Rolex was never meant to be a luxury watch brand. While today they are more known as status symbols, back then they were hardcore tool watch producers, providing watches to specialized fields such as diving, aviation and racing. Part of the reason why the vintage Rolex market is so strong is because people love the purity and honesty of the design, utility first, design second.
While the Submariner and GMT-Master are the most famous, made for divers and pilot’s respectively, the lesser-known more hardcore part of Rolex lies in the Sea-Dweller. To the uninformed, it looks nearly identical to the Submariner but it is an interesting story of how it came about. This is really where Rolex gets into niche markets as the Submariner’s 200-meter depth rating was more than enough for most divers.
The Sea-Dweller was developed as a result of a need. Many divers in the SeaLab expeditions were having problems with their Submariners, where the crystal would often pop out after a dive. Mind you, these were not your average Navy divers. The SeaLab was an experimental arm of the US Navy who were trying to prove the viability of humans living underwater for an extended period of time. This was known as saturation diving, where helium was used in the breathing gas mixture.
What Rolex realized was that during decompression, built-up helium particles accumulated in the case of the watch would have to let out and as such the crystal of the watch would often pop open. The result is what you see here: the Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665. Maintaining the same diameter as a Submariner but now with a thicker profile to include a helium escape valve, this provided the watch with an easy way to decompress when the divers returned to the surface. Depth rated to 610 meters, more than double the Submariner, this was the ultimate tool watch for the most hardcore.
This example you see here is the first generation of 1665 Sea Dwellers, known as the Double Reds. It is by far one of the most desirable vintage Rolexes and a grail for many collectors. As you probably already know, it is nicknamed the Double Red because of its two lines of red text on the dial that only occurred on this reference.
This particular Double Red Sea-Dweller is an extremely special and desirable example as it is an earlier variant with a rare Mk II dial. As you may or may not know, vintage Rolex collecting is all about subtle differences in condition and rarity of iterations, which essentially makes or breaks its value. This Mk II Double Red you see here today is in stunning condition, with a well-preserved thick stainless steel case and a beautifully aged bezel. On top of this, the main value of this watch lies in its dial, which not only has developed a beautifully uniformed deep yellow patina but has also aged and turned tropical, displaying a stunning chocolate tone. It is not often that this occurs on matte dials and it is well-documented that this phenomenon occurs in Mk II dials.
This is certainly a rare chance to acquire a beautiful example of a Rolex Double Red Sea-Dweller 1665.