Rolex Submariner Vs Sea-Dweller

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Two legendary Rolex dive masters go head to head.

Here’s the scenario: you walk into a Rolex boutique, credit card in tow, glance at the display cabinet and point to that sexy Submariner with the jet black dial and bezel you’ve always wanted. Except it’s not a Submariner. 

Wait, what? After months researching the Sub, you’d think you know what it looks like, at least. But no, what you’re looking at is really a Sea-Dweller—the Sub’s brother from another mother. 

Rolex Calibre 3135

Well technically it’s the same mother - they even share the same engine, the perpetual Calibre 3135 (above) with Rolex’s patented anti-magnetic, anti-shock blue Parachrom hairspring - so what sets them apart then?  

Rolex Submariner Ref. 116610LN

Created in 1953, the Submariner (above) was a game-changer as the first watch with a waterproofness of up to 100m. An iconic model, it continues to rank as one of Rolex’s most popular collections. For a crash course on the Sub, read more here

More than a decade younger, the Sea-Dweller (below) was born in 1967 as a further development of the Sub, even sharing its name—the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller Submariner 2000. In 1978, the watch was renamed Sea-Dweller 4000 (in reference to its waterproofness up to 4,000ft). 

Rolex Sea-Dweller 4000 Ref. 116600
Like the Milgauss which was specially developed for professionals working in a specific environment, the Sea-Dweller was developed for professionals whose job requires deep-sea diving. In other words, it’s not a dive watch you just muck around with. 

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Two features present in the Sea-Dweller but not the Sub are the patented helium escape valve, which you’ll need if diving to a significant depth, and Fliplock extension link which extends the bracelet by 26mm to fit comfortably over diving suits. 

Also, the Sea-Dweller is waterproof up to a staggering depth of 1,220m while the Sub is waterproof up to 300m, good enough for recreational dives.  

On the other hand, the Sub comes with a cyclops lens over the date window while the Sea-Dweller is devoid of one. One theory is that the Sea-Dweller’s sapphire crystal is thicker than normal and any further magnification over it, via the cyclops lens, would distort the display below. Another suggests that at the depths the Sea-Dweller can go to, the pressure would pop the cyclops lens off.  

While both the Submariner and Sea-Dweller come in 40mm cases, the Sea-Dweller has a thicker profile and thus feels heftier than the Sub. As an everyday office watch though, you'd probably appreciate a lighter timepiece. But if you like something more substantial and tool watch-ish on your wrist, the Sea-Dweller will give you just that.

The Submariner with date window is currently retailing for S$11,440 while the Sea-Dweller 4000 is going for S$13,990. Unless you have to regularly dive deep into the ocean depths (and we mean really deep), you’d probably have no need for a watch like the Sea-Dweller. Do you really want to spend a few Gs more on a watch that’s waterproof up to 1,220m when all the water activity you engage in is swimming? We didn’t think so. 

However, if you do require a waterproof watch able to withstand great pressure underwater, the Sea-Dweller is your go-to ticker. But if you’re after the tool watch look with basic dive functionality, the Sub is more than sufficient. Plus, we really dig that cyclops lens. 

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Tagged under dive watch
Melissa Kong

Online Editor

Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".