equipped clasp that set a new benchmark on wearability. 

In 2010, the rest of the Submariner collection finally received the same updates, introducing the 116610LN Black Date, 114060LN No date, combination, and full yellow gold models. The LV version of the 116610 would now feature a green sunburst dial and would be nicknamed the “Hulk”, becoming one of the most collectible modern references.

Always ahead of its time, highly engineered, with elegant, functional, and timeless beauty, the Submariner is an icon. It became the blueprint for any dive watch that was to follow and therefore is the ultimate realization of a professional dive watch through its timeline that has evolved with the needs of its wearers, collectors, and storytellers of its legacy.

Its ultimate status and versatility have made it the most sought-after and proven luxury sports watch in the modern era for almost any and every luxury sports watch enthusiast.

About the Rolex Sea-Dweller

The backstory of the Sea-Dweller and the quest to go deeper than ever imagined began way back in 1953 when history was made; an experimental Deep Sea Special was affixed to the exterior of an experimental diving vehicle known as the Trieste and survived an unseen crushing depth of 3,150m. This was followed in 1960 with the Deep Sea Special No 3, which made the trip down to an incredible 10,916m.

In 1967, Rolex would finally release the Sea-Dweller 1665 with 500m of water resistance, no cyclops, and featured an innovation inspired by the needs of COMEX divers that would become the hallmark of the Sea-Dweller, a helium escape valve at the side of the case to stop the crystals from popping off during decompression after full-saturation diving. 

They would further test this technology with COMEX, a French diving company specializing in engineering and deep diving operations, forming a partnership in 1971. Among the 1665 Sea-Dwellers available to Comex for testing before its commercial launch in 1971, 5514 COMEX-only Submariners with helium escape valves were also provided. 

The initial batch of the prototype 1665 Sea-Dwellers would be known as “Single-Red” and be replaced by the “Double Red” two-line red text model with an increased 610m of water resistance. In 1977, the Submariner text was dropped along with the choice of red text to white, and became known as the “Great-White”.

The 16660 would finally replace the 1665 reference in 1978, featuring a sapphire crystal allowing it to increase its depth rating to 1,220m. It was also equipped with a more modern movement, the 3035, with quickset date. A decade later, it was replaced by the 16600, which yet again received a more modern movement, the 3135 with a longer power reserve; and came with a black dial that featured three types of lume variations in its 20-year production run.

The Sea-Dweller would temporarily be discontinued in 2008, for the bigger, badder 11666 Deepsea Sea-Dweller, with a larger 44mm case and a Ring-Lock-System allowing it to reach an impressive depth of 3,900m. It would be a completely new watch not restricted by its initial concept and received many advancements that made it an outright more capable, modernized, and luxurious offering. 

Among which was the move to ceramic bezels (fully graduated) with gold/platinum markers, solid links, and an overly engineered new clasp with Glidelock and a wetsuit extension. This would be a huge success during the recent large watch trend and would be the ultimate expression of the modern-day capabilities of the brand.

Rolex returned to a 40mm Sea-Dweller in 2014, which was well received as the “Sleeper Submariner” due to its similar yet thicker specifications to a regular then-current production Submariner. 

To retain its hardcore character, it featured a fully graduated bezel and a matte black dial. This model was replaced by the current 126600, a new 43mm variant with a return to the single-red text of the old.

The Sea-Dweller and the Deepsea Sea-Dweller have proven to be Rolex’s flex of its innovation and pursuits to the deep, highlighting the extended capabilities of its original dive watch concepts that is the Submariner and the oyster case. The extended offering has been welcomed by dive watch enthusiasts that crave hardcore specifications or simply for those who have a taste for more novelty compared to the refined and elegant Submariner.

Rolex Submariner vs Sea-Dweller: Which One Should You Choose?

Model Options

Today, the Rolex diver lineup consists of 5 subcategories, divided by the Submariner No Date, Submariner Date, Sea-Dweller, Deepsea Sea-Dweller, and Deep Sea Challenge. The Submariner No Date, from its inception till today, is a watch that is considered to be available for purists. Only offered in black and only in steel, it maintains its tool legacy of not being tampered with.

The Submariner Date is a variant that has seen Rolex experiment with different dial/bezel colors and case materials over many years to form a very essential yet proven collection. In steel, the watch is offered in two variants, a black dial with a black bezel or a black dial with a green bezel, a color previously used to commemorate its anniversary models. 

