PROPERTY FROM THE ORIGINAL OWNER
During the creation of the Sea-Dweller, Ref. 1665, Rolex experimented with several different designs in small production numbers to arrive at the final product. The best-known models leading up to the final product include the Comex Submariners, Ref. 5514 and limited numbers of Ref. 5513 and the 'Patent-Pending' early Sea-Dwellers, Ref. 1665. The present example is a fascinating and little-known prototype model that marked the transition between designs, a watch made in small numbers only available to professional divers for field testing.
Prior to the availability of Ref. 1665 to the general public, the aforementioned test models had a thinner case profile, and did not feature the gas escape valve. In their experimental usage, many did not survive the pressures of deep-sea diving. Indeed, the bezel on the current example was lost on a salvage dive at a depth exceeding 200 meters.
These prototype watches featured dials markedly different from the standard 1665 dial, referred to today as the Mark 00, or 'Single Red' Sea-Dweller dial. The first line, 'Sea-Dweller' is printed in red, and the next line 'Submariner 500 M- 1650 FT' is printed in white. Later examples would read 'Submariner 2000', and both lines would be red, hence the phrase 'Double Red' Sea-Dweller. In the line below the Rolex logo, the word 'Date' is printed in a larger font than the preceding words 'Oyster Perpetual'. It is thought that of the few such dials created, many were replaced during service with Rolex, making the present lot all the more remarkable, as it was serviced by Rolex in 1993.
The present model, then, stands apart from even the most often aspired-to 'dream' watch of the Rolex sports model collector, the comparatively commonplace 'Double Red' Sea-Dweller. The 'Single Red' Sea-Dweller is mentioned only in scholarly texts, and the highly infrequent appearance of such watches at auction creates a frenzy among collectors.
For further reading on this topic, see Skeet, M. & Urul, N., Vintage Rolex Sports Models, pp. 48-53.
Interested in bidding online for this sale? Interested in bidding online for this sale? Existing Sotheby's clients, click here to register for BIDnow.
Watch live auctions, manage your account, sign up for updates, share your favourites, create wishlists and more.Register