Not for nothing is Rolex the world’s best-known watch brand, beloved by sports stars, explorers, and urbanites alike. Pioneering introductions such as its 1926 Oyster, the first water-resistant watch; the 1931 Oyster Perpetual, the first self-winding watch; and the 1945 Datejust, the first chronometer with an automatic date-changing mechanism were all a prelude to the Swiss watchmaker’s mid-century introduction of the 1953 Submariner, the first diving watch, water-resistant to 100 meters.
With the debut of the Submariner, Rolex became known for what horology fiends understatedly refer to as the “tool watch”—and the brand has never looked back. Today, its stable of timepieces designed to solve practical problems for people engaged in sports and exploration includes some of the most sought-after models of the past century.
Introduced in 1967 to meet the needs of professional divers, the Rolex Sea-Dweller is a prime example of this solution. Featuring a unidirectional valve that allows helium to escape from the case without compromising its waterproofness, the model changed the nature of saturation diving forever.
This year, in honor of the Sea-Dweller’s 50th anniversary, Rolex debuted a new version in a larger 43 mm case made of corrosion-resistant 904L steel and bearing the name “Sea-Dweller” inscribed in red on the dial. Waterproof up to 1,220 meters (or 4,000 feet), the new Sea-Dweller includes a slew of bells and whistles guaranteed to thrill both Rolex fans and diving enthusiasts, including a unidirectional rotatable bezel with a scratch-resistant Cerachrom insert in ceramic, a Cyclops lens at 3 o’clock, the Rolex Glidelock and Fliplock extension systems (allowing divers to extend the bracelet so it fits over diving suits up to 7 mm thick), and—last but not least—a cutting-edge mechanical movement, caliber 3235, that meets the brand’s exacting standards for precision and reliability.
Rolex Sea-Dweller, rolex.com; $11,350