This is going to be a long thread so grab a brew... :-D
For those of you who don't know me, I post a lot on TZ, and this is a thread I wrote on there.
I could just post a couple of photos but there's been several threads on this model already across the forums, so I thought I'd offer my own take on the watch. If you want to cut straight to the end, my overall opinion is... it's as close to perfect as I'd ever find :-D
So back in April, I went to Baselworld for my second time. A manic exhibition of the world's watch brands aiming to show off their latest and greatest products within stands the size of real shops, and sometimes larger. Most people that go are in the trade and are all suited and booted, whereas I, a hobbiest, simply go to try and see the new releases and have a walk around the beautiful city of Basel. Unfortunately, with me having no affiliation to anybody at the show, getting up close and personal with any of the watches is nigh on impossible. There are some opportunities but generally with the smaller brands.
So of course, the BIG news was Rolex this year. They released the Pepsi GMTc in White Gold, the new Cellini range, the uber gorgeous BlueGreen Milgauss (in the flesh it really is) and the new Sea-Dweller 4000. First impressions from most people weren't too great, myself included, but sometimes pictures on your computer don't tell the full story. At the show, I was able to see the watches in their display cases, but this is hardly like trying a watch on. Imagine Baselworld to be akin to walking through a shopping centre but you can only window shop. You can't try and you can't buy, but you can drool So I still hadn't been able to get to the "wanting" stage with anything.
As with most marketing stories, the fever started to grow and I believe the Sea-Dweller has been a really big hit with the first month or two of sales. This hype will die down of course and I certainly didn't want or mean to get involved with it. Not long after Basel, curious to see the SD4000, I put my name down, although I wasn't truly sure I wanted the watch. Then, recently, whilst shopping, I managed to try one on. I liked it but it was in a jeweller's under pressure and the piece was on deposit so I was terrified of damaging somebody's beloved new toy. I put my name down with that jeweller too, as no deposit was required, however they quoted September for me to pick it up. So was I going to get one at some point? I expected so, but this soon, no chance I thought.
That was until I received a call from the original jeweller to say they had one in and my name was on the list... "would you like to come in for it?". Well just last week, I decided to let go of my Deep Sea so this was perfect timing. I knew I had to go down there so I postponed a client and off to the AD I went
In some ways, as I approached the store, I was hoping to walk out with nothing as the thought of spending so much money wasn't really appealing. I mean, the price for steel sports watches now is just horrendous, but slowly, I think we're all coming to realise this is a trend that will likely never revert back. Also whilst walking up, I was thinking more and more about the direct rivals of the watch and if I'd be doing the right thing.
The Deep Sea is a fantastic watch. Over-engineered and a watch I adore. I'd have another in a flash but I just wasn't wearing the one I sold last week. I actually don't know why it wasn't being worn but seeing it sat there, as with a couple of other watches I'll move on soon just makes no sense in my logic. It therefore made sense for this reason alone to sell it, but I knew I would miss having a "halo" piece in my collection.
I'm not saying all, but most people who dislike the DSSD haven't owned one "properly". By properly, I mean kept it for at least a few days and really got used to it. I remember trying one in a jewellers, and just like the SD4000, didn't know what to make of it. This changed when I bought one though. The clasp is the best out there IMO (better than the SD4000), and the watch, although chunky, sits well even on my 6.75" wrist; in fact there's not a lot to dislike. You don't even notice the text around the inner rehaut other than in computer-sized photos. So yes, I was missing the DSSD but I knew there was no point in having one sat around.
Obviously another contender and a cheaper proposition is the ceramic Submariner. For the cyclops haters there's the ND model and for the pro-cyclops people such as myself, who see it as a Rolex trademark, there's the date model which features the same 3135 movement as the SD4000 and DSSD. I don't have that much to do with water so I'm sure 300M WR would suffice and it's an iconic watch, even in its current shape and form. The thing is though, although I could get a comfortable fit with the SubC, the watch sat very high on my wrist. This wasn't really an issue but it meant the shape of the lugs would protrude in a way that I never really liked. It always looked "plonked" on top; rather than a watch I wore, it wore me really.
Tudor make the Pelagos which is another favourite watch of mine, and I was thinking whether I should just buy another of those instead and save an awful lot of money. The thing is though, I sold my last one because I could never get it to fit properly. It always pinched my wrist and even with the spring-loaded clasp, it just never fit right. The lume was amazing, the bezel with the way it locks at "0" incredible, but if it doesn't fit correctly, what was I supposed to do. A real shame. Plus, as it is made of duller materials, I tend to prefer the shinier steel look of the Rolex models.
