REVIEW: The Rolex James Cameron Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue 116660
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REVIEW: The Rolex James Cameron Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue 116660

REVIEW: The Rolex James Cameron Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue 116660


The Rolex Sea-Dweller 116660 is a one-off, in that it was specifically designed to commemorate movie director James Cameron’s journey to one of the deepest parts of the ocean. In fact, the title of the watch (Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue) is a nod to Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger submersible.

On March 26, 2012, James Cameron successfully reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench – the deepest point in the ocean. During the voyage, a prototype Rolex watch which was capable of withstanding water pressure at depths of 12,000 metres adorned Cameron’s wrist. While the Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue isn’t the same experimental model shown in Cameron’s movie, it’s an interesting piece nevertheless.

Launched in 2014, the Rolex Sea-Dweller 116660 was an oddity for Rolex in a couple of regards. Firstly, the brand rarely creates timepieces which are tied to an event or a person. Secondly, it’s unique for Rolex to release a new timepiece outside of the usual Baselworld trade show events.

Purists may argue that one of Rolex’s biggest strengths is its image, and that a watch like this is a little off-kilter - especially for a company lauded for its ability to preserve classic styles. However, brands also need to offer something new from time to time, and the Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue certainly does that with aplomb. It’s perhaps also worth mentioning that James Cameron is an avid fan of Rolex watches, and has been caught on camera several times sporting an original Rolex Deepsea, which may have something to do with Rolex’s decision to launch the D-Blue model.


Fresh but familiar

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The Rolex 116660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue retains some classic Rolex design hallmarks. Most notable is the fact that this version retains the original 116660 reference of the standard Deepsea timepiece from 2008. On its launch, the 2008 Deepsea was considered one of the quirkier additions to the Rolex catalogue. However, it’s nevertheless a desirable, loveable and in-demand model which commands a high price on a resale market – that’s great news for those looking to sell a Rolex.

The 2014 James Cameron update trades the black dial of the Deepsea for a deep blue variant. The overall design of the dial is supposed to mimic Cameron’s 2012 voyage to the depths of the ocean in his Deepsea Challenger – and there’s a clear blue-to-black gradient on the dial to denote the depths travelled by the famed movie director. Sunlight only penetrates so far beneath the waves of the ocean, and Rolex’s subtle nod to this is exquisite.

The green of the Deepsea label is the exact same hue as Cameron’s submersible, which is another nice touch, metaphorically and aesthetically. It contrasts and complements the blue/black dial perfectly, and gives the 116660 a more vibrant, contemporary update.


Classic and understated

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It remains unknown whether a member of the Rolex team commissioned the Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue, or whether James Cameron first approached the company to collaborate. Either way, this is the first time in the history of Rolex that the brand has undertaken such a project.

Despite this, there’s nothing on the watch which references Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge film, the voyage undertaken or Cameron himself. It will, therefore, be important for watch collectors of the future to understand what the D-Blue is all about. Rolex is a classic brand, and its watches are always in demand. Hopefully, owners of this D-Blue will pass on information pertaining to the history surrounding the watch, as future purchasers on the secondary market might be completely oblivious to the provenance of the product in years to come, given that there are no indicators on the watch itself.

However, this understatement is something to be applauded for. Adorning the 116660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue with references to Cameron or his voyage could appear as crass or tacky – almost as if the watch were a promotional tie-in as opposed to a standalone product. By avoiding this, Rolex has managed to retain its signature brand power while delivering a classic, understated timepiece.


High performance

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The 116660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue is currently one of the most high-performance Rolex on the market, some six years after its initial appearance. Purists may argue that the Deepsea Challenge concept watch used by James Cameron, which was designed to be water-resistant up to 12,000 metres, takes that mantle – but there are only five or six of those supersized Deepsea models in existence. In terms of non-experimental watches which are widely available on the market, the Deepsea remains the king of performance, with a water resistance guarantee of 3,900 metres. The D-Blue model retains all the capability of the 2008 Deepsea, despite its convention-defying colour scheme.

