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I rather be shiny: The golden Rolex Sea-Dweller at Baselworld 2019

I rather be shiny: The golden Rolex Sea-Dweller at Baselworld 2019

John Wallis

Here at Baselworld 2019, the great and the good of the watch industry flock to Rolex as always. Many have speculated about what they would find - but few expected to be greeted by perhaps the brand's most hard-core tool watch with added precious metals. Meet the new two-tone Sea-Dweller.

The legendary two tone

Like a monarch passing a royal decree, the king of watchmakers has declared that two-tone watches are indeed Back. Of course, Rolex doesn't call its new creation anything as vulgar as "two-tone" - no, it calls it Yellow Rolesor, combining "Oystersteel" (steel) and 18ct yellow gold (gold).

In general, this year is a non-explosive one for the Crown at Baselworld, with no ground-shaking debuts like last year's Pepsi GMT. Nevertheless, this new Sea-Dweller has taken many by surprise. Few could have predicted that the deep-diving tool watch would receive a rather glam refresh. The watch boasts the exact same specs as it did when it was launched two years ago at Baselworld 2017 - the only new elements this year are gold. It's still a hefty 43mm large, it still runs on the deluxe 3235 calibre, and most importantly, it can still safely travel a whopping 4,000 feet underwater. With the exception of its even more bad-ass offspring, the Deepsea, this Sea-Dweller is undoubtedly the most durable and practical-feeling of the brand's entire professional range.

A gleaming golden update seems to cut against this aura of rugged utility. For this reason, the new ref 126603 is likely to be as divisive as it is unexpected. For die-hard believers in the tool watch mythos, it might be seen as an abomination. Why should a watch built for the sole purpose of deep diving need any gold in the bracelet or bezel?

On the other hand, a two-tone Sea-Dweller makes a certain kind of intuitive sense. No one really believes that any Rolex watch is a "true" tool watch - only a tiny fraction of Sea-Dwellers will ever enter the actual sea. There is little need for Rolex to pretend otherwise. And two-tone professional watches have a long heritage at Rolex. The Submariner - another diving watch - has more than one two-tone model, and they are beloved by many fans.

The Crown has long delighted in making more glamorous prize versions of its practical watches. And you can be sure there is a market. A large, half-gold diving watch with impressive technical specs, capable of standing out from the herds of Submariners and GMTs, is likely to attract a certain type of Rolex lover. And it's hard not to admire the perennial attention to detail: the red line Sea-Dweller text on the dial now appears in gold, a perfect symbol of the company's confidence in this extra-luxury update.