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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Close to home
Looking at a Rolex in an AD's window never did it for me; usually the AD was keen on placing the diamond-studded versions of the Datejust and TT (two-tone) GMTs and Submariner Dates and the occasional Milgauss. Being the complications fan that I am didn't help much either, with the Daytona (again in TT...) not really drawing my attention away from the multitude of competition. A shame really, when I consider the fact that my own grandfather worked in their Genève manufacture for over 25 years... .


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Tool Watch
It was my fairly recent interest in the "Tool Watch" that slowly turned things around. Panerai, despite its not-so-tool-watch appearance, was my bridge to Rolex. My good friend Charles got me addicted to those 44~47mm cases and soon after, I had my first PAM. Not long after he surprised me, saying he wanted to go back to concentrating his resources on Rolex.. When I mumbled something like what the heck for, he showed my a photo of a 5514 COMEX. Then he showed me a 5517 "military" with its one circled "T" on the dial. Then an angled-shot of a 1665's T-39 Superdome... . That's when I understood that Rolex had a rich tool-watch history, beyond the diamonds and shiny TT cases... .




Saturation-Diver ... Sea-Dweller
Oyster Perpetual Professional. At least that's the group-name Rolex uses for their sports/technical models, such as the Explorer(s), Daytona, Deepsea, GMT, Milgauss, Submariner and Yacht-Master lines. My own interest however, quickly narrowed down to the Submariner and closely-related Sea-Dweller (SD) models. Although the Submariner's history is long and rich, I found the Sea-Dweller's shorter but just as exciting story to be most captivating. There's a ton of excellent information available on the 'net documented by people with vastly more experience than me so I will only mention some highlights here...



1665 - The first "official" Sea Dweller, released in 1971, came into existence after saturation-diving incidents where the french professional diving company COMEX and the U.S. Navy's Sea-Lab team discovered the adverse effects of helium during the decompression phases following a saturation dive. Thus the birth of the Sea Dweller and its gas escape valve* (aka HEV since Helium is the gas used in saturation diving). The 1665 was rated to 2000ft/610m which was roughly three times the rating of [5513] production Submariners (660ft/200m) of the same period. The 1665 model includes the famous "DRSD" or double-red which had the lines Sea-Dweller and Submariner 2000 in red. Rolex eventually stopped using red print and the all-white lettered SDs received the nickname Great white. As a side note, prototype Sea-Dwellers (aka "single red" / SRSD) were produced around 1967, rated to 1650ft/500m and The COMEX-only 5514 version of the 5513 Submariner were fitted with HEVs.
*In order to provide full disclosure, it has been noted that Rolex partnered with DOXA to produce the one-way, escape valve solution and DOXA was first-to-market with their SUB300T (~1969).



The 1665 was superseded in ~1978 by the 16660 (aka triple-six) and some years after by the 16600. The model# change was to signify the move from the 3035 to the 3135 movement. Both had the newer gloss dials with white-gold marker-surrounds (apart from what I assume to be the remainder of 1665's matte dials used with the first batches of 16660s). The case of the 16600 was slightly altered, perhaps to support the new movement. Any other potential differences are unclear to me. The new generation of the Sea Dweller brought about even greater depth-ratings thanks to changes in the case, the replacement of the 1665's plexi with a thick sapphire crystal as well as a notably larger escape valve. These innovations provided the Sea Dweller with an impressive 4000ft/1220m depth rating! The next-gen Submariners, in comparison, managed an increase to 1000ft/300m with the migration to sapphire, improved Triplock crown, etc. Aside from the amazing depth certification, the Sea Dweller also benefited from solid end-links (SEL) and a bracelet with solid center links. Compared to the Submariner's tuna-can hollow links, the SEL & robust bracelet were a considerable improvement. To many a Sea-Dweller fan's dismay, the Sea Dweller was replaced by the Deepsea (DSSD). While the DSSD is an impressive feat of technology as well as an important tribute to Rolex history, it is quite a different animal. As such, many SD fans would have loved to see it released as an independent model and not as the SD's successor... .




