Rolex's latest watch will keep ticking at bottom of the Mariana Trench
If you're planning to go scuba diving to the bottom of the Ocean's deepest point in the Mariana Trench, Rolex has you covered with its titanium-clad Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge dive watch that is rated water-resistant to 36,090 ft (11,000 m).
Sometimes you do something just because you can and you end up with something that is perfectly functional, does everything it's called upon to do, yet boasts capabilities that are completely superfluous.
One prime example is the newly released Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge. True, it can withstand pressures found at the deepest spot in Earth's oceans, but the same cannot be said for any diver wearing it.
So why make such a watch? Is there a niche market of people who are comforted by the thought that if they lose their Rolex overboard in the middle of the Pacific it will still keep time when it lands in the bottom silt?
There are a number of reasons. Haute horologie is an exercise in pushing the limits of watches, making many timepieces designed to show off how far the technology and skill of a company has progressed. Another is that creating such watches provides an opportunity to learn more about new materials, mechanisms, and manufacturing techniques that can be adapted to less ambitious versions – a bit like how Formula 1 cars are never intended to leave the track, but many of the innovations used in them eventually turn up in production cars.
Then there is the fact that some people who have never gone diving in their lives and never intend to do so are quite keen to own such a watch for its status or they just think it's cool. They certainly wouldn't be buying the Deepsea Challenge as a practical everyday watch unless they had huge wrists because the price of its depth-defying strength is a case that measures 50 mm across and is 23 mm thick. If many modern dive watches have been compared to dinner plates, this one is a serving platter.
The Deepsea Challenge is based on the experimental watch that rode on the manipulator arm of the one-person submersible that carried filmmaker James Cameron during his 2012 descent to 35,787 ft (10,908 m) in the Mariana Trench.
The Deepsea Challenge may be ridiculously large, but it's surprisingly lightweight. Because it's cased in three pieces of RLX grade 5 titanium, it's 30 percent lighter than the 2012 prototype. Though it's rated to 36,090 ft (11,000 m), the certification rules require a significant safety margin, so it can actually withstand a depth of 49,200 ft (15,000 m) or 17 tonnes of pressure on the crystal.
The Oyster case with its domed 9.5-mm-thick scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and unidirectional rotatable Bezel has Rolex’s Ringlock self-reinforcing design that strengthens as water pressure increases. In addition, there's an integral crown guard helium escape valve that allows helium that's seeped into the watch while in a hyperbaric chamber to escape without damaging the watch during decompression. The Deepsea Challenge is held in place by a titanium Oyster bracelet and Oysterlock folding safety clasp that is capable of extending 26 mm to fit over a wetsuit sleeve.
Inside the case is the 31-ruby caliber 3230 automatic movement, which is self winding thanks to a bidirectional Perpetual rotor. Beating at a frequency of four Hz (28,800 beats per hour), it's Chron energy escapement is controlled by the paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring working with a large balance wheel and four gold Microstella nuts to give it a precision of −/+2 seconds per day. The intense black matte and fine satin finish dial has hour markers in 18 ct white gold illuminated by Chromalight.
The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is on sale now and will set you back US$26,000.
The video below introduces the Deepsea Challenge.