A Complete Review of the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron
Back in 2014, Rolex launched the Sea-Dweller 116660 to commemorate the journey of famed movie director and diving enthusiast James Cameron, as he plunged to one of the deepest known parts of the ocean. For the project, the brand was involved in the development of a watch which could withstand enormous pressure - and this timepiece can be witnessed in the movie footage from the ‘Deepsea Challenge’ documentary.
Rolex is known to stick to what it does best, and this doesn’t usually involve collaborative efforts or movie tie-ins. Many collectors, therefore, consider the James Cameron edition of the Sea-Dweller to be something of an oddity - not because it’s garish (it certainly isn’t) - merely because it’s out of step with the usual Rolex way of doing things.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that Rolex decided to give the original James Cameron Sea-Dweller 116660 model something of an anniversary makeover. Just four years after the initial launch of the 16660, the brand unveiled the updated Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron at BaselWorld 2018. Interestingly, the original 116660 model didn’t go on display at the standard industry showcase (another oddity for Rolex), as the documentary release schedule simply didn’t allow for the watch to be unveiled in the typical manner.
Deep blue updates
It’s interesting to see what a difference half a decade makes - particularly in terms of design. For aesthetic powerhouses like Rolex, it’s not unsurprising that the very latest models of classic timepieces often come with very little in terms of updated visual design features. However, those with a keen enough eye for detail will usually find plenty to write home about - and this applies precisely to the updated Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron.
Those who remember the unveiling of the original Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 116660 will be familiar with its bulky 44mm oyster case, complete with a thickness of 17.7mm. Despite its rather clunky stature, the large thickness of the 116660’s casing was required to achieve an impressive water resistance of 3,900 metres - for context, that’s over 100 times deeper than a person could survive without breathing apparatus.
To achieve this technological feat, Rolex had to redevelop and further improve upon its patented Ringlock System. The Ringlock System features a steel/nitrogen alloy ring set in the centre of the case; a 5-and-a-half millimetre thick domed crystal manufactured from sapphire; a helium valve which allows the watch to release any gas build-ups at depth, and a steel/titanium combo caseback.
In fairness, it would be difficult for even the most talented of engineers to have retained the same technical specifications of the Deepsea 116660 while reducing its stature. Therefore, the size of the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron has remained the same - but for many, that’s all part of the charm. After all, it’s a watch which commemorates the most daring of deep-sea dives in the history of human endeavour - so what’s an extra millimetre here or there? For many who purchased the original James Cameron timepiece, and for those interested in getting their hands on the updated model after reading this Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea James Cameron review, the large surface area of both the 116660 and 126660-0002 models is a real selling point.
The dial stays the same
When the original 116660 James Cameron Sea-Dweller launched, it featured a black dial complete with the signature Rolex “maxi layout” which has a 3 o’clock date window, luminescent hour markers and a Mercedes-esque hand. The original D-Blue James Cameron model (116660) added a blue-to-black gradient option on the dial, which remains the same for the updated 126660 model - although those who want to stick with the classic black Sea-Dweller dial are welcome to do so now, too. Interestingly, the Deepsea doesn’t feature a magnification lens on the crystal. This is from a purely engineering perspective, as any deviation could risk the integrity of the watch at lower ocean depths.
One of the major changes to the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron model involves the Oyster bracelet. The new edition comes with a broader edition of the standard Rolex Oyster bracelet, complete with 21mm wide-ended links (in comparison, the original 116660 model had links measuring just 20mm).
To compensate, the signature Rolex Oysterlock clasp has been resized to match the proportions of the wider bracelet. The updated version still includes a flip-lock extension link though - this allows for an extension of up to 26mm for those with a larger wrist circumference.
The lugs of the watch have been redesigned, too. Some may feel this is more out of necessity as opposed to being a decision driven by aesthetics. After all, the updated Oyster bracelet needed to be accommodated somehow.
A new movement
Let’s face it: the modifications to the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron edition are incredibly subtle, from an aesthetic perspective at least. Underneath the fascia is where the real changes have happened, however, as the newer model houses an entirely new movement.
Rolex fans will already be familiar with the next-generation caliber 3235 movement, which is now the company’s flagship choice. In comparison to the 3135 movement found in the original 116660 model, the 3235 boasts 90% new components and 14 new patents. It offers an improvement on power reserve, with a capability of 70 hours in comparison to the 3135’s 48-hour maximum.
The 3235 is much more accurate, too. It falls under the “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” label, and comes with an accuracy rating within 2 seconds per day. This is twice as accurate as what the COSC guidelines stipulate as acceptable for official chronometers.
Interestingly, the 3235 movement is entirely manufactured in-house. Previous Rolex movements have made use of different internal parts. While there’s nothing strictly wrong with sourcing materials to ensure the perfect calibre, it’s refreshing to know that every single component within the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron timepiece - even the lubricants used in the manufacturing process - have been lovingly and painstakingly crafted by the brand, without any outsourcing whatsoever.
While the 126660-0002 James Cameron Sea-Dweller is certainly a conversation starter, it’s also built for ruggedness and durability. It features world-class Paraflex shock absorbers which protect the Parachrom bleu hairspring. The hairspring itself is held perfectly in place by a state-of-the-art traversing bridge which helps to further reinforce any shock resistance. Put simply, the 126660-0002 is a luxury timepiece which has been built to last, whether you’re traversing the high seas or attending a formal engagement.
Powerful gear train
With the 3235, the efficiency of the gear train has been completely re-optimised. To achieve this, Rolex has developed ultra high-performance lubricants which offer greater stability and contribute to an overall longer lifespan. Here, Rolex has really gone above and beyond to develop a caliber which delivers perfection - it’s fitting that it makes an appearance in the updated James Cameron version of the Sea-Dweller, given that Cameron’s journey to the depths of the Mariana trench involved nothing less than perfection, too.
While there’s very little in terms of exterior design which separates the original Rolex Sea-Dweller 116660 from its updated 126660-0002 counterpart, the real change comes in the form of the more accurate, more powerful, more durable and longer-lasting 3235 calibre.
While the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron can be thought of as a commemorative item, there’s nothing to mark it out as such - and therein lies the subtlety of the piece. It’s not the sort of luxury chronometer that is spoiled by garish or tacky references to James Cameron’s adventures in the deep sea - instead, there are minor cues in the blue-black gradient option which merely allude to diving.
Cameron himself is known to be a huge Rolex fan. While it’s not certain whether the acclaimed director commissioned Rolex to create the 126660-0002 or vice-versa, one thing is for certain: it’s highly sought-after among fans of luxury timepieces - and here’s why:
The Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron launched with an asking price of just over £9,500 back in 2018. In just two years, the same model is able to command upwards of £17,900 on the secondary market. By comparison, the original James Cameron D-Blue 116660 is available for just £14,920, despite having the provenance of launching in conjunction with the ‘Deepsea Challenge’ documentary and being slightly rarer in terms of circulation.
Put simply, the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron makes for a fantastic conversation starter, a great heirloom and a sturdy investment. Whether you’re in the market to sell or buy one of these luxurious timepieces, now is the perfect time. Sure, it might be one of the quirkier timepieces in the Rolex catalogue, but that’s all part of its charm.
In an unsteady market full of fluctuating prices, the worth of the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea 126660-0002 James Cameron seems to only be heading in a positive direction. Love it or hate it, it’s hard to argue with the figures - this is certainly a timepiece worth treasuring, be it for financial or sentimental reasons.
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