Rolex and the exploration of the world’s greatest depths is a story that goes back to the 1950s, when the Piccards (father and son) took the Trieste Bathyscaphe down to the Mariana Trench, with an exceptional Rolex watch attached to the exterior of their submarine. The watch, known as the Deep Sea Special N°3, made the trip down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (10,916 metres or 35,814 feet) in 1960 and is today out of reach but on display, together with the Trieste, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Fast forward to 2012 when Rolex broke another record with movie director James Cameron, providing an experimental Deepsea Challenge watch that accompanied Cameron on his historic 10,908-metre (35,787-foot) descent. And what were prototypes are now becoming a reality as Rolex unveils the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge 126067, an 11,000m water-resistant watch and the first full titanium model of the brand.
Although we’ll return to this topic later with live images and an in-depth story, let’s get straight to the facts. What you’re looking at with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge 126067 is nothing other than an experimental watch made available to the public. Meet the new king of the abyss, a mechanical automatic watch capable of travelling to the deepest point of our planet while also being – on paper at least – for sale in all Rolex boutiques and retailers (we all know about Rolex and availability). And now that’s clearly an uppercut in the face of underwater pressure.
Described as “the ultimate watch of the deep“, the Deepsea Challenge is an automatic dive watch with unprecedented credentials designed to withstand extreme pressure; in fact, it is designed to withstand the highest possible pressure found anywhere on the planet. This watch is the result of years of research by the brand and its scientific partners. And while the experimental watch of 2012 was attached to the manipulator arm of James Cameron’s submersible, the Deepsea Challenge is designed to be worn on the wrist… well, as long as you can live with its gigantic dimensions.
First of all, the Deepsea Challenge 126067 is the first watch by Rolex made entirely from titanium – with the exception of some previous prototypes. The case is made of brushed RLX titanium, an internal name for grade 5 titanium. As such, and despite a diameter of 50mm and a height of 23mm, the watch is 30% lighter than the 2012 James Cameron prototype. Compared to the experimental model, multiple updates were made to make the watch more wearable, such as a slimmed-down sapphire crystal, which is nevertheless impressive with its 9.5mm height. If you think about it, in terms of traditional watchmaking standards, the watch is gigantic. But when you add a water-resistance of 11,000m to the equation, the object becomes far more impressive.
To achieve such extraordinary pressure resistance, Rolex had to innovate the construction of the case. Like the experimental model, the new Deepsea Challenge features the Ringlock system. This patented case architecture enables the watch to withstand extreme pressure with a helium escape valve, which allows surplus gas to escape from the watch during a diver’s decompression phase, the Triplock crown, with three sealed zones, and a screw-down, ultra-thick caseback. Testing the water-resistance of this watch is yet another challenge (classic testing material isn’t designed for that), so Rolex specially developed, in partnership with Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises), an ultra-high-pressure tank capable of reproducing a test pressure equivalent to that exerted by water at a depth of 13,750 metres.
The Rolex Deepsea Challenge 126067 feels directly in line with the rest of the brand’s professional range. The design is classic, yet some notable elements are to be seen, such as the brushed sides with a polished bevel – a nod to vintage watches. The watch is, of course, equipped with a unidirectional bezel. Its 60-minute scale is engraved on a black Cerachrom insert and then filled with platinum. The Deepsea Challenge is worn on a 3-link Oyster bracelet in RLX titanium, with fully brushed surfaces (even the sides of the links) and is closed by an Oysterlock safety clasp with a Rolex Glidelock extension system and a Fliplock extension link.
The dial, framed by a metallic (functional) element, is once again a classic Rolex dive watch, with applied white gold markers and hands filled with Chromalight. The dial is an “intense black” colour and doesn’t have the traditional glossy finish but a matte surface. Under it is a movement from the standard range (no experimental parts needed here), the in-house Superlative Chronometer calibre 3230 – the same found in an Explorer or a no-date Submariner. This means 4Hz frequency, 70h power reserve and Chronergy escapement.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge reference 126067 is released as part of the permanent collection and will be available (relatively speaking) from November 2022. The price is EUR 25,750 or USD 26,000, which is certainly hefty on paper… But it allows you to wear one of the most insanely professional dive watches ever made. For more details, please visit www.rolex.com.