While many, frankly too many, explorers have journeyed to the highest point on earth, Mount Everest, only two teams of intrepid explorers have ever made it to the deepest trough of our planet, scraping the ocean depths of the Mariana Trench. In tribute to the latest successful expedition, which took place in 2012 with mutli-award winning movie director James Cameron piloting his own specially built submersible, Rolex yesterday launched the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue Dial (Ref.116660).
Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue Dial – Ref.116660
The green wording of DEEPSEA is said to represent the courage of James Cameron’s deep sea dive. The 44mm watch itself features an inky blue/black gradient dial and is water resistant to an ear popping, can crushing 3,900 metres. The rationale behind the blue to black dial is representative of Cameron’s dive into the all engulfing blackness of the depths where light can no longer penetrate.
The innovative Chromalight display on the dial creates a distinctive blue glow which apparently lasts up to twice as long as that of standard luminescent materials. The zero marker on the bezel, in the form of a triangle, is also visible in the dark as it contains a capsule with the same luminescent material.
While the Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller pays tribute to Cameron’s major achievement, under the skin it’s the Sea Dweller we already know with the Cerachrom black ceramic bezel, the case carved from a monoblock of Rolex’s proprietary 904L hardened steel, and the helium escape valve that operates like a miniature decompression chamber.
The Rolex Deepsea that Cameron had strapped to an exterior hydraulic arm of his Deepsea Challenger as it descended was the turbo charged 51.4mm Deepsea Challenge version capable of diving to 12,000 metres. This watch was never commercially produced because let’s face it, how many people will ever dive to descend to those depths? The watch was so water resistant Cameron could have descended another 1,200 metres with the watch still faithfully recording the time.
The innovative case architecture of the Rolex Deepsea and its Ringlock system served as the blueprint for the design of the experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge. Rolex engineers scaled up the dimensions of the commercial Rolex Deepsea, from 44 to 51.4 mm, trading comfort and wearability for ultimate pressure resistance.
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D movie
Of course being a movie maker, James Cameron filmed the entire 2012 mission and his 3D film will be released this coming Friday on August 8th, 2014. The film is titled Deepsea Challenge 3D and will premier in the United States. The movie will tell the full story of his successful solo dive to the Mariana Trench, the planning and creation of the Deepsea Challenger submersible and not forgetting to mention the Rolex wristwatch strapped to it.
As a boy, filmmaker James Cameron dreamed of a journey to the deepest part of the ocean. It’s no coincidence that two of his most successful movies, The Deep and Titanic both involve manned craft descending to the bottom of the ocean, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
The new film, based in reality, is the dramatic fulfillment of Cameron’s dream. It chronicles Cameron’s solo dive to the depths of the Mariana Trench—nearly seven miles beneath the ocean’s surface. This in itself was impressive, but Cameron went one further by actrually designing the submersible himself.
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge 3D encompasses science, courage, and human aspiration – often the essential ingredients for many a great blockbuster, and I will be queuing to see this way ahead of any wretched Marvel Comics movie. The film reveals a profuse variety of unusual deep sea creatures, some long flowing, sinuous and luminous, many probably just flat and strange.
However the Rolex launch of the Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue (Ref.116660) was perhaps even more unusual as it is the first time Rolex has launched a watch outside of their strictly regimented Baselworld presentation schedule.
It is not however, the first time Rolex has sent a watch down to the deepest depths of the ocean, and it’s remarkable to think that the first expedition reached even a little deeper than Deep Sea Challenge and still performed perfectly as far back as 1960.
1960: The first exploration of the Mariana Trench
The Mariana Trench stretches in an arc around the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The deepest part of the trench, Challenger Deep, lies some 11,000 metres (nearly 7 miles) below the surface. It’s deeper than Mount Everest is tall. In fact if Mount Everest were placed in the trench it would still be swallowed up with over 2000 metres of water above it. It’s a brave man who decides to descend to the depths of Challenger Deep, the deepest part of the Mariana Trench.
The first explorers of Challenger Deep were U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Piccard.
They made their journey on January 23, 1960, in the Swiss-designed, Italian-built, United States Navy bathyscaphe Trieste. Like so many of such intrepid journeys, it was frought with doubt, as choppy seas threatened to force the mission to be aborted.
The descent took almost five hours, and for the crew members each minute seemed like a lifetime. They eventually reached a depth of 35,800 feet (10,912 meters) – actually a little further than the Deepsea Challenger managed some 42 years later. The bathyscaphe carried no scientific equipment, and no experiments were conducted. Walsh and Piccard stayed on the bottom for 20 minutes before dumping tons of iron pellets to begin an ascent that lasted 3 hours and 15 minutes. As with the the Deepsea Challenger, Rolex was closely involved with the voyage of the Trieste.
Rolex was on board from the get go when, in 1953, Trieste was first launched. In tandem with dives undertaken by the Trieste, Rolex carried out rigorous testing of the second version of its Deep Sea Special. Rolex’s experience with diving watches went back considerably further to 1926 when Hans Wilsdorf first developed the Rolex Oyster case.
The Rolex Deep Sea Special as it was called, accompanied Walsh and Piccard all the way to the ocean floor. For Rolex the dive marked the culmination of a long association with Jacques Piccard and his father, Auguste Piccard, who developed the bathyscape.
2012: The second exploration of the Mariana Trench
While it’s true that James Cameron’s submersible did not go quite as deep as the Trieste, by the same token, the technology available to him would have been simply unimaginable in 1960. The craft is much lighter, using a special kind of foam to give it both buoyancy and protection from the extreme environment nearly 7 miles (11 kilometers) beneath the surface. The 150 ton Trieste’s desperately slow 5 hour descent to the bottom was trounced by the 11.8 ton Deepsea Challenger’s mere 2.5 hours.
The Trieste’s laborious ascent took three hours compared with the Deep Sea Challenger’s nippy 70 minute ascent back to the surface. Also, the 21st-century craft was able explore the ocean floor for six hours or more, moving nimbly and easily to enable photographic and 3-D video images and to collect samples with a mechanical arm. In contrast the Trieste just sat on the bottom for twenty minutes.
Rolex and the Deep Blue sea
Rolex’s ocean going arsenal of tool watches is undeniably impressive. The Rolex Submariner, still one of the most popular watches in the entire Rolex collection, was first introduced in 1953 with a water resistance of up to 300 metres. The Rolex Sea-Dweller, first launched in 1967, is today able to reach limits of 1,200 metres.
And the Rolex Deepsea, introduced in 2008, is waterproof to a depth of 12,800 feet (3,900 metres), a huge safety margin for those working in the open water at great depth. Each Rolex Deepsea is individually tested in a specially built stainless steel hyperbaric chamber in Geneva.
Don Walsh, co-pilot of the Trieste from way back in 1960 is still a part of the Rolex family.
More resources about Deepsea Challenge and the new Official Website on deepseachallenge.com and rolex.com.