16600 - SWISS - Lug Holes
Like most watches of the period, Rolex used tritium paint for their dial-markings and hands. Eventually they made the move to [Super-]LumiNova - just as all other companies did - to avoid the potential dangers inherit to radioactive materials like Radium and its successor Tritium. The 16600 was one of the models that went through the change. Up to roughly 1997~98, they had tritium dials, marked by the industry-standard SWISS-T < 25 just below the 6 o'clock marker. In 1998, Rolex made the transition to [Super-]LumiNova by changing the dial lettering from SWISS-T<25 to SWISS. Not long after (late '99 or early 2000) they changed the label to Swiss Made for reasons beyond my knowledge. Other companies use L Swiss L or even L Swiss made L but all these variations refer to modern [Super-]LumiNova-painted dials/hands (and of course the fact that the watches are manufactured in Switzerland). After reviewing the various Sea Dwellers available, I decided on a [Super-]LumiNova dial and lug-holes (the SD "loosing" its lug-holes with the F-serial 2004 model). I managed to find two units that fit my requirements, a 1999 A-serial SWISS and a 2003 Y-serial Swiss made dial. Both seemingly in the same condition, I went with the SWISS dial as it is a bit more unique.




The look and feel that is Rolex
Having been wearing larger and heavier watches, I was concerned that the SD might come across somewhat ...lacking, but it was quite the contrary. Not only does the SD, with it's 143g and robust stature compete with my 144g 44mm PAM, but the iconic Rolex tool-watch design demands the wearer's attention. The dial, the hands, the bezel and insert, the lugs, crown-guard and crown itself all come together in perfect harmony - no feature is overwhelming, no feature expendable. Add to that the HEV which emotionally serves to remind the wearer of the rich history Rolex has with professional diving. While I enjoy using a myriad of straps with my Panerai, the SD is not restricted to being worn on its bracelet (albeit a nice bracelet at that). With the help of so-called NATO straps, the SD achieves that rugged look associated with the military. Recent hi-quality rubber straps have also provided the SD with a new look.
Looking past form is naturally function; the fact that the 16600 SD is powered by the C.O.S.C.-certified 3135, one of the most dependable Rolex movements ever built, completes the package and makes this my perfect first Rolex.

:-!





























b-)
 

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Congrats to you on a very fine watch purchase indeed. And a further "thank you" for a very well-written article with some really amazing macro-pics. Your post exemplifies the reasons I stay and learn ...
 

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Fantastic choice - the 16600 was also my first foray into the world of Rolex, and was an absolute brilliant piece. I had the tritium dial, which I prefer slightly, but both versions are, in my opinion, one of the nicest pieces Rolex has made.

Loved the post too! Brilliant images, and a top notch write up - thanks for sharing.
 
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Thanks - I'm very satisfied with this SD and SDs in general - a great Rolex, a great watch :-!

I wanted to add a Lume comparison. On the image you'll see the Super-Luminova color-type and it's percentage of efficiency compared to "C3" - a cream-white colored Super-Luminova. The S.A.R. has white-colored Super-Luminova, much like Rolex's chromalite, the SD has [most likely] C1 - also white and the PAM has a pale-green colored lume. I am referring to the paint colors as seen in daylight.


click to view in original size.
f/8 15s. all dials are visible at 60min - some monitors may need adjustment.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Being a Panerai buff I'm used to changing it up regularly with a strap change :) I never really considered the idea with other brands, even having seen many a tool-watch on NATO.

When I picked up the SD I assumed I'd be wearing it on the bracelet, period. But after seeing the many Rolex tool-watch owners here wearing theirs on NATOs I had to give it a try. Love it! The only thing quicker than Panerai's quick-strap-change solution is swapping out NATO straps :-! Not as easy but still a great option for Rolex tool-watches are Rubber B's straps. They're mounted just like the bracelet but are a bit easier to work with since there's less risk of scratching the case. I'm sure I'll eventually go back to the OEM bracelet but for now, I'm having too much fun changing it up ;-)













 

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Thank you for this very nice post with amazing pictures.

The SD have been my grail for as long as I have been into watches, and now there is finally one on its way to me! I found a 16660 SD to be a good 30 year old birthday present to myself (see picture of the watch below). It means I will have to flip a few of my watches to satisfy the budget (and more importantly the wife) - however that is the life of the WIS.

I cannot wait until it is my birthday! :)
img_1588.jpg
 

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Amazing watch, great choice!

With regards to the lume, it is my understanding that modern Rolex dials imprinted with "Swiss" were transitional lume watches, made during the 1-2 years in which Rolex switched over to standard Luminova from Tritium.

"Swiss Made" signifies the use of Super Luminova, which they almost immediately upgraded to after first embracing standard Luminova. I would assume your watch features standard Luminova, not Super Luminova.

