Great and wonderous things happen when worlds of technology and exploration collide in pursuit of a common ambition. The catalyst of exploration has spurred technology many times in the past, and technological advances have paved the way for some fantastic voyages in history. This wonderous ballet has provided man glimpses of the most magnificent views on earth and in space, as well as some of the most complicated and ingenious gadgets you have ever laid eyes on. You will soon be able to see, on the National Geographic Channel, one such history making adventure.
Recently the Rolex watch company has teamed up with the explorers of National Geographic, and director /adventurer James Cameron on a voyage to the deepest spot on earth-The Challenger Deep-39,370 feet below sea level at the bottom of The Mariana Trench. Inspiring Rolex’s newest creation the Rolex Deepsea ChalleThis’dThis is far from Rolex’s first foray of into the deep, on the contrary, Rolex watches are at their best in water. Rolex invented one of the first waterproof wristwatches in 1926 and provided a real-life demonstration of the “Oyster” when Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing it a year later. The watch innovated the industry with its screw-down case back, bezel, and winding crown, forming the modern-day sealed case that protects the movement.
In 1962 Rolex made history again, and in a big way when it joined the bathyscaphe Trieste, with oceanographer Jacques Piccard and Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, on a voyage to the then deepest-known point in the ocean. Rolex’s experimental Deep Sea wristwatch was affixed to the exterior of the Trieste as it reached the floor of the Mariana Trench on January 23, 1960. the explorers reaching a depth of 35,814 feet that voyage, and the Rolex successfully withstood tremendous pressure that no submarine, not to mention wristwatch, had ever encountered in the past. When the Trieste surfaced, Jacques Piccard sent a cable to Rolex headquarters reading: “HAPPY ANNOUNCE TO YOU YOUR WATCH AS PRECISE AT 11,000 METRES AS ON SURFACE. BEST REGARDS JACQUES PICCARD.”
On March 26, 2012 James Cameron re-lived this historic dive with the help of National Geographic, and this time Rolex has re-engineered one of their line of oyster watches-The Sea-Dweller to handle the pressures that will again be experienced on the dive. The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Challenge is an experimental dive watch certified to 12,000 meters. The test tank for the Rolex Deepsea was developed with specialist engineers from COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises), a renowned French company specializing in underwater engineering and hyperbaric technologies.
Rolex has collaborated with COMEX for decades and has supplied Submariner and Sea-Dweller models to its élite team of divers all along. The Oyster Perpetual Submariner, first unveiled in 1953, is today waterproof to a depth of 1,000 feet. The Sea-Dweller model, first presented in 1967, extended the depth limit for Rolex waterproof watches to 2,000 feet, then to 4,000 feet in 1978. And now the Rolex Deepsea, introduced in 2008, pulls out all the stops certified to a depth of 12,800 feet.
Three of the Deepsea Challenge models have been produced and can reach depths of 39,370 feet, and withstand pressures of 13.6 tonnes. The Deepsea Challenge achieves this feat thanks to its 28.5mm thick case and 14.3mm sapphire crystal. The 904L nitrogen alloyed steel case is huge at 51.4mm in diameter and Cerachrom ceramic bezel insert with numerals PVD coated in Platinum, and also features a triple lock screw down, and grade 5 titanium case back and ring lock system. The dial is black enamel with a beautiful blue chromalight lume and marked with the Rolex logo, the depth, model and superlative certified chronometer. This piece is powered by the Rolex Caliber 3135 automatic mechanical movement.
Rolex has long been intimately familiar with exploration and accompanying man to some of the planet’s most extreme frontiers. Rolex Oyster watches have not only accompanied the Trieste on the world’s deepest dive; they equipped the expedition by Sir John Hunt, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 to Mount Everest, the top of the world, and Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier in 1947. With a similar pursuit, James Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGE is taking a new journey, revealing secrets held by the ocean floor and shedding light on the deepest frontier accessible, as I said these types of collaborations always yield something swell.
(Images courtesy of Rolex)
- James Cameron Deep-Sea Dive Reveals New Species (news.discovery.com)
- 7 miles down: James Cameron’s sub set to explore the Mariana Trench (ted.com)