Rolex writes a new chapter in the history of diving watches by presenting the new Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge 126067, the first titanium watch marketed by the brand and a true “King of the abyss” thanks to its record water resistance of 11 meters.
The Deepsea Challenge is an adaptation of the experimental specimen designed for James Cameron which, on March 26, 2012, dropped to 10.908 meters.
CONQUERING THE ABYSS
The link between Rolex and the abyss began in 1953 with the Deep Sea Special, an experimental Rolex watch designed to be attached to the outside of a submarine to test its resistance to pressure at great depths. This watch accompanied the adventure of the Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard and his bathyscaphe Trieste, a submarine equipped with a heavy reinforced steel ball, designed to carry up to three passengers to the bottom of the oceans.
With the Trieste, Auguste Piccard set a diving record, together with his son Jacques, going down to 3.150 meters deep off the Pontine islands, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the 30th September 1953. The Deep Sea Special watch perfectly withstood a pressure of around 3 tons.
Il 23 January 1960, the Deep Sea Special accompanies the diving record set by oceanographer Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh in the Mariana Trench. Fixed to the outside of the bathyscaphe Trieste, reaches a depth of 10.916 meters. Once he has risen to the surface with his bathyscaphe, Jacques Piccard writes a telegram to Rolex: "Happy to report that your watch works as well at 11.000 meters as it is on the surface".
We must wait for the March 26, 2012 so that another explorer, the director James Cameron, is measured in turn, alone, with the Mariana trench, reaching a depth of 10.908 meters. For the 2012 dive, Rolex develops a new experimental watch that is attached to the articulated arm of James Cameron's submarine: the Rolex Deep Sea Challenge.
Tested to withstand a depth of 15.000 meters and a pressure of 17 tons on the glass, the watch was fine-tuned in just a few weeks. During that seven-hour dive, three of which spent at the bottom of the abyss to shoot and collect samples, the watch perfectly withstands the colossal pressure present at that depth.
The DEEPSEA CHALLENGE in Titanium RLX
The new Rolex Deepsea Challenge stands out as a synthesis of Rolex's long experience and know-how in the field of diving watches. Made in titanium RLX and equipped with the helium escape valve and the Ringlock system. Let's find out in detail.
The fundamental innovations of this watch are two: the first titanium watch marketed to the brand andrecord waterproofness capable of withstanding 11 meters (but even more, and we'll see why).
The new Rolex Deepsea Challenge is made of RLX titanium and has a 50mm diameter and 23mm thick case. Titanium RLX is an alloy of grade 5 titanium selected by Rolex and stands out for its lightness and its resistance to corrosion and deformation. The choice of RLX Titanium made it possible to lighten this watch by 30%, compared to the prototype used by James Cameron.
Many enthusiasts will have noticed the presence of the bevel along the lugs, characteristic of professional Rolex watches before the arrival of the era of six-figure references. It is a detail that stands out on titanium, in particular due to the particularly marked satin finish used along the middle case.
A necessary clarification, it is not the first time that Rolex has used RLX titanium on his watches. The first RLX titanium specimen had been spotted on the prototype of Rolex Yacht-Master42 supplied to Sir Ben Ainslie. However, the new Rolex Deepsea Challenge is the first model to be marketed.
But how did Rolex reach this water resistance record, effectively surpassing its flagship watch - the Rolex Deepsea - and the Omega Ultra Deep (water resistant to 6 meters)?
THE RINGLOCK SYSTEM
Let's start with a fundamental element: the system Ringlocks. This is a brand-patented solution found in Rolex dive watches designed for extreme depths, which features a strengthened case structure that combines a thick and slightly domed sapphire crystal, along with a steel compression ring, enriched with nitrogen and an RLX titanium caseback. This allows you to reduce stress due to pressure on the entire case, to convey it on the glass and on the steel ring.
Thanks to the partnership with COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises), Rolex has designed a very high pressure tank that allows you to check the waterproofness of the Deepsea Challenge and test each individual specimen with a 25% safety margin, with an equivalent pressure. 13.750 meters below the sea surface.
As with its predecessors, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge also has a helium escape valve to cope with the new stresses that watches are subjected to in saturation diving. This system was patented by Rolex in 1967 and is automatically activated when the internal pressure is too high.
Like any self-respecting diver, the black dial with matte finish has great visibility and differs from its predecessors for the absence of the date window, making it more legible and removing an almost unnecessary 'features' for those who will use this. watch at a professional level.
The indexes, hands and the bezel at 12 o'clock on the bezel are covered with luminescent material Chromalight, a luminescent substance presented by Rolex in 2008 that stands out for its performance and the characteristic blue color.
Inside the new Deep Sea Challenge 126067 we find the caliber 3230, a movement entirely developed by Rolex and unveiled in 2020. This is the latest generation of movements presented by Rolex, equipped with a Chronergy escapement which, thanks to the solutions developed by the brand, allows: an accuracy of -2 / + 2 seconds per day (with recessed movement); protection from magnetic fields on the regulating organ; power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
The oyster bracelet is also made of RLX Titanium with a satin finish and circular ceramic inserts, in the connection points between the various links. This solution, already adopted on gold bracelets, allows to prevent wear of the material. It is also equipped with the comfortable Glidelock adjustment system.
The screw-down RLX titanium caseback bears the words "Mariana Trench"And the dates"23-01-1960"and "26-03-2012". A tribute to the two historic dives in the Mariana trench: that in 1960 of the oceanographer Jacques Piccard and of the lieutenant of the American navy Don Walsh aboard the Trieste, and that of James Cameron, who in 2012 dived solo aboard the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER.
The weight of the Rolex Deepsea Challenge is 251 grams. The list price is 26'100 Euros.
Since the release of the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge, I have read mixed opinions about this watch from many aficionados. Like any new release from Rolex, expectations are always very high.
I state, we have not yet had the opportunity to try it and observe it closely. However, I can express a personal comment with the intention of objectively evaluating the new arrival of the Rolex house. Many have focused on the dimensions of this watch, 50mm (about 61 Jul to Jul) in circumference and 23mm thick, leaving out a fundamental aspect: this watch is extremely professional, I would say the Formula 1 of diving watches, and should be compared with the watches of these characteristics from other brands.
For example, the Omega Ultra Deep in Titanium awarded to Victor Vescovo, holder of the previous record - with a depth of 10 meters - with a diameter of 925mm and a thickness of 55mm and without a bracelet (fixed lugs).
Rolex could have presented a prototype with these characteristics, but the strength of this watch - and of Rolex's know-how - is precisely that of being highly technical, but at the same time being available “for everyone”. This aspect is by no means taken for granted. In a nutshell, Rolex - with the Deepsea Challenge - has concretely regained possession of the highest step in terms of waterproofing.
It will also be interesting to understand the future use of RLX titanium by the brand. Will it be declined for other models as well? Should we expect a Yacht-Master 42 with a textile strap like the one tested by nautical champion Sir Ben Ainslie? We just have to wait for the next Watches & Wonders 2023. In the meantime, we welcome the new Rolex Deepsea Challenge.