It's been a long time since we've done a hands-on review of a Rolex timepiece. While we've never been big fans of the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller ref. 116660 since its launch several years ago, we've always liked the looks of the D-Blue dial version a.k.a. James Cameron that came out in August of 2014. A watch that doesn't fly under the radar due to its crazy thick case construction —17.7 mm thick—, this ultra-resistant diver's watch was engineered by Rolex to conquest the deep. Waterproof to a depth of 12,800 feet —3,900 meters—, the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller ref. 116660 D-Blue dial was the perfect release to commemorate James Cameron’s historic solo dive documented on National Geographic’s 'DeepSea Challenge 3D' film. For this particular solo dive, James Cameron was wearing a Rolex Deepsea during his expedition into the Mariana Trench. The model also served as the blueprint for the design of the experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge, waterproof to a depth of 12,000 meters —39,370 feet— and tested in real-life conditions during Cameron’s dive, affixed to the robotic arm of his submersible.
Fitted with the most unique dial ever released by Rolex, the dial is a perfect gradient blue that goes all the way from brilliant blue to bottomless black. This two-color gradient dial celebrates one man’s journey to the deepest place on earth at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The dial with an semi-glossy finish captures light like no other Rolex dial out there. The Mariana Trench, stretches in an arc around the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean and is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. The deepest part of the trench, the Challenger Deep, is approximately 11,000 meters —nearly 7 miles— below the surface. If Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, were set in the trench, there would still be approximately 2,000 meters —1.3 miles— of water above it.
The apple green color on the 'Deepsea' writing is just the perfect amount of pop to make this dial even better. A true chameleon depending on the lighting conditions or the angle at which light is coming from, this dial will almost appear dark blue or black from far away. However, all it takes is just a little bit of sunlight to make this dial pop with particular character.
Equipped with Rolex's signature innovative 'Chromalight' on the applied markers, hands and zero marker —pearl— on the bezel, the dial pushes back the boundaries of visibility in dark environments. Its distinctive blue glow lasts up to twice as long as that of standard luminescent materials. Fitted with a unidirectional 60-minute graduated scratch-resistant 'cerachrom' bezel with numerals and graduations coated in platinum, the bezel turns smoothly and accurately to keep those elapsed diving times in check.
The Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue dial ref. 116660 comes with a monobloc 44 mm stainless steel middle case with screw-down grade 5 titanium case back and Rolex Ringlock System case architecture with Helium escape valve. The crown
Just in case some of you are not familiar or don't remember how Rolex's Ringlock system works, let us refresh your memory. This innovative case architecture patented by Rolex, enables the watch to resist the massive pressure exerted by water at the depth of 3,900 meters —12,800 feet—, equivalent to a weight of approximately 3 tons on the watch. Its construction is based on three elements: a nitrogen-alloyed steel central ring that forms the backbone of the system, accompanied by a 5.5 mm‑thick domed sapphire crystal and a case back in grade 5 titanium.
The Helium Escape Valve is a safety valve patented by Rolex in 1967 acts as a miniature decompression chamber for the watch and essential for deep saturation diving. Professional divers heading for the surface after a deep saturation dive must spend time in a decompression chamber, where they breathe a gas mixture containing helium. The tiny molecules of helium, an extremely light and non-volatile gas, infiltrate everywhere in the chamber, also penetrating the watch. During decompression, the helium is unable to escape from the waterproof case quickly enough, creating a pressure differential that could force the crystal out of the watch case. Therefore, Rolex engineers created a gas escape valve fitted with a spring that opens when the difference in pressure between the inside and outside of the watch reaches 3 to 5 bars, allowing the helium to escape, without compromising the waterproofness of the watch.
Just like all other Rolex sports models, the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue Dial ref. 116660 is fitted with the iconic Oyster bracelet. Perhaps the only thing we would done differently was for the bracelet to be slightly wider at the lugs to help balance the weight of the watch while on the wrist. This very solid stainless steel bracelet is equipped with an Oysterlock clasp to prevent accidental opening, and the ingenious Glidelock system that allows fine adjustments of the bracelet without using any tools. Additionally, the bracelet features a fully revamped diver's extension —fliplock extension link— to allow for the watch to fit over a wet suit when diving.
The Glidelock system is composed of a robust toothed panel under the clasp cover that provides an extension of up to 20 mm in 2 mm increments. Definitely a clever idea that most watch manufactures should try to replicate.
Powering the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue Dial ref. 116660 is the Rolex in-house automatic calibre 3135. This mechanical movement fully developed and manufactured by Rolex is a certified Swiss chronometer that have successfully passed the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute —COSC— tests. The Rolex calibre 3135 features the now well known Parachrom hairspring —offering greater resistance to shocks and temperature variations— and a bi-directional perpetual winding rotor.
On the wrist, the watch wears slightly bigger than its actual size and more like a 45 mm watch. This is a true tank of a watch but with a ton of character and unparalleled personality. If you are a regular reader of our website, it won't be a surprise to you that we absolutely love this dial way more than the black one. Suckers for blue dial watches and virile masculine timepieces, this is a must have in our book.
Sticker Price $12,350 USD. For more info on Rolex click here.