Inspired by the experimental watch that accompanied him on his historic 10,908-metre (35,787 feet) descent into the Mariana Trench on 26 March 2012, the Deepsea Challenge represents a new milestone in the world of Rolex divers’ watches. Guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 11,000 metres (36,090 feet), crafted from RLX titanium, and equipped with a helium escape valve and the Ringlock system, it is capable of accompanying divers in any environment – during freedivers, submersible dives or in hyperbaric chambers. A watch designed to turn pressure into an ally in any situation, and an invitation to expand yet further the horizons of the deep.
The ultimate watch of the deep, the Deepsea Challenge is a diver with unprecedented credentials, designed to withstand extreme pressure. Years of research were required to overcome the watchmaking and manufacturing challenges that its fabrication presented.
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. From the production of the case to that of the bracelet, every element of this 50 mm watch has been crafted with everyday use in mind. A watchmaking accomplishment made possible by using a grade 5 titanium alloy selected by Rolex: RLX titanium. Thanks to this robust and particularly lightweight metal, the new watch is 30% lighter than the experimental model of 2012. To create a timepiece of harmonious and ergonomic proportions, modifications were made to some of the components – the crystal, for instance, was slimmed down. The Deepsea Challenge is distinctive among Professional watches for the particularly visible grain in its satin finish and the polished edges of its lugs. The bracelet extension systems – Rolex Glidelock and the Fliplock extension link – allow the watch to be worn over a diving suit up to 7 mm thick.
The Deepsea Challenge incorporates the full spectrum of Rolex’s expertise in divers watches. It includes all the major innovations developed by the brand over many years: the Ringlock system, a patented case architecture that enables the watch to withstand extreme pressure; the helium escape valve, which allows surplus gas to escape from the watch during a diver’s decompression phase in a hyperbaric chamber, reducing the pressure inside the case which could otherwise damage the watch; the Triplock crown, with three sealed zones; and the Chromalight display, whose long-lasting luminescence provides exceptional legibility. To test the waterproofness of each Deepsea Challenge, 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 (45,112 feet).
At the heart of the Oyster case is calibre 3230, a movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. A consummate demonstration of the technology, this self-winding movement contains several patented components: the Chronergy escapement and the Parachrom hairspring, insensitive to magnetic fields, as well as Paraflex shock absorbers. Thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency, calibre 3230 offers a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. Like all Rolex watches, the Deepsea Challenge carries the Superlative Chronometer certification and boasts chronometric precision of the order of –2 /+2 seconds per day.
The Deepsea Challenge is engraved with the words “Mariana Trench” as well as the dates “23-01-1960” and “26-03-2012” on the case back, in tribute to two historic dives into the Mariana Trench: that of oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh aboard the Trieste, in 1960, and James Cameron’s solo descent in DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, in 2012. Both expeditions took experimental Rolex watches with them.
The design of the watch that accompanied James Cameron’s dive presented a sizeable challenge for the brand in a short production time. Tested to withstand a depth of 15,000 metres (49,200 feet) and 17 tonnes of pressure on the crystal, it was developed in only a few weeks, thanks to the extensive experience of the Rolex teams in the domain of deep-sea divers’ watches. Throughout the seven-hour dive, three hours of which were spent at the bottom, filming and collecting samples, this experimental watch flawlessly withstood the tremendous pressure, as the 1960 watch had also done.