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 pilots 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 was 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.
While the first iteration of the Sea Dweller was the 1665 Double Red, this example is a Great White, exactly the same, just with white text instead of red. It was made for 7 years only between 1977 and 1983 making it a relatively short production period for a Rolex watch. Furthermore, as it was such a niche watch, production numbers are relatively low as well making it a rare and collectible timepiece.
While you might think it is too similar to the Submariner, it wears completely differently due to its thicker profile and huge super dome plexiglass. Just like how it was made for niche saturation divers back in the day, only discerning niche collectors will appreciate how special a 1665 Great White is.