Two-tone “steel and 18k yellow gold” models have a familiar choice of black dial and bezel or a sunburst blue dial with blue bezel, and full 18k yellow gold models also have the same dial and bezel offerings. The 18k white gold variant, arguably the most exclusive model in the dive watch collection, now features a black dial and a blue bezel.

The Sea-Dweller, now offered in 43mm, is available with a black dial and bezel with a vintage-inspired red line of text on the dial for the steel model. It also comes in two-tone with a black dial and black bezel.

The Deepsea Sea-Dweller 44mm, offered only in steel, is available in two variants, the first being a black dial with black bezel, and the second featuring a deep blue to black gradient dial with Kawasaki green text accompanied with a black bezel, made to commemorate James Cameron’s expedition to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The Deepsea Challenge 50mm, Rolex’s newest halo model diver, is only available with a black bezel and matte black dial to match its hardcore modern-era capabilities. It also features a case and bracelet entirely made of titanium, a first from Rolex.

Build Quality

Supreme build quality is synonymous with Rolex; the concept of the sports watch has journeyed great lengths thanks to the unmatched ethos of the brand to evolve rather than revolve. The “Rolex way” is continuously looking forward to using the best manufacturing and machining techniques available, never compromising on reliable watchmaking. 

In the modern day, where watches have become a status symbol rather than simply tools, its collection boasts the perfect marriage of luxury and functionality. Virtually indestructible, better, and more capable than ever before.

Rolex’s dive watch collection shares continuous refinements with its entire collection. We now see the usage of only proprietary metals, solid link tapering bracelets, industry-leading clasps, gold indexes and hands, ceramic bezels with gold or platinum-filled markings, modernized calibers, and the finest tolerances in manufacturing, making Rolex the world’s leading sports watch maker. 

When comparing the Submariner range to the Sea-Dweller, essentially one being the hardcore variant of the other, they share the same DNA. Therefore, there is no compromise on build quality to be made when choosing either model.


Rolex steadily updates all calibers across its entire range. Its dive watch models currently use the 3230 and 3235 calibers, which are identical besides a date complication. You still get ± 2 seconds a day of precision with a Parachrom hairspring and the Superlative Chronometer specification. 

What’s new is Rolex’s proprietary Chronergy escapement, allowing for more efficient and reliable precision in between service intervals, and a 70-hour power reserve, a lot more than the 48-hour previous generation calibers.

Price & Availability

The most entry-level professional dive watch from Rolex, the 124060LN Submariner “No-date”, begins at a retail price of $9,100 and has a market value of $12,100. The same 30 percent premium can be found with the 126610LN Submariner “Date” (retail $10,250, market 13,750). 

The most popular model, the 126610LV Submariner “Starbucks”, has a retail price of $10,800, and a market price of $16,700, making it the model with the highest premium of 55% above its retail price. 

With the market in preference of steel models, the addition of gold amounts to fewer premiums in pricing with the combination Submariners. The 126613LB retails at $15,600, with a market value of $17,600, while the less black version, the 126613LN, retails at $15,600, with a market value of $16,350. 

The Sea-Dweller models fetch fewer market premiums than the Submariners; however, even with the more excessive/pricier models in the lineup, they still prove to be very popular amongst collectors. The Sea-Dweller 126600, retailing at $13,250, currently fetches a nearly identical market price, while its less popular combination counterpart, the 126603, retails at $18,000 and has a discounted market price of $16,600. 

The Deepsea Sea-Dweller 136660-0004 black dial retails at $14,200 and has a market price of $15,300, while its special dial variant, the 136660-0003 D-Blue, retails at $14,500 and has a market value of $17,400. The newly released Deepsea Challenge, even with its high retail price of $26,000, and highly niche target market of large watch collectors, fetches a premium market price of $32,000.

Rolex’s sport model collection has been limited to long waitlists in recent years for almost every model. The length of the waitlist and your chances of getting a desired model at retail will reflect on its market value, which also reflects its popularity in the market. This makes buying relationships with authorized dealers vital in hopes of escaping the premiums in the marketplace.

Value Retention & Investment

We have come to a point where we can almost assume that all watches discussed in this segment will be able to retain their value in the short and long term, even when the market has passed a recession as it is now, Rolex’s premium value retention is strong and in high percentages. This is due to the huge disparity in ratios in production to demand. This comes as a result of the wider knowledge available to consumers, consumers that brands like Rolex cannot satisfy over the next decade.

The Submariner’s popularity, hype, and versatility make it an easy winner in terms of investment potential compared to the Sea-Dweller. However, the novelty of the Sea-Dwellers, and the breath of playfulness and experimentation that Rolex allows for them, make the models a great investment over the long term.

