The Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 – The Last True Tool Watch
Watch & Bullion15 June 2016 | 2 min read
Every time period has an ambassador that best captures the spirit of that time, and for the 1970s it is the Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665, one of the last true tool watches ever made.
In the watch community the discussion of the transition between tool watches to luxury watches seems to be a perpetual one. While modern luxury watches are, without a shadow of a doubt, pieces of mechanical perfection, this perfection also takes away the character of a tool watch which led to Rolex’s fame in the first place.
Many watch-lovers, myself included, wish to go back and relive the 70s. It is easily one of the most interesting periods in watchmaking; we found quartz in the rising and mechanical pieces trying to compete, as well as technological advancements and iconic designs. It also marks the end of true tool watches, and the beginning of the transition into luxury watches.
This brings us to the Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665, which was a collaboration between Rolex, COMEX and the legendary diver Jacques Yves Cousteau. Together they had been pushing diving to new extremes, and for that purpose they required reliable timepieces.
COMEX found that many of its diver watches broke on deep dives. This was due to helium building up pressure inside the watch, which eventually led to cracking the crystal of the watch, rendering it unusable. In an effort to counter this COMEX turned to Rolex, and as a product of close collaboration the very first Sea-Dweller was born, reference 1655, featuring the now iconic helium escape valve, allowing previously impossible depths to be reached.
The 1655s were tool watches in the most puristic fashion. In contrast with today, the people who wore these watches were professional divers, choosing Rolex not because they saw it as bling but because they were simply the best built machines around. Its reliability made it the watch of choice for COMEX divers around the world, with its 2000ft water rating and helium escape valve being the best and most reliable timepiece around.
This piece however is no ordinary 1665, being one of only 300 in the world. After a recent overhaul this watch is in an excellent condition and complete with original parts. It comes in a full set which includes the original box, various accessories, and the warranty from Rolex. Furthermore, it still has its original T39 superdome crystal; the crown jewel of any vintage sea-dweller.
As if all this isn’t enough, this specific piece is engraved with ‘JYC’, the initials of Jacques Yves Cousteau, the rock-star of diving world. Donated to the Cousteau Foundation, which has at its primary goal the preservation of the sea and its inhabitants, this is one of the most desirable diver watches in the world.