Rolex Deepsea Challenge


Rolex Deepsea Challenge

Deepsea Challenge

To the deepest reaches of the oceans
La Cote des Montres - March 22nd, 2012


Objective: 11,000 metres under the sea:


True to its passion for underwater exploration, Rolex is taking an active part in the Deepsea Challenge expedition of film-maker and explorer James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) in partnership with the National Geographic Society. The expedition aims to reach and explore the deepest point in the oceans at a depth of about 11,000 metres (36,100 feet) in the Mariana Trench (Pacific Ocean).


An experimental Oyster watch


Rolex has developed and manufactured an exceptional experimental model for the dive: the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Challenge, guaranteed waterproof to the extreme depth of 12,000 metres (39,370 feet). The watch confirms Rolex’s tradition of excellence in the field of mechanical watches and its position as the leading brand in waterproofness. Designed to accompany James Cameron as he dives to the point known as Challenger Deep, south-west of the island of Guam, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge will be fixed to the the submersible’s manipulator arm.

The Triestre bathyscaphe 1960

Echoing the historic dive of 1960


Deep Sea Special 1960
Both James Cameron’s expedition and the Rolex Deepsea Challenge directly echo the bathyscaphe Trieste’s historic dive on 23 January 1960, the first and, so far, only manned dive to what was then the deepest-known point in the Mariana Trench. On that exploit, an experimental Oyster model, the Deep Sea Special, attached to the hull accompanied the Trieste into the abyss. It reached the record depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet), returning to the surface in perfect working order, a feat that remains unrivalled to this day.

The Triestre bathyscaphe 1960

A natural partnership


The Deepsea Challenger submersible 2012
Rolex is therefore a natural partner for the Deepsea Challenge expedition, a project that combines human adventure and technological innovation, the pursuit of excellence and pushing the limits of man’s potential. Such endeavours correspond to the brand’s core values and the philosophy inherited from its founder, Hans Wilsdorf. The Trieste’s dive in 1960 marked the culmination of Rolex’s relationship with the underwater world. And the partnership with James Cameron’s expedition marks a new and no less spectacular milestone in the history of the brand’s privileged ties with the oceans. A history dating back to 1926 and the invention of the Oyster, the world’s first-ever waterproof wristwatch.

The experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge perpetuates the adventure of the Oyster and the pioneering spirit of innovation that has forged the reputation of Rolex.

Rolex Deepsea Challenge

A watch for the deepest of the deep  


The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea Challenge is an experimental divers’ watch guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres (39,370 feet), entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex to resist the extreme pressure present in the deepest reaches of the oceans. It is manufactured by an entirely integrated watchmaker with unparalleled design, development and production capacities.


A case architecture ready to reach beyond the abyssal depths


Technically, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge is an enhanced version of the com- mercial Rolex Deepsea professional divers’ watch (guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 3,900 metres or 12,800 feet) introduced in 2008. The new experimental watch is 51.4 mm in diameter and 28.5 mm thick. Its design is based on the Ringlock System case architecture of the Rolex Deepsea. This intricate three-piece case architecture, developed and patented by Rolex, features a highly resistant nitrogen- alloyed stainless steel support ring as the backbone of the watch. Placed inside the middle case made of 904L stainless steel superalloy, it supports a 14.3 mm thick domed sapphire crystal, made of high-purity aluminium oxide, and a 5.3 mm screw- down case back made of grade 5 titanium.


In the wake of the Rolex Deepsea


The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is fitted with a patented Triplock screw-down winding crown with a triple waterproofness system, the same type that equips all Rolex divers’ watches. It also has other technical features of the Rolex Deepsea, such as a unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated bezel with a Cerachrom insert in ceramic; a Chromalight display with long-lasting luminescence (hands and hour markers); a self-winding mechanical movement (calibre 3135) with a para- magnetic blue Parachrom hairspring; and a solid-link Oyster bracelet fitted with an Oysterlock clasp with a safety catch and the Rolex Glidelock and Fliplock diving extension systems.


A true rolex divers’ watch


The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is a true divers’ watch, both technically and aesthetically a worthy member of the Rolex Oyster Professional family of watches. To comply with the stringent certification requirements for divers’ watches, the watch is tested by Rolex in a specially created hyperbaric tank at a pressure of 1,500 bars, corresponding to the pressure at a depth of 15,000 metres (nearly 50,000 feet), 25% greater than the depth to which the watch is guaranteed waterproof. At a depth of 15,000 metres, the load exerted on the crystal is 17 tonnes (13.6 tonnes at 12,000 metres), and on the case back nearly 23 tonnes; a total of some 40 tonnes is borne by the support ring in the middle case.


A symbol of supremacy


The Rolex Deepsea Challenge symbolizes the brand’s supremacy in mastering waterproofness. Its spirit and the real-life circumstances for which it was developed echo the approach adopted for the Rolex experimental Deep Sea Special model, which in 1960 accompanied the bathyscaphe Trieste on its record descent to a depth of 10,916 metres (35,815 feet) at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.


Perpetuating the pioneering spirit


The Rolex Deepsea Challenge embodies all the heritage and technical and watchmaking know-how of a pioneering brand in wristwatches. This status is demon- strated by Rolex’s invention in 