2014 was the year Rolex unveiled some surprises including the re-introduction of an old classic, the Rolex SeaDweller 4000. Originally launched in 1967, the SeaDweller was designed for use by the diving company COMEX S.A. Just as how Rolex collaborated with Pan American Airlines on the development of the Rolex GMT, Rolex collaborated with COMEX to specially design a professional diving watch for depths beyond recreational SCUBA levels. Creating a dive watch with a higher depth rating than the Rolex Submariner launched more than a decade prior was a tall order, but Rolex incorporated new technologies that make the SeaDweller stand apart from watches in its class. Spring forward to 2008, and the SeaDweller was discontinued with the unveiling of the Rolex DeepSea SeaDweller (DSSD), Rolex deep-water professional diving watch.
With the DSSD and the Submariner, Rolex was stuck in a conundrum. Between 2008 and 2013 (or thereabouts), Rolex’s diving watch line comprised of the redesigned Submariner, designed for 1000M or 330FT underwater pressure and the Rolex DeepSea SeaDweller, a dive watch designed for 12000M or 40000ft of pressure. Because of the depth rating differences and corresponding size differences between the DSSD and the Submariner, the DSSD and the Submariner are two entirely different watches. A Rolex Submariner can be worn as an everyday wristwatch, whereas the greater weight and height of the DSSD makes a watch designed for the outside of a wetsuit rather than under a coat.
The introduction of the Rolex SD4000 changes all this with a wristwatch that can be worn everyday, has features setting it apart from the Submariner and possesses the classic lines and design ethos as the first SeaDweller. The SeaDweller 4000, more commonly known as simply the SD4000, has a 40mm dial, 4000ft depth rating, and utilizes the same Glidelock adjustable clasp and same 3135 Parachrom fitted movement as the Submariner. The SD4000 is well positioned between the industrial sized DeepSea SeaDweller, and the lower pressure rated Submariner.
Keeping the SD4000 distinct from the Submariner are the design differences and differences associated with having a higher depth rating. Perhaps the most visible difference is that the SD4000 looks smaller than the Submariner but in fact they share the same dial diameter. The SD4000 appears smaller because of the classic tapering lines along the case and lugs resident in the original 1967 SeaDweller. The second visible difference is the raised crystal on the SD4000. Like the original 1967 SeaDweller, the SD4000 has a thicker 3mm crystal for the greater depth rating that stands taller than any other Rolex other than the domed 5mm thick crystal found on the DeepSea SeaDweller. Also evident is the lack of a cyclops date magnifier on the SD4000. The date is still very readable on the SD4000 but Rolex could not add a cyclops because the thicker crystal would make the magnification incorrect. A more subtle difference between the Submariner and the SD4000 is that the bracelet end-link is slightly raised at the lug to accommodate a wetsuit. The DSSD and first Yachtmaster’s have this design feature as well, but not the Submariner.
The Rolex SeaDweller 4000 is a viable alternative to the DSSD insofar as size and price, and is a robust alternative to the Submariner. Like with redesign of the Rolex Explorer II, the redesigned SeaDweller is going to be in the Rolex line up for some time come because Rolex returns to its classic lines and classic style that is patently Rolex.