Freshly released to the market, but already a collectible. I can already imagine its description in an auction catalogue: “the ceramic Red Sea-Dweller”. Seeing it on the wrist of a neighbour during a dinner, I could immediately identify that this was not the usual Rolex. The ceramic bezel provides a very specific glare to the piece. Regarding the cyclop lens, like the purists of the Sea-Dweller, I might have preferred not to have it but I can do with it.
New from Rolex for 2017: souped-up queens of the hydrosphere
Rolex unites all watchmaking enthusiasts around a common passion for products steeped in history and strong brand image. We bring you the latest additions to the nautical world for plumbing the ocean depths and sailing the high seas…
By Vincent Daveau
The world is a global village bound tightly together by its manifold communication possibilities. Some watchmaking creations embody the very essence of adventure and carry within them the seeds of excellence. Such is the case of the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller watch, designed by Rolex in 1967 to meet the needs of professional divers.
A new breed of adventure-seeker had come into existence. In order to penetrate the murky depths of the underwater abyss, these aquanauts would rely on synthetic breathing gases composed of oxygen and helium. And to assist them in their submarine endeavours, the engineers at Rolex fitted their watches with a helium valve to the left of the case-middle. The result? These heroes of the hydrosphere, in particular the famous Comex divers, went on to make history with a 1978 model that boasted a tremendous 1220 meters depth rating. By way of anecdote, Henri-Germain Delauze, founder of the Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises (commonly known as La Comex) once said: 'In diving, time is an essential factor. Having an accurate, robust, dependable watch was of vital importance.'
A legend reworked
Time, however, is not immutable and enthusiasts' tastes change. As a result, the current Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller, ref. 116600 measuring 40 mm in diameter, crafted in 904L steel with Cerachrom bezel, could not help but swim with the current tide. For its fiftieth anniversary, this go-to watch has undergone major rejuvenation. Heralded as the new heroine of the hydrosphere and filling the gap between the Deep-Sea and the Submariner, this truly professional watchmaking icon has just been given a new 904L steel case, now a slightly larger 43 mm in diameter. Naturally, it has retained the helium valve at 9 o'clock on the side of the case-middle, the rotating uni-directional Verachrom bezel and rugged sapphire crystal, but for the first time in its history a 'Cyclops' loupe has also been added.
Being the most superlative edition of all the superlative models, it is therefore not only more imposing and more legible, but also, thanks to the incorporation of a new calibre ref.3235, more accurate. The new calibre is housed within a case water-resistant to 1220 meters and comprises a Chronergy escapement offering optimised efficiency, complete with blue paramagnetic Parachrom hairspring guaranteeing Superlative Chronometer accuracy. Superlative Chronometer is a registered trade name, which guarantees to maintain a maximum accuracy of -2 to +2 seconds of variation per day.
What's more, this paragon of efficiency explicitly sports its name "Sea-Dweller" in red in a graphical design touch that will appeal greatly to collectors. Like all the professional timepieces, it comes with a sturdy Oyster bracelet secured by an Oysterlock safety clasp featuring Fliplock diver's extension and Glidelock-type fine adjustment technology.
Equipped for the big departure
Of all the watches on offer for skippers, the Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II chronograph watch is no doubt the most famous, but it is also the most efficient. Launched in 2007, it immediately knocked its rivals out of the park, since Rolex is the only brand considered to cater closely to the real needs of sailors a few minutes away from the signal announcing the start of a regatta.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master II ref. 116680
Obviously, since its launch just 10 years ago, this incredibly efficient timekeeper has come under some competition from rivalling programmable regatta countdown displays. But competitive watchmakers, who are active in the sailing world, clearly lack the expertise of Rolex, the "Crown", when it comes to regattas. None of the existing references, such as the famous Yacht-Master II, boasts a mechanism that will allow the countdown time to be adjusted to that of the RC boat, in other words synchronised with the organisers' start signal.
This particular functionality may appear rather superfluous, but every mariner knows that it's virtually impossible to detect the start of the countdown from a gunshot or a signal on VHF. It's especially difficult, due to the huge amount of noise on board when the boat is preparing for the off. The noise of the sails flapping in the wind, the sheets drumming against the deck, the sound of the crashing waves and the skipper yelling out his commands... it's highly unlikely the skipper will hit the button at exactly the right moment. Therefore it's very important to be able, as it is on this timepiece restyled for enhanced dial legibility, to synchronise with the start of countdown, as one might with a flyback. Once the boats are given the off and the whole crew is on the alert, it's obviously much easier to follow the countdown with flags, on VHF or with a gunshot. Once all the calibrations are made, all that remains is for the skipper to get away as fast as he can on the start signal in order to secure a chance of winning the race…
One thing's for certain, this model, water-resistant to 100 metres, endowed with a Ring Command rotating bezel and available in 904L steel, Rolesor, white gold or yellow gold, boasts the Superlative Chronometer certification that has been in existence since 2015, plus an international 5-year warranty.
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