Royal Navy Clearance Diver 116660 Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea

At this point, you might be asking why Hairspring is talking about a modern Deepsea. Well, flip it over, and you’ll find this is not like any other modern Rolex you’re likely to have handled. Milsubs don’t really exist today in the traditional, issued sense. Today, Tudor will make what we now call ‘Unit Watches’ at the request of various Special Forces, protection, and command units. These are small runs with various unique customizations, usually Black Bays and Pelagoses (Pelagi?). However, before Tudor had returned to force in the market around 2012 with the Black Bay, those requests were directed through, and occasionally granted by, the big brother: Rolex.


So, while this is ‘just’ a 116660 that wouldn’t normally be our kind of thing, it’s not really a 116660 at all. It was made for the British Royal Navy’s Clearance Divers (in true Milsub offspring lineage), one a just a handful of individual numbered Rolex limited productions to ever exist. It was never available to buy unless you were an active Clearance Diver in 2013 (and I know we have at least one Clearance Diver who reads Hairspring, so I do have to make that proviso).

Rolex’s run of unit watches is less known that the modern Tudors, simply because many of them never came to market. We know of 22 SAS 216570 Explorer IIs, Special Reconnaissance Regiment 16570 Explorer IIs, differing GMT-Master IIs made for various aviation units, Italian Police Diver Corps 16600 Sea-Dwellers, and others. But this is the sole Deepsea ‘Unit Watch’ we know about. Rolex made 50 examples in 2013 for the branch’s 60th anniversary. Its members are regarded as the some of the most skilled divers, minesweepers, obstacle removers and UWFP (Underwater Force Protection) specialists in the world. 

The real interest here lies in the caseback, where we can see its number (26), unit crest, and the initials of the diver it was made for, engraved by and at Rolex. Rolex unit watches are still being discovered and learned of, as their owners often hold them for life. The category has seen increasing interest thanks to excellent scholarship of the last few years, high auction results, and fascinating writing by enthusiasts like Watches of Espionage. While I could personally never wear a unit watch, I would feel like a fraud, I do understand their allure and the interest they garner. Yet, I would wear a 5517, so perhaps these just have to continue to age like fine wine for awhile before we’re all clamoring for them. In any event, a fantastically special Deepsea that is, at the very least, one of the rare exceptions which shows a relatively modern Rolex can be used as the professional’s tool is was intended to be.

This example appears to be very well-preserved. There is a sticker, not certain if original, covering off the all-important back which does appear to be perfectly crisp. The watch comes with its full set from a Singaporean retailer on Chrono24.