Notable Submariner & Sea-Dweller Models

Rolex has forged a formidable dive watch collection with a diverse range of proprietary metals, specifications, complications, and capabilities, diving over 10 times deeper than the other. Let’s dive into some of them.

Rolex Submariner No Date 124060LN

Rolex Submariner No Date 124060LN

The 124060 Submariner, known as the “No-date”, is the purest available iteration of the range, available only in 904L Steel, for the first time 41mm in diameter, returning to the more elegant tapered lugs compared to the maxi case of its predecessor, attached to an industry-leading solid link Oyster bracelet with a lug width of 21mm tapering to 19mm at the dual safety clasp that has Glidelock with 20mm of adjustment.

Due to its lack of a date window at 3 o’clock, the 124060 is loved for its symmetrical clean dial layout; it only comes with a gloss black dial paired with a black Cerachrom bezel. Its dial indexes and hands feature full Chromalight and are made of 18k white gold; its bezel features markings that are filled with platinum and has a lume pip at 12 o’clock. 

Exclusive to this model is the no-date 3230 movement, which was new in its 2020 release, giving it 70 hours of power reserve and more efficiency. This model is the foundation of every other Submariner and is an essential model to Rolex and anyone’s collection. (Retail price $9,100)

Rolex Submariner Date 126610LN

Rolex Submariner Date 126610LN

The Submariner 126610LN Date offers the same formula as the No-date with the added versatility of a date window. Still remains is the 41mm case with the more elegant tapered lugs, made in Rolex’s proprietary 904L steel, attached to a solid link Oyster bracelet that starts at 21mm and tapers down to 19mm at the clasp that is a dual safety with Glidelock.

Also maintained is its tool watch aesthetic with full brushing and only features polishing at the side of the case and bracelet, the crown, and the bezel edges. 

This LN reference comes with a black dial that features a date window at 3 o’clock magnified by the Cyclops on the sapphire on the sapphire crystal, a key feature to nearly all Date Rolexes. It is paired with a black Cerachrom bezel with platinum markings to make for one of the most recognizable sport watch layouts to date. 

As of 2020, all Submariners received a refresh, and all date models received a movement update with the 3235. Thickness remains the same at 12.5mm as the no date; its elegant implementation of specifications makes it the more practical desk diving option in comparison to the purist no date; this is also the gateway drug to other Date Submariner variations. (Retail price $10,250)

Rolex Submariner “Starbucks” 126610LV

Rolex Submariner “Starbucks” 126610LV

The Rolex Submariner 126610LV is the enthusiast hit in the collection. “LV” in its reference, standing for “Lunette Verte”, which means “green bezel” in French, was first used on a Submariner reference with the “50th Anniversary Submariner Kermit”. The tradition of Rolex’s and its fans’ favorite color, “green”, has since been maintained and upgraded nearly every decade. 

The 126610LV, nicknamed the “Starbucks”, is now the grandson of the original Kermit and ditches the sunburst gold-green dial of the “Hulk” for a gloss black dial pulling off a more restrained look reminiscent of the original “Kermit”.

Case specifications of 41mm in 904L steel with the new tapered lugs, attached to a 21mm-19mm tapering dive-ready bracelet, with a full Chromalite lume dial and a Cerachrom bezel, and a 3235 movement to make it identical to its “LN” brother if not for its green bezel that has been kept forward from its predecessor. 

The choice of going back to black with the dial and the return to elegant proportions have made the “LV” reference a less flashy and more elegant alternative to its very popular sunburst Maxi-case predecessor, the “Hulk”. (Retail price $10,800)

Rolex Submariner “Bluesy” 126613LB

Rolex Submariner “Bluesy” 126613LB

The Rolex Submariner 126613LB “Bluesy” is another model in the dive watch lineup that has the usage of a very sought-after color, blue, with the dial receiving a full sunburst treatment in bright blue and a matching Cerachrom bezel. 

The “excuse” for the model to receive a daring color is its main highlight, its combination of materials, 904L Steel, and Yellow-Rolesor (Rolex’s own proprietary metals). In this case, the model is fundamentally steel, with a “solid yellow gold” bezel, bracelet center link, insert on the clasp, hands, indexes, and bezel markings. 

It is identical in technical and sizing specifications to the 41mm by 12.5mm Date Submariner. Therefore, it makes for a more premium variation of the standard Steel Submariner, with the flash of gold, without the inconveniences of the excess weight and fragility of its full gold variation, which has a price tag of nearly triple this model.

