Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XVIII Geneva Friday, November 3, 2023 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1967
    Reference No: 1665
    Movement No: D397445
    Case No: 2'117'410
    Model Name: "Double Red MKI" Sea-Dweller
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1570, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster folded links extendable bracelet stamped "280" to the endlinks, max length 200mm (unextended)
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp
    Dimensions: 39.5mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Rolex box

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Sea-Dweller is now one of the most appreciated Rolex timepieces, possibly because of its genesis as one of the ultimate tool watches, born out of true necessity and grown to become an iconic piece of watchmaking. Its history begins in the mid-1960s. At the time, a number of international experiments were developed with the goal of demonstrating the possibility of living for an extended period of time (sometimes weeks) in underwater habitats. Rolex began developing timepieces which would resist very deep dives and underwater habitat conditions where a pressurized mixture of helium and oxygen was used for breathing.

    The helium escape valve was developed because when working in helium-rich atmospheres, tiny helium molecules would seep through the crystal and rubber gaskets into the watch and create pressure once the diver had surfaced. This would usually result in the crystal popping off. The development of the valve was meant to prevent this issue by letting the gas escape. Today, it is well established that Rolex worked with a number of divers and organizations around the world to aide in the Sea-Dweller's development. For example, the scientists of the American underwater habitat, Tektite, wore such watches in 1969 and 1970, and the same is true for the scientists working the Sealab III project. The name Sea-Dweller itself is a direct nod to the fact that the model had been developed to meet the demands of scientists living - or “dwelling” - under the sea. Following the positive results obtained with these companies, Rolex went on to publicly commercialize the model.

    The earliest iterations engraved with “Patent Pending Rolex Oyster Gas Escape Valve” on their casebacks (such as the present example) are highly sought after. These early models were, practically prototypes, and their caseback interiors feature the last three digits of the watch’s serial number - “410” on the present example, as well as IV.67 indicating production in the fourth quarter of 1967. The Mark 1 dial is a second defining feature of these early models, defined by the red “Sea-Dweller” designation on the first line and “Submariner 2000” on the second printed red - in equal font size - above a white outline (visible with a strong loupe). The vividness of the red color found on the present example is especially noteworthy since these “red-on-white” prints would often fade to a light pink tone.

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Ref. 1665
An early, extremely collectible and very uncommon stainless steel diver's wristwatch with center seconds, date, "Double Red MKI" dial, "Patent Pending" caseback, helium escape valve, bracelet and box

Circa 1967
39.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

CHF70,000 - 140,000 

Sold for CHF102,870

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
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+41 79 637 17 24

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Head of Sale, Geneva

+41 79 460 55 88


The Geneva Watch Auction: XVIII

Geneva Auction 3 - 4 November 2023