So that was that, which then lead me to think whether I should still try to save some money, albeit less than with the Pelagos, and find a nice condition Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600 of old with the aluminium bezel etc. Again though, what put me off was the way these wear on my wrist. I always heard about the 16600 being top heavy but until I tried it, it wasn't something I worried about. It'll be fine I thought. I tried to get on with that watch for a long time but in the end, it just never wore correctly so I sold it. I felt regret at the time as I really had hoped that I'd enjoy that watch.
I'm sure plenty of people wear a 16600 day in day out with no issues and of that, I am jealous. For me though, it was always uncomfortable, and in 2014, when we're spoilt with fancy adjustable clasps, I couldn't see the point in putting up with a non-adjustable watch that would feel uncomfortable for me personally.
...back to the SD4000...
So I went in to the store with all these thoughts and sat down. Needless to say, I was in there all of 10 minutes, my wallet much lighter and I had a massive smile on my face.
The SD4000 is everything I'd hoped for in a watch that I aim to keep for a long, long time. I really mean that. For me, and it seems a few other people, Rolex just massively hit the nail on the head with this watch. It's as if they have actually listened to what people want in recent times with the release of the Pepsi GMT (okay, it's white gold but apparently only two bezels are passed for scrutiny out of every ten they make, so it had to be exclusive in some manner), and the SD4000 harking back to a previous model that was and still is adored by many.
The first appealing factor is the case shape. The diameters of cases are always misleading IMO. For example, the Speedmaster 42mm chrono should fit my wrist fine, but the bracelet sticks out over my wrist. Same with the Zenith chronos, AP Offshores etc, yet I've owned a 49mm watch in the past that fit me perfectly. So for me, it's more about the shape and also the lug to lug length.
The SD4000 is the same 40mm diameter as the SubC, but the lugs are more rounded compared to the square shape of the SubC. Of course, many people over the years have moaned about the shape of the Ceramic Submariner, however until I placed the SD4000 on my wrist, I didn't actually see what all the fuss was about. The SD is just a more wearable shape and divides opinion much less than the SubC for this reason.
The height of the SD4000 should be an issue. It's not thin, but for me it's very well proportioned. Genuinely, there is not a part of the shape I would change in terms of length, width or height etc. The design team should be commended.
One thing I always disliked (apart from how it wore on my wrist) about the 16600 sea dweller was the dial. This will be controversial amongst owners I am sure, but there is no doubt in my mind that reading the time from the maxi dial on the SD 4000 is easier, the lume much, much better and the look is much more aesthetically appealing to me. The text on the dial all means something; There's nothing unnecessary but I'm unlikely to make a habit of reading this anyhow.
The dial is matte finished and this aids viewing the time in direct sunlight. Rolex only coat their crystals on the underside I believe which means you sometimes get more reflections compared to a Planet Ocean for example. I don't mind this because I worry less about scratching the AR coating (boy that would affect my OCD) but the SubC etc, with a shiny dial does reflect more than the SD. So although I like a dial to be glossy, I actually really like the contrast displayed via the matte dial on this watch.
The bezel actually appears more glossy to my eye than any of the other Rolex models. I'm probably incorrect but something really works with how shiny the bezel is. Perhaps it's the crystal protruding a few mm's above the bezel? In terms of the crystal, I know some people are worried about chipping it, but I'm not. For starters, it really is very thick, and I'm also very light on my watches and I've never had issues before. So it's a feature I like a lot. It's part of the personality of the watch.
The overall quality of the watch will be no different if you own a SubC, but you will notice a difference coming from an older Sport Rolex. I don't mind either in this respect if I'm honest. An old Rolls Royce is still a fantastic place to be I'm sure, just like a new Rolls is as well. This will be a matter of one's own opinion and as I don't see older Rolex as low quality, it's not really a deciding factor for me.
So a couple of days on, how am I liking it? Well, immensely. It was a massive risk to spend so much money and find it's just another flip, but that won't happen, I know it. The watch is keeping near 100% perfect time, I've managed to find the perfect fit by removing the dive extension (as most people will do, plus you can just use the Glide-lock for diving anyhow) and it's a watch that would suit me personally for any and every occasion.
Is there anything I'd change?
The only thing missing, which I'm sure will come along at some point in the future, is the DSSD clasp. The SubC Glide-lock is what we have with the SD4000 and it's great don't get me wrong. It can be adjusted on the wrist but it's fiddly, so it's better to remove the watch, which is also a faff and carries the risk of dropping the watch etc. The DSSD clasp is completely adjustable on the wrist as the adjustment is on the outside, rather than the inside. This makes a difference but by no means is it a deal breaker at all.
The price... well it's a lot of money. It's obviously been placed in between the SubC and DSSD. Is it worth the extra Â£850-1150 RRP over the SubC? Well I suppose as much as the DSSD is worth the Â£1150 over the SD4000. However, IMO, you get the best of both watches in a smaller, more wearable package.
So for me, this is my perfect sports watch and I think it will take an awful long time for even Rolex themselves to beat it.
More photos of the watch...