When it comes to collect rare watches – and especially Rolex watches – there are the classical ones, the rare ones and the others, the ones that you can find only once in a lifetime. This goes for an Albino Rolex Daytona (a.k.a the famous Clapton watch), a tropical coffee Paul Newman or a lemon dial Daytona Prototype. Those are the kind of watches that hardcore collectors are dreaming of – and even with the necessary bank account, there’s potentially no chance to get your hands on one of them. Today, we found one of these ultra-rare birds, a one-of-six known, the über-rare prototype Rolex Single-Red Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 dialed 500M/1650FT. And it’s for sale!
Let’s go straight to the right question: what is a Single-Red Rolex Sea-Dweller and why this watch can be THE Sea-Dweller? Anyone who’s collecting watches and who did some research about such rare pieces knows that there are some myths: the Albino Silver Daytona or the Yachtmaster Daytona are some of these. They exist, however finding one is almost impossible. Holy Grails require some time, some patience and some researches to finally have the chance to be added to a collection – and a huge bank account is probably necessary too. The Single-Red Sea-Dweller is part of these once-in-a-lifetime chances. Only six of them are known around the world – and the worst is that not all of them have the same specifications (we’ll get back to this later).
Basically, the Single-Red Sea-Dweller can be seen as a prototype, a first try from Rolex to develop a robust dive watch with the help of professional divers and scientists (for instance COMEX). The first examples of commercialized Sea-Dwellers are known as the Ref. 1665 Double-Red – meaning that the dials are written ‘Sea-Dweller – Submariner 2000’ on two line and in red (so-called Double-Red dials). They are featuring a helium escape valve and they can resist to water up to 2000ft / 610m. However, even if rare and highly sought after, the Double-Red is a known watch, produced and reported by Rolex as a commercial item. The question of the Rolex Single-Red Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 dialed 500M/1650FT is a bit more complex.
We can assume that before launching the ‘official‘ Sea-Dweller on the market, Rolex made several attempts/tests to build a more robust dive watch based on a Submariner. Back in 1966 / 1967 Rolex might have created – together with COMEX – a series of prototypes intended to be tested and to see if they could meet the expectations of professional divers. These early examples of the Sea-Dweller came with a specific dial with the four lines you can see bellow, and a 500M / 1650FT water resistance.
Even if only six of them are known today, the production of the Rolex Single-Red Sea-Dweller was certainly higher (a few hundreds as reported here). The reason why these Single-Red watches are so rare now-a-days, could be simple. After a series of test, the early Sea-Dweller prototypes proved to be waterproof at depths greater than the original 500 meters (as written on the dial). As the watches were later sent in to Rolex for service, every parts was upgraded (dials, hands, cases with helium escape valve…) to the new specifications of the commercial Rolex Sea-Dweller Double-Red 2000ft, making the examples of the Single-Red potentially extinct – except for six of them, as reported by Antiquorum who sold an example in 2012 (that sold for CHF 490,900 Swiss Francs).
Now comes the difficult part of the game, because even among those 6 watches, we can spot some differences. Antiquorum states that two of them feature a helium escape valve and a patent pending case-back and bracelet. The other prototype Rolex Single-Red Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 – as the one we’re showing you here – comes with a case without helium escape valve, and also without “PATENT PANDING” engravings on the case-back – making it basically a Rolex Submariner with a greater water resistance.
This example of Rolex Single-Red Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 with 500M/1650FT dial – which is for sale in Luxemburg – is in an amazing condition, with a sharp case (with chamfered lugs) and bezel and still has its original tritium dial and hands. The case-back shows the reference 1665 engraved inside and it is reported to be a 1967 example (because it’s a prototype, don’t expect any box or papers).
It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire such an extremely rare watch – that can be seen as a holy Grail – a sort of untouchable myth. It’s for sale for € 440.000 Euros. If you’re interested, you can contact Christian Bissener from Watch Collector – E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org – www.watchcollector.lu.
Stay tuned, we have more utlra-rare Rolex watches to show you later today.