Tropical 1665 Rolex ‘Double Red’ Sea-Dweller
My favorite food critic ever, AA Gill, always used to write that the quality of any restaurant’s culinary ability was always inversely proportional to the grandeur of its view. Anyone who’s ever lived in Malibu can attest to this. He was so correct that the analogy holds well outside of dining. My most enjoyable holidays have been getting lost in strange cities like Ljubljana, not Hawaii or Barbados. Purple Lamborghinis are for Youtubers, those who enjoy driving need nothing more than a Cayman or hot 3-Series. And life repeatedly teaches us all that it’s those who shout the loudest who have nothing to say (cough, Nico, cough). This heuristic tracks in horology equally. The RMs, Jacob & Cos, and Bivers of the world feel increasingly contrived year on year. So wind the clock back and what do you get? No attention seeking. Just purity of purpose, real innovation, and years of faithful loving use; that is what I see in this tropical DRSD. It’s not trying to get your attention, you either know enough to respect it or do so to your own loss.
In 1665 dials, the very first were single reds. There are thought to be 11 or 12 of these, given to professional divers chosen by T. Walker Lloyd, an Oceanographic Consultant of Rolex, for testing or as awards following US Navy Sealab expeditions. After these were the DRSD, an early model with two coveted lines of red text in production from 1967-1977. After both came the ‘Great White’ 1665 with all white text. Of that evolution, it is the Mk2 DRSD which has a tendency to turn chocolate. Mk2 dials started in 1968, and were also the first to have a caseback displaying ‘Rolex Patent Oyster Gas Escape Valve’ after the Mk1 ‘Patent Pending’ backs.
The dial was covered in a composition of lacquer that reacted aggressively with UV light. To spot the Mk2, look at the text ‘SUBMARINER 2000’, which is slightly smaller here than the ‘SEA-DWELLER’ font above. Additionally, the coronet is printed in a slightly blurry way on this lacquer, leading some to call the Mk2 smudge crown. Both of these ‘faults’ were corrected by the Mk3 dial, leading these Mk2s to insane levels of collectability. Moreover, these came with what is known as the thin case, a proportion more svelte than the latter Mk3. Despite once being a tool of purpose, the 1665 is now lore and a collectors’ darling with comparable tropical Mk2 dials auctioning regularly above 100K USD. They aren’t huge value, but they are damn attractive.
Yes this is now decidedly an object of luxury, but with a tropical dial in this lovely purplish-burgundy-brown, it’s also getting better with age. The thing I most lament about modern Rolex is that they are unchanging mass-produced objects of luxury. The DRSD is cool precisely because it was never made to be a status symbol, or even luxury product. It’s been elevated to that status because it was good at its job, diving deeper than anything else reliably. There are no sapphires, no emojies, and no massive wooden box which an entire Brazilian rainforest had to be felled to create (looking at you, Omega). Just a technically great watch, like a curry down a back street in Glasgow is going to be the best meal of your life.
This example is in excellent condition dial and bezel wise, and it’s great that they match. The tropical tone is simply perfect, tritium as well. If you’re a dial person, this is a face you’d never tire of looking at. However, worth nothing the case is polished fairly considerably. Can’t win ’em all. It comes from an Italian retailer, watch only.