Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller 126600 Review: The SD43 Firsthand Ownership

sea dweller 43 cyclops
The Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600 features the cyclops over the date window.

Intro

​At Baselworld 2017, Rolex announced ​the new Sea-Dweller (Ref. 126600) to celebrate the models 50th anniversary. It’s also know as the Rolex Sea Dweller 2017 or SD43. Since then, it has become one of the most elusive Rolex references with long wait lists at Authorized Retailers and secondary market dealers around the world. The asking prices are currently thousands of dollars over retail.

Initial reaction from the watch community went something like this:

  • Why the cyclops date magnifying glass? Sea-Dwellers don’t have cyclops.
  • 43mm? Isn’t that huge?
  • The red line of text. Wow. Take my money.
  • Isn’t this just a giant Sub?
Over the summer, I received an unexpected phone call from an Authorized Rolex Retailer letting me know that a friend of mine was giving up his spot in line for the new Sea-Dweller. I was caught off guard and uttered the first questions that came to mind, “Who are you?” and “How did you get my number?”
Once I figured out that this was a legitimate offer, I immediately became excited at the possibility of a new piece. ​Personally, I considered myself more of a Submariner and GMT Master kind of guy. These are two iconic Rolex staples that can easily qualify as the “only” watches you’ll ever need. That being said, there was something about the new Sea-Dweller that had me wanting to own it. Less than 24 hours after receiving that phone call, a brand new Sea-Dweller arrived on my doorstep!

Case and Bracelet:

​The new Sea-Dweller comes with a fair amount of change. One of the most notable is its increase in size to a wider 43mm from the previous generations 40mm. I think this serves as a great way for Rolex to differentiate this timepiece from the  Submariner. I also have larger wrists (7.25 inches), so the 43mm case size fits very well on me.
Don’t let the 43mm size scare you. The new Sea-Dweller has a round and streamlined shape thanks to its tapered lugs. In contrast with the more square shape of the current ceramic Submariner, the Sea-Dweller shares a more similar case shape to that of the older 5 digit Rolex references. This helps it wear true to size as opposed to some 43-44mm watches that wear much larger (i.e. Panerai).
Rolex ceramic Submariner comparison with the Sea-Dweller 2017

Rolex ceramic Submariner comparison with the Sea-Dweller 2017. Photo credit: @RolexDiver

New Sea-Dweller vs. ceramic Submariner thickness comparison

New Sea-Dweller vs. ceramic Submariner thickness comparison. Photo credit: @RolexDiver

Comfortable. Even if a bit hefty.

Rolex has done a phenomenal job at making this watch wearable thanks to its nearly perfect proportions. The SD43 has a wide bracelet that measures 22mm at the lugs and 19mm at the clasp. This helps offset the the height and weight from the larger case and relieves the “top heavy” feeling you would have normally felt from wearing the larger Deepsea Sea-Dweller (DSSD). The bracelet also features both Glidelock and Fliplock extensions which gives the wearer the ability to fine tune minor adjustments all the way to fitting over a dive suit.
Sea Dweller bracelet

Photo credit: @RolexDiver

Photo credit: @RolexDiver

Photo credit: @RolexDiver

My only complaint with the Sea-Dweller is its thickness. Obviously, its thickness is due to its depth rating (4000ft) but at 15.2mm it isn’t exactly a thin watch. It was never uncomfortable, but its height was something that would rarely go unnoticed. Personally, I find the Sea-Dweller is a bit too tall and robust to consider it a daily wearer but it works well within a rotation.

Dial:

The dial is without a doubt my favorite aspect of the watch. For the first time in about 40 years, Rolex has added some vintage flair by releasing a Sea-Dweller with red text on it. The combination of a matte black dial and red text is absolutely sublime. In the right light, the matte black dial gives you a vintage feel while the red adds that extra pop to make a great dial even more special.
sea dweller 2017

The Rolex Sea-Dweller reference 126600 was announced at Baselworld 2017, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the model. Photo credit: @RolexDiver

Probably the most polarizing aspect of this watch is the addition of a cyclops magnifier over the date window which we’ve never seen on previous Sea-Dweller models. While many purists are complaining about the new cyclops, I happen to think that it works well with the design and makes functional sense for a tool watch.
sea dweller 43 cyclops

The Sea-Dweller Ref. 126600 features the cyclops over the date window. Photo credit: @RolexDiver

No modern Rolex would be complete without blue Chromalight lume. According to Rolex the lume will glow for up to eight hours.
sea dweller 2017 lume

The new Sea Dweller 43 features chromalight lume. Photo credit: @RolexDiver

​Movement:

The unsung hero of the new SD43 is undoubtably it’s movement. The SD43 comes fitted with the caliber 3235. This is Rolex’s newest movement that features 14 new patents, more anti-magnetic components, a 70 hour power reserve, and a time keeping set to “Superlative Chronometer” standards of -2/+2 per day.
Rolex-Calibre-3235-Sea-Dweller-126600-43mm-Baselworld-2017

The movement inside of the Sea-Dweller 43 is a 3235 with a 70-hour power reserve.

​Final Thoughts: 

Overall, the new SD43 is a fantastic update to an already iconic watch. It’s modern updates and vintage design cues come together seamlessly to create a future classic. I’m happy to add this piece into my rotation and I know it will find it’s way into many Rolex enthusiasts’ collections in years to come.

5 Comments

  • reynaldo says:

    for me, its the perfect wach, i have submarinaer, deep sea, daytona, but this model is better

  • steve madrid says:

    I have a 16600 Sea-Dweller, a 2002 Y series the last year Rolex put holes in the lugs. It is a different animal from the current 43 mil. Sea-Dweller and even different from the Sub and the 4000 ceramic SD. At first I was put off by the cyclops, but the first saturation dive watches Rolex sold to the dive companies were red lettered, cyclops Submariners. When the crystals popped off that was when the current SD was developed. My point is all these watches have the same DNA, and that’s what I love about them all and respect the history and what Rolex has done with this current model stays within that history, that DNA.

  • steve madrid says:

    P.S. I recently bought a black rubber strap from you about two months ago, and it is fantastic on the Sea-Dweller. Really brings the watch to a very sporty, aggressive look. Thanks, I love it.

  • Julian Mihai says:

    I do not have the watch as yet. CD43 but I am dying to get it

  • Adalberto Casco says:

    I came across one while on vacation in DR , I couldn’t resist
    Have for 4 months and I love it
    Beautiful piece and it fit amazing on the wrist

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