Rolex sea-Dweller Deepsea Challenge
True to its passion for underwater exploration, Rolex took an active part in the historic Deepsea Challenge expedition of film-maker and explorer James Cameron (Titanic, Avata) in partnership with the National Geographic Society. On 26 March 2012, the expedition’s submersible descended 10.908 metres (35,787 feet) to reach Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the world’s oceans located in the Mariana Trench, south-west of Guam in the Pacific Ocean (so far, considering that Omega and the Five Deeps expedition have reached an even deepest spot, with the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep Professional project).
The Rolex Deepsea Challenger carried an experimental divers’ watch, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, an extreme version of the standard Rolex Deepsea, on its robotic manipulator arm. The timepiece worked perfectly throughout the dive at extreme pressures, confirming Rolex’s position as the leading brand in waterproofness.
Echoing the historic dive of 1960 both James Cameron’s expedition and the Rolex Deepsea Challenge directly echo the bathyscaphe Trieste’s historic dive on 23 January 1960, the first and until 2012 the only manned dive to the deepest-known point in the Mariana Trench.
On that exploit, an experimental Oyster model, the Deepsea Special, was attached to the hull and accompanied the Trieste into the abyss. It reached the record depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet), returning to the surface in perfect working order, a feat that remained unrivalled for more than half a century. James Cameron was thrilled at the additional opportunity to take a 1960 Deepsea Special with him in the cockpit of the Deepsea Challenger: “As soon as I got into the sub, I found a special place to attach the ‘Old Lady’, the sister of the watch that went down 52 years ago on the Trieste. She kept me company on the dive to the most remote place on this planet, and was my good luck charm.”
Rolex was therefore a natural partner to the National Geographic Society, for the Deepsea Challenge expedition, a project that combined human adventure and technological innovation, the pursuit of excellence and pushed the limits of man’s potential. Such endeavours correspond to the brand’s core values and the philosophy inherited from its founder, Hans Wilsdorf. The Trieste’s dive in 1960 marked the pinnacle of Rolex’s relationship with the underwater world.
And the partnership with James Cameron’s expedition marks a new and no less spectacular milestone in the history of the brand’s privileged ties with the oceans. A history dating back to 1926 and the invention of the Oyster, the world’s first-ever waterproof wristwatch. With this new achievement, the experimental ROLEX Deepsea Challenge perpetuates the adventure of the Oyster and the pioneering spirit of innovation that has forged the reputation of Rolex.
A Rolex watch was attached to the manipulator arm of the submersible as James Cameron made the unprecedented solo dive. The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Challenge, an experimental divers’ watch, was specially developed, tested and manufactured in record time for the occasion. “The ROLEX Deepsea Challenge was the reliable companion throughout the dive; it was visible on the sub’s manipulator arm and working precisely 10,908 metres down at the bottom of Challenger Deep,” James Cameron said after his historic dive.“ It’s a tremendous example of engineering know-how, and an ideal match for the Deepsea Challenger submersible.”
The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Challenge is an experimental divers’ watch guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres (39,370 feet), entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex to resist the extreme pressure present in the deepest reaches of the oceans. Through its inherent qualities, tested and proven in real life conditions during filmmaker and explorer James Cameron’s dive, it is the emblematic product of an entirely integrated watchmaker with unparalleled design and production capacities.
Technically, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge is an enhanced version of the commercial Rolex Deepsea professional divers’ watch (guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 3,900 metres or 12,800 feet) introduced in 2008. The new experimental watch is 51.4mm in diameter and 28.5mm thick. Its design is based on the Ringlock System case architecture of the Rolex Deepsea. This intricate three-piece case architecture, developed and patented by Rolex, features a highly resistant nitrogen-alloyed stainless steel support ring as the backbone of the watch. Placed inside the middle case made of the 904L stainless steel superalloy, it supports a 14.3mm thick domed sapphire crystal, made of high-purity aluminium oxide, and a 5.3mm screw-down case back made of grade 5 titanium. The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is fitted with a patented Triplock screw-down winding crown with a triple waterproofness system, the same type that equips all Rolex divers’ watches. It also has other technical features of the Rolex Deepsea, such as a unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated bezel with a Cerachrom insert in ceramic; a Chromalight display with long-lasting luminescence (hands and hour markers); a self-winding mechanical movement (calibre 3135) with a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring; and a solid-link Oyster bracelet fitted with an Oysterlock clasp with a safety catch and the Rolex Glidelock and Fliplock diving extension systems.
The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is a true divers’ watch, both technically and aesthetically a worthy member of the Rolex Oyster Professional family of watches. To comply with the stringent certification requirements for divers’ watches, the watch was tested by Rolex in a specially created hyperbaric tank at a pressure of 1,500 bars, corresponding to the pressure at a depth of 15,000 meters (nearly 50,000 feet), 25 per cent greater than the depth to which the watch is guaranteed waterproof. At a depth of 15,000 meters, the load exerted on the crystal is 17 tonnes (13.6 tonnes at 12,000 metres), and on the case back nearly 23 tons; a total of some 40 tons is borne by the support ring in the middle case. A symbol of supremacy The Rolex Deepsea Challenge symbolizes the brand’s supremacy in mastering waterproofness.
Its spirit and the real-life circumstances for which it was developed echo the approach adopted for the Rolex experimental Deepsea Special model, which in 1960 accompanied the bathyscaphe Trieste on its record descent to a depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet) at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Perpetuating q pioneering spirit The Rolex Deepsea Challenge embodies the heritage and technical and watchmaking know-how of a pioneering brand in wristwatches. This status is enshrined in Rolex’s invention in 1926 of the Oyster, the first ever waterproof wristwatch, and demonstrated by all the divers’ watches, such as the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller, launched by the brand since the 1950s.