Single Red Sea-Dweller Sold For US $ 383,000

7 months ago, an extremely rare prototype Rolex ‘Single Red’ Sea-Dweller was sold for approximately US $ 517,610 by Antiquorum auction house. This astronomical figure is possibly the highest recorded for a Rolex sports model under the reference 1665.

On 10th June 2013, yet another Single Red Sea-Dweller surfaced at Sotheby’s auction in New York, USA closing at US $ 383,000. The estimates by the auction house are between US $ 60,000 – US $ 80,000. While this example appears to be in less ideal condition with a missing bezel and insert, it is without a doubt that the rarity of this coveted ‘Single Red’ is a reality amongst worldwide collectors. 

SOTHEBYS | NEW YORK | 10 JUNE 2013 | N09002 | LOT 216


Estimate: 60,000 – 80,000 USD 
LOT SOLD. 383,000 USD  (Hammer Price with Buyer’s Premium)

• Cal. 1575, rhodium-plated automatic movement, 27 jewels • matte black dial, luminous triangular, dot and baton indexes, aperture at 3 o’clock for date, luminous Mercedes-style hands, center seconds, Sea-Dweller printed in red, Submariner 500 M-1650 FT printed in white • screw-down crown with pointed protective shoulders, screw-down plain case back, bezel lacking • case, dial, and movement signed • later stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet diameter 40 mm

 L O T   2 1 6 :  R O L E X   S E A – D W E L L E R   ‘ S I N G L E   R E D ‘   R E F   1 6 6 5




▼ C A T A L O G   N O T E S

The present lot has been with the same owner for nearly 45 years, since its creation in the late 1960s. The original owner, an accomplished American diver, began his noteworthy career by training for the elite Underwater Demolition Team, a precursor to the Navy SEALS. His work spanned several decades across the globe, and he ultimately worked for the U.S. government on city, state and federal levels.

Accompanied by 1993 Rolex service paperwork.

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.


Sotheby’s Auction Listing (Lot 216):

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