Last week, we announced that Phillips was about to sell an ultra-rare, historically important watch, in the name of a Rolex Deep Sea Special. Clearly, not something you see every day, since the last time such a watch came up on auction was more than 12 years ago… But today, it is yet another of these historically significant Rolex watches that surfaces, and once again in the hands of a major auction house. Indeed, Christie’s has just announced having the 1953 Rolex Deep Sea Special N°1 that made the first dive attached to Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe Trieste in 1953 coming for auction in November. Now that’s quite significant…
As said, seeing one of the few Rolex Deep Sea Special watches ever produced surfacing on auction is a major event. Seeing two of them coming for sale during the same auction season is a unique event. And if the one offered by Phillips is already more than important, this example that will be offered by Christie’s has something more than just being one of the examples… It has a story, and a pretty important one.
According to the auction house, “seven prototypes were built between 1953 and 1960. This much is absolutely certain, only three have so far been identified: the Deep Sea Special N°1 with a ‘low glass’ (made from Plexiglas) that accompanied Trieste on its first deep-sea trial down to 3,150 meters (10,245 feet) off the island of Ponza in 1953; the Deep Sea Special N°3 with a ‘high glass’ (a taller and thicker crystal, also of Plexiglas, one of the invaluable learnings from N°1) that made the trip down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (10,916 meters, 35,814 feet) in 1960 and is today out of reach but on display, together with the Trieste, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC; and Deep Sea Special N°5, also a ‘high glass’ version, which presumably served as a proving ground for further extreme testing in the period leading up to 1960, and was offered at auction by Christie’s in 2000.”
Also, Christie’s adds that “in the early to mid-1960s, to celebrate the dive down to the world’s deepest place Rolex produced about three dozen display models (some sources claim numbers closer to 50 watches) to share their exploit and know-how with the public. In 2009, Number 31 of this commercial/promotional series was sold by Christie’s.” And as for the model offered by Phillips, it is also part of these three dozen display models, being number 35.
What makes the watch that Christie’s will offer for auction so special is that it is part of the early prototypes, being Number 1, and is the watch that was attached to the hull of Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe Trieste for the inaugural deep-sea trial to a depth of 3,150 meters in the Mediterranean on 30 September 1953. It is also the watch that served as a proving ground for the Rolex Deep Sea Special N°3 that would reach 10,908 meters in the Mariana Trench with the Trieste on 23 January 1960. The watch has already been offered once for auction by Christie’s in 2005.
This extremely important Rolex Deep Sea Special N°1 will be auctioned during Christie’s Rare Watches Auction on 8 November 2021 at the Hotel Four Seasons Les Bergues in Geneva. It is said to have the case, the original movement and the bracelet are in perfect working condition. No estimate was announced yet, but you can expect a rather impressive amount…
For more details, please visit www.christies.com.
Update 05/11/2021 – it came to our attention that some doubts have been raised regarding the authenticity of this watch, mostly regarding its actual presence during the dive in 1953. According to perezcope.com, the present watch could be a later example and not the watch that was attached to the exterior of Trieste in the record dive of the Piccards in September 1953.