The “Bluesy” has been an essential model in the collection since 1984 and was the pioneer of the combination-gold watch craze during the 80s. We are returning to those times with gold variations becoming popular again. (Retail price $15,600)

Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 126600 celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Sea-Dweller and brings forth the return of the “Single-red line Sea-Dweller text” on the dial, reminiscent of the original 1957 prototypes. 

Controversial about this model is the usage of a 43mm case (with a black dial and a larger fully graduated Cerachrom bezel) instead of the Submariner matching diameter of its predecessors that was loved by its die-hard fans as “Sleeper Submariners”.

It is the first Sea-Dweller to feature a Cyclops for its date window; this is simply Rolex being “Rolex”, always innovating, having found a new way for the Cyclops to withstand its 1,220m dive watch capabilities. 

This model comes standard with a helium escape valve and is the entry point in the collection for saturation divers. Its usage of a larger in diameter 43mm 904L Steel case makes it a very legible and usable tool watch, especially underwater. It also allows the watch to disperse its 15mm thickness better without looking too chunky. 

Also, an upgrade is a 22mm wide Oyster bracelet that tapers to 19mm at the Glidelock clasp, making for a better wearing experience. Due to the wider acceptance of gold watches, Rolex offers the Sea-Dweller 43 in a combination variant too, featuring a full black dial and matching bezel. (Retail price $13,250)

Rolex Deepsea 136660

Rolex Deepsea 136660

Rolex first introduced the “Deepsea” nameplate back in 2008, an era where larger-sized watches were trending, allowing the brand to fit a monster of a timepiece in its dive-watch lineup, that was the 44mm Deepsea 116660. 

The Deepsea was also a flex on how far the brand was willing and capable of innovating on its original dive watch concept to release a model with a stupendous depth rating of 3,900m, thanks to its Ring-Lock-System, and a larger case.

44mm in diameter and 17.7mm thick, what is most impressive about the Deepsea is the elegant and highly technical feature-packed design that allows itself to be harmonious in proportions, design, and luxury, with its far-less capable and more versatile siblings; therefore allowing it to still be a wearable watch for an average sized wrist. 

The Deepsea is now in its third iteration with the 136660 reference. The 126660 updated model in 2018 featured a shorter lug-to-lug measurement, wider bracelet, and thinner lugs, allowing for better proportions and a better fit on the wrist; it also featured an updated movement with the 3235. 

The 136660, in 2022, had minor adjustments made to the height of the bezel, a “substantial 8% increase” in the size of the date window, and the lack of a flip lock extension. This model comes with a black dial paired with a fully graduated black Cerachrom bezel and is offered with a special D-Blue dial to commemorate James Cameron’s expedition to the bottom of the Mariana trench. (Retail Price $14,200)

Rolex Deepsea Challenge 126067

Rolex Deepsea Challenge 126067

Rolex’s relentless pursuit to push the envelope within its dive watch segment finally yielded a new production model in 2022, the Deepsea Challenge, with an unworldly 11,000m of water resistance, made to conquer the deepest point known to man.

To achieve such a feat, the new Deepsea Challenge would essentially be a (no-date) bloated version of the now regular Deepsea, using the Ring-Lock-System, with a 50mm diameter case and 23mm of thickness (with 9mm crystal) to endure the elements. To underwhelm its heft and match its capabilities, this is the first model to be made available in “lighter” full titanium (RLX-Titanium), featuring complete brushing and a return to chamfered lugs of old. 

While its large dimensions and niche capabilities will appeal to a smaller target audience, the Deepsea Challenge ensures that Rolex has an offering to match its modern-day capabilities. It is an exercise in tradition from the best dive watchmaker in history to push its limits. This feature-packed diver is for those who seek luxury in novelty. (Retail price $26,000) 


The Submariner and the Sea-Dweller were never meant to be pitted against each other; the Sea-Dweller models are merely an extension of a winning formula that is the iconic Submariner. The Submariner has always set the golden standards in form, function, and refinement for all dive watches to follow. 

Due to this mass appeal, the Submariner can seem boring to the seasoned collector. Therefore the Sea-Dweller and Deepsea models have an identity and history of their own to appeal to their own niche.

The Submariner is a versatile, elegant, and popular choice for the desk diver. The Sea-Dweller range boasts more serious specifications for the saturation diver or for those who simply appreciate the variation, novelty, and fun injected into the lineup.

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