That said, it seems to compete just fine in your lume comparison test, and owning one of the briefly-produced "Swiss" models is a bit cooler than one of the droves of "Swiss-T<25" or "Swiss Made" models out there...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
..."Swiss Made" signifies the use of Super Luminova, which they almost immediately upgraded to after first embracing standard Luminova...
Yes, I'm familiar with the name change (from "Luminova" to "Super-Luminova") but I'm less certain if there was an actual change in the chemical-composition itself. I've read posts / threads suggesting both but no concrete info. If you have a link to anything clarifying the difference(s) between Luminova and Super-Luminova I'd be very excited to learn more about it :-!
 

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Yes, I'm familiar with the name change (from "Luminova" to "Super-Luminova") but I'm less certain if there was an actual change in the chemical-composition itself. I've read posts / threads suggesting both but no concrete info. If you have a link to anything clarifying the difference(s) between Luminova and Super-Luminova I'd be very excited to learn more about it :-!
I don't think anybody will have a link conclusively proving the differences between Luminova and SuperLuminova, as it's a pretty closely-guarded trade secret, since the two formulas sell at different price-points. What is fairly well-established is that many of the older Luminova watches display some yellowing/browning of the lume over time, whereas SuperLuminova watches generally do not... Early Luminova Omegas are particularly notorious for this.

Conventional wisdom is that this is probably due to other compounds in the Luminova formula, such as sealant or stability compounds, not the active compounds that produce the luminous properties... Those compounds which may very well be, and probably are, in my opinion, identical to the active compounds in the SuperLuminova formula.

Many early "Swiss" dial standard Luminova Rolex indices remain snowy white, however (yours being a good example of this), leading one to question whether or not Rolex perhaps requested a version of Luminova which was engineered to resist discoloration over time... Making it for all intents and purposes identical to SuperLuminova, in the practical sense.
 

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Thanks for a great post.

I am about to buy an A-series SD and I have been told by a fellow collector that:

1. The reason the dial says Swiss and NOT Swiss Made is because the original Luminova was supplied to Rolex from a non Swiss firm and that subsequently Super Luminova began being produced in Switzerland making the watch now completely Swiss Made. True?

2. That this rarity (Swiss) dial makes the A series more collectible and thus worth slightly more. True?

Many thanks,

Jonathan


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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
I am about to buy an A-series SD and I have been told by a fellow collector that 1. The reason the dial says Swiss and NOT Swiss Made is because the original Luminova was supplied to Rolex from a non Swiss firm and that subsequently Super Luminova began being produced in Switzerland making the watch now completely Swiss Made. True? 2. That this rarity (Swiss) dial makes the A series more collectible and thus worth slightly more. True?
Thanks / glad you liked it Jonathan :) As you can see from the few posts above yours, the question of the actual difference between the phosphorescent compounds "Luminova" vs. "SuperLuminova" is not clearly documented. From my understanding, Luminova is a product created by Nemoto, a Japanese firm (note that Seiko's compound is called Lumibrite). When Swiss company RC Tritec partnered up with Nemoto, their version of Luminova recieved the new name, Super Luminova:

"Nemoto & Co. Ltd. of Japan, patent holder of these new compositions and RC TRITEC Ltd. have formed the Joint-Venture LumiNova AG Switzerland, who are the licensed manufacturer and exclusive distributors and service center for Europe and selected overseas customers for Swiss Super-LumiNova® pigments."

As you can see, Luminova and any derivative of it was and still is a product patented by a Japanese company.


Regarding rarity; yes, the SWISS dial is clearly much rarer than "Swiss Made" dial (or even T-dial, for that matter), simply because it was only in use for approx. one year. Nonetheless, I wouldn't buy a Swiss dial in hopes that it is worth more because you will run into those that are certain "Swiss" dials use "Luminova" and that Luminova is inferior to Super-LumiNova... . Marketing is a powerful tool and the label "Super-LumiNova" implies improvement over "LumiNova" but there's absolutely no documentation thereof.

As I wrote in my review, I took the Swiss dial because it was in just as good shape as the Y-series and yes, the Swiss dial is much more of a rarity :-!

 

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I'll echo everyone else's comments: Traveller, this was an EXCELLENT write up, pictures and information. Thank you so much for taking the time to put it all together and share it with us.
 

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This has got me shopping for a 16600. Any suggestions where to look outside of the WUS classifieds. Been having trouble locating a lug hole in Canada. All help much appreciated!
 
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