One of the major launches at BaselWorld 2014 was Rolex’s reborn Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, which the company originally created in 1967. Dive historians will recall that starting in 1953, Rolex developed watches capable of reliably accompanying divers to depths of 100 meters, then 200 and 300 meters (with the Oyster Perpetual Submariner) and to 1,220 meters for the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller.
The original Sea-Dweller was designed for deep-sea divers and became an integral part of underwater engineering firm Comex’s (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) equipment for its professional divers. When the Comex Hydra VIII mission in 1988 set the world open-sea diving record (534 meters), this same model watch accompanied the divers on their mission.
“A diver breathing hydrogen can’t live without his Rolex,” said Comex’s late founder and president, Henri Germain Delauze, adding: “In diving, time is a crucial piece of information. Be it operations, changing gas mixes, timing decompression stops, entering and exiting the diving bell, it’s all a matter of seconds. Having a precise, robust, reliable watch was of vital importance.”
The newest Sea Dweller
The new 40 mm COSC-rated Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller 4000 is water resistant to a depth of 1,220 meters (4,000 feet) and features the Rolex Cerachrom bezel, the firm’s Chromalight luminescent numerals and markers and the full range of Rolex’s case and caliber technical upgrades. These include a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring inside Calibre 3135, an Oysterlock safety clasp and the well-known Glidelock bracelet extension system.
Since it was designed for the pioneers of professional deep-sea diving, Rolex’s Sea Dweller 4000 of course also features one of the inventions that contributed to the longtime high regard divers have placed in Rolex since it was developed: the helium escape valve, patented by Rolex in 1967. This safety valve releases helium from the case as the gas expands during the decompression phases of very deep dives. As Rolex explains, the watch has to “face the same long decompression process as the diver in order to safely eliminate those gases without injury and avoid potentially fatal decompression sickness (often called ‘the bends’) before he returns to the surface.”
The valve is being reintroduced on the new Sea-Dweller in an updated version that benefits from Rolex’s latest technical innovation, but it remains true to the design of the case.
The Sea-Dweller 4000’s Oyster bracelet is equipped with an Oysterlock safety clasp that prevents accidental opening. The double extension system allows the watch to be worn easily over a diving suit up to seven mm thick, while the Rolex Fliplock extension link extends the bracelet by 26 mm just as the Glidelock system allows for fine adjustments without tools in 2mm increments.