Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XVIII Geneva Friday, November 3, 2023 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1967
    Reference No: 1665
    Movement No: D73158
    Case No: 1'602'913 inside caseback stamped II.67
    Model Name: Sea-Dweller "Single Red"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1570, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Oyster Rolex bracelet reference 9315, endlinks stamped 380, max length 220mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex flip lock with extendable deployant clasp, stamped 9315
    Dimensions: 40mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed
    Literature: This timepiece is prominently featured in A Journey Into the Deep by John Goldberger and Daniel Bourn, pp. 24-27.

  • Catalogue Essay

    The Rolex Sea-Dweller is one of the world’s most eminent dive watches and a groundbreaking landmark model within Rolex's catalog. Launched in 1967, it was originally conceived for dive expeditions, following the development of the Oyster movement and its hermetic case in the 1920s. The Sea-Dweller's biggest technical innovation was the addition of the helium escape valve. During the 1960s, most watches did not have the capacity to submerge into great depths without breaking. The helium escape valve allowed trapped helium gas molecules to be released from the case in a controlled manner, thus allowing watches to submerge to even greater depths than ever before.

    However, before the official launch of the product and as with all innovations, Rolex created a certain number of prototypes to trial test the watches in “the field”. In this case, it was underwater, delivered to the world’s leading dive companies and the US Military. These prototypes were notably housed in a Submariner style case, offered both with and without a Helium Escape Valve, displaying a new reference number engraved between the lugs and inside the case back: 1665. Furthermore, these dials bore the new model name Sea-Dweller printed in red, followed by the depth rating in white, giving these models the name "Single Red". It is interesting to note that the depth rating on these prototypes indicated the depth with meters first, whereas later production models would have the rating indicated first in feet. The depth rating was 500m/1650ft while subsequent models would have a depth rating of 600m/2000ft.

    The present "Single Red" is one such Sea-Dweller prototype without a Helium Escape Valve. It most notably has a slightly thinner case than those of later production models and has a very interesting provenance, as it was tested by American diver Robert Palmer Bradley, a naval pilot and marine biologist. He was a pilot of the Deepstar-4000, a deep sea submersible designed by the famous ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. The US Naval Oceanographic Office used the Deepstar-4000 for numerous dives along the East Coast of the United States and in the Caribbean to study marine geology, biology and the physical properties of the water column.

    It is believed that Rolex offered this watch to Robert Palmer Bradley in November 1968 to commemorate the 500th dive of the Deepstar-4000. In fact the caseback shows traces of an engraving that has mostly rubbed off but where the name Bob and a date 11.08 can be distinguished.

    As these watches were prototypes and used for intense testing, few have actually survived. Scholarship has found the following known examples:
    The known "Single Red" Sea-Dwellers have the following serial numbers (in increasing order):
    - 1'602'912: having belonged to Dr. Joseph B. MacInnis
    - 1'602'913: the present watch
    - 1'602'915 (without helium escape valve) having belonged to Ian Koblick
    - 1'602'920 (with helium escape valve) having belonged to Philippe Cousteau
    - 1'602'922 (with helium escape valve)
    - 1'602'926 (without helium escape valve)
    - 1'602'928 (without helium escape valve)
    - 1'602'931 (with helium escape valve)
    - 1'820'177 (with helium escape valve) having belonged to Dr. Ralph W. Brauer

    Four other "Single Red" Sea-Dwellers are known but we do not have the serial numbers - we do know that they belong in the same serial range 1’602’xxx.

    The timepiece is furthermore immortalized in literature, as it is prominently illustrated in A Journey Into the Deep by John Goldberger and Daniel Bourn, on pages 24-27.

    It is interesting to note that for the 50th anniversary of the Sea-Dweller in 2017, Rolex introduced a model with a “Single Red” signature - most probably a nod to the model's origins.

    The present timepiece is not only of the utmost historical importance as its demonstrates the evolution and achievements of Rolex in terms of professional dive watches, but is a tribute to the men who were willing to always push the boundaries and their own limits for the benefits of underwater research and exploration.

  • 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 extremely rare and historically important stainless steel prototype wristwatch with “Single Red” dial, no helium valve case, formerly property of Robert Palmer Bradley

40mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

CHF350,000 - 700,000 

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