The D-Blue features the same size steel case as the 2008 model, measuring 17.7mm x 44mm. In fact, the entire exterior of the D-Blue will seem familiar to anybody who owns a 2008 Deepsea Sea-Dweller. It shares the same stepped rehaut ring, ceramic bezel, titanium caseback and oyster-style bracelet.

Like most diving watches, the Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue is manufactured for durability and practicality. The bracelet is made from heavy-duty 904L steel, and the 5mm-thick sapphire crystal over the dial has been designed to offer huge water resistance, even when under heavy pressure.

The materials used elsewhere in the watch have been carefully selected for their resilience. BioDur 108 is an alloy which can withstand three times as much tension as steel and is used for the D-Blue watch casing in conjunction with grade 5 titanium. This complex combination of materials allows for water resistance and compactness.


Beautifully finished

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The Rolex 116660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue has a brushed finish on the entire case and bracelet. The sides of the bracelet have been polished to an exceptionally high standard, and even the scratch-resistant ceramic track ring on the rotating bezel exudes a glimmering shine. It’s also slightly wider and more harmonious than the bracelet of the original 2008 model.

The numbers and indexes on the dial have been coated with platinum and milled, with the colour of the bezel varying between anthracite and black, depending on the direction of the light shining upon it. Rather disappointingly, the crystal will reflect light under certain conditions, although the colour changes caused to the dial do not affect legibility. Some might say that it’s a small price to pay to own such a durable timepiece.

The curvature of the hands on the Rolex 116660 are worth noticing, too. Curved hands don’t cast a shadow and therefore don’t appear black – which is a good thing, given the darkness of the dial. Predictably, the hands and markers are manufactured from gold (watch fans will recognise this as a common feature across the board with all Rolex models).

Not much has changed in terms of the design of the hands, however – not just in comparison to the 2008 model, but in comparison to classic Rolex models from decades gone. The traditional “Mercedes” hand is used to denote hours, and the round hour markers (positioned at 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock) and 12 o’clock triangle have been carried over since the days of the original Submariner watch. It’s reassuring to see continuity like this. After all, the classics rarely go out of style, and it can be quite comforting knowing Rolex has stuck to this aesthetic for over 60 years.

The hands and markers emit a blue glow, thanks to the luminous material used to highlight them. While you might be forgiven for thinking this is a purely aesthetic touch, there’s a practical reason why Rolex opted for blue hues: water absorbs longwave light much easier than shortwave light. Blue is a longwave colour (it’s the longest visible colour on the light spectrum), which makes it easier to see underwater. Given the potential practical use of the 116660 James Cameron Deepsea Sea-Dweller, this is a particularly welcome feature for those who like to explore the depths of the ocean.

Of course, you don’t have to be an explorer to take pride in your Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue. You might choose to buy a Rolex as an heirloom, an investment or purely to admire the handicraft of such an ornate timepiece. Whatever your reasons, you can rest assured that the 116660 model offers the same sort of classic functionality and style as some of the most esteemed Rolex models of the past six decades.


Reliable caliber

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The D-Blue model retains the 3135 calibre used in the original Rolex 116660. It’s renowned for accuracy and sturdiness and is designed to resist impacts while offering complete reliability. With an efficient winding mechanism, the 116660 James Cameron D-Blue can build up a power reserve incredibly quickly, on account of the 3135’s ball-bearing oscillator. The watch features a maximum power reserve of 50 hours – impressive, just like everything else about this model.




The Rolex 116660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue is far from a gimmick or movie tie-in. It’s a wondrous piece of equipment in its own right, which can fetch sums in the region of £15,000 on the secondary market. This makes it a particularly good investment for those looking to buy a Rolex to keep for the future, and a lucrative asset for those looking to sell a Rolex.

Ultimately, it’s a more aesthetically-pleasing version of the classic 2008 Deepsea Sea-Dweller and works particularly well when combined with formal wear. It’s classy, and functional and the story behind it is a great conversation starter – with this in mind, it’s easy to see why the James Cameron Rolex 116660 Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue is in such high demand in 2020.



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