10 Years with the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

10 Years with the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

by Robert-Jan Broer

The first sports Rolex I bought was this 1971 Rolex GMT-Master reference 1675. It must have been around 2003, when I purchased this watch from a local watch dealer. Being a student with ditto life style and standards, I quickly found out that it wasn’t the best idea to start with a precious vintage watch. Although at the time, the Rolex GMT-Master 1675 was relatively cheap compared to other Rolex sports models.

The Rolex Sea-Dweller next to the GMT-Master II Ref. 16710

The Rolex Sea-Dweller next to the GMT-Master II Ref. 16710

Within a few months, I decided that the plexi crystal, thin case and flimsy bracelet didn’t suit my life at the time and started to look for a more robust Rolex. At some point, I was offered a pre-owned Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 (1997) and I didn’t have to think long about it. At the time (2004), the Rolex Sea-Dweller was not a common timepiece, lacked the cyclops and could be more or less seen as an understatement watch. Despite the dimensions of the case, which were a bit more impressive than that of the Submariner.

I sold my GMT-Master and bought the Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600. It became my daily companion for many years. It got some scratches, dings and even scratched the sapphire crystal twice (I still don’t know how I managed to do this). Had it serviced and repaired, but never went really careful with this watch.

 Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

The Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 withstood time quite well, despite the wear and kept best time compared to my other watches. In the meanwhile, my modest collection of watches changed and grew, but the Sea-Dweller always stayed.

I don’t live the live of a mountain climber, professional diver or something other adventurous. I worked at a big accountancy firm, an investment bank and am now in the watch industry on a full time basis. One could say my hobby became my profession. So, the life that the Sea-Dweller had to encounter in the last 10 years wasn’t that bad. The student’s bars, clubs, the occasional game of tennis or golf and being used in the swimming pool of a hotel during holiday are probably the worst abuse this watch has seen.

However, approximately 5 years ago I lost my interest a bit in the Sea-Dweller and I started to wear different watches for daily wear. It still was part of my rotation scheme every once in a while but certainly not at the same level my Audemars Piguet or Omega watches were getting.

I found out that the Sea-Dweller actually wasn’t the most comfortable watch to wear. Of course, it could take a beating, was dead-on accurate and looked good, the watch wasn’t a real pleasure to wear on a daily basis. I found the watch to be too thick for its diameter. More, the watch has a kind of ‘belly’ that hangs under the case that makes the watch wobbly on your wrist. At some point I also had a Rolex Yacht-Master, GMT-Master II and Submariner at the same time, and those watches got far more ‘wrist time’ than this Rolex Sea-Dweller.

Rolex GMT-Master II next to the Sea-Dweller

Rolex GMT-Master II next to the Sea-Dweller

If I had to choose one of these Rolex watches based on looks, I would pick the Sea-Dweller any time, but there should also be a bit of comfort in wearing a watch. A watch is with you, attached to your body for most hours per day, per week, per month, so it has to feel right and don’t be in your way.

Reshuffling my collection over the past two years, I sold quite a few Rolex watches to finance other timepieces that I happened to find more interesting. The Sea-Dweller stayed however. Mainly because I had it for so long and have become attached to it, although it has been in the safe for most of the time.

Earlier this year, in April, exactly 10 years after I bought the Rolex Sea-Dweller, a local watch dealer (a different one from the dealer I bought it from) came over to my house and showed me a bunch of vintage Rolex GMT-Master watches.

One of them was produced in my year of birth (1977) and was – except the luminova-filled hands – original from that year, including the bracelet. The watch looked good and was recently serviced, but still unpolished. It had the normal signs of wear of 37 years. I took a deep breath and proposed to swap it for my Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600. He thought about it for a while and agreed upon this deal.

In the last 10 years, my life changed. My life changed from being student (for too long I have to admit) to becoming part of the working people, got married, and became a father. A 180 degrees change, as they say. And it is true. Other things become important and this also had an effect on the choice of my watches.

I am totally fine with a plexi crystal, a flimsy bracelet and a thin case. The GMT-Master has an interesting feature of a second time zone that I use more often than I ever dived with the Sea-Dweller (nil). It is perhaps a more sophisticated watch, for a sports Rolex. Nevertheless, although I would have thought the break-up with my Rolex Sea-Dweller would hurt me a little, it doesn’t. My Rolex GMT-Master and I will hopefully make 10 new years of history together, experiencing different things and events than in those 10 years with the Sea-Dweller.

A week after I bought (or traded) the Rolex GMT-Master, I visited the world’s biggest watch fair in Basel and during an appointment with Rolex I had the new Rolex Sea-Dweller 116600 in my hands. There was a little spark in those first moments, but as soon as I slipped the watch on my wrist, the chemistry was gone. It feels the same as my former Rolex Sea-Dweller. Despite the innovations Rolex put into this new Sea-Dweller, it is still not a match made in heaven for me personally.

I hope to report in 10 years from now again about my Rolex GMT-Master, if I still have it by then.

    Author Bio

    Articles by Robert-Jan Broer


    Robert-Jan Broer has a weak spot for (relatively) affordable mechanical timepieces, but also has a lot of appreciation for high-end watchmaking or 'haute horlogerie'. Robert-Jan is running Fratellowatches for 10 years and is writing for several other on-line and print publications he is definitely considered to be a subject matter expert by many. He sold his car to be able to purchase his first mechanical serious timepiece in the late 1990s, being a student he could only afford to have one of the two.