Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller: Citizen of the Deep

Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller: Citizen of the Deep

Feb 6th 2024

There is no better test of tenacity than the sea. It is an arena where the strength of will and determination bends natural laws. For centuries, men and women have made their name in deep waters. On October 7, 1927, Mercedes Gleitze shattered conventional expectations by becoming the first British woman to swim across the English Channel. What set her journey apart was her remarkable feat of endurance and the enduring trust she had in her timepiece, the Rolex Oyster, the world's first waterproof wristwatch. It was called "The Wonder Watch that Defies the Elements."

As advancements in swimming, sailing, and diving continued, a need developed for a timepiece that could adapt to fluctuating conditions, especially those unique to the professional saturation diver. One of the most complex dilemmas arose out of, literally, thin air. Due to the depths of their descent, saturation divers must replace nitrogen with helium to avoid illness when ascending to the surface. However, helium atoms are small enough to enter a dive watch's case, therefore decompression upon ascent can cause the crystal to dislodge or even shatter. Divers also faced an issue with their gear, as thick, protective gloves required a timepiece whose bezel was easy to grip, even in their equipment. In 1967, Rolex unveiled an elegant solution to these obstacles with the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller. Today, the Sea-Dweller remains a professional diver's most trusted companion.

Razny Jewelers is proud to offer Rolex’s iconic timepieces to families and collectors in the greater Chicago area.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

Rolex created the Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller in 1967 to meet the challenge of prolonged underwater missions. The Sea-Dweller is specifically designed for saturation diving. Thanks to its helium escape valve, it can withstand decompression on ascent and master the return to the surface – the final phase of deep-sea exploration.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

Guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 610 metres (2,000 feet) when it was launched in 1967, then to 1,220 metres (4,000 feet) from 1978, the Sea-Dweller combines all the attributes of the modern divers’ watch.

Tested in real-life conditions as part of the Tektite programme, initiated jointly by NASA, the US Navy and the US Government in 1969, the Sea-Dweller was employed during the first major experiments with underwater habitats.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

The new face of diving

In the 1960s, so-called “saturation” diving made it possible to remain at great depths for extended periods. It consists of housing divers in a pressurized habitat, so as to reproduce the pressure that prevails in their underwater working environment. This means that they need only undergo a single decompression process, at the very end of the mission.

This process can damage the watch. Divers breathe a mix of gases composed mainly of helium, whose extremely fine atoms can penetrate the case. On returning to the surface, the helium trapped inside can create a phenomenon of excess internal pressure liable to compromise its integrity.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

Mastering decompression with the helium escape valve

In order to overcome this problem, in 1967 Rolex introduced the Sea-Dweller, a divers’ watch with a helium escape valve. It is screwed to the case and consists of a hermetic cylinder, a piston, a gasket and a spring, acting as a safety valve. When the internal pressure in the case is too high, it opens automatically, allowing the helium atoms to escape.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

All-round legibility

The Chromalight display, exclusive to Rolex, gives the Sea-Dweller optimal legibility in any circumstances. The hour markers, hands, capsule and bezel are filled or covered by hand with a luminescent material that emits an intense blue glow in the dark that lasts up to two times longer than traditional phosphorescent materials.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

Reinforced waterproofness

The Sea-Dweller is equipped with a Triplock winding crown. This screw-down crown was invented in 1970 and comprises three waterproofness zones. It reinforces the impermeability of the Sea-Dweller’s 43 mm Oyster case, whose middle case is crafted from a solid block of Oystersteel, a particularly corrosion-resistant alloy.

Rolex Sea-Dweller from Razny Jewelers in Chicago

The watch for citizens of the seas

Explorers and oceanographers, like Sylvia Earle, and underwater photographers, such as David Doubilet, are committed to preserving the ocean and know that it is our most precious resource. They wear a Sea-Dweller to reflect their passion and commitment.

Rolex has also partnered with Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) since 1971. For several decades, the Sea-Dweller has equipped the divers of this French company, which specializes in underwater engineering, technology and intervention.


As an Official Rolex Jeweler, we are the only retailer allowed to sell Rolex watches. With the necessary skills and technical know-how, we will help you make the choice of a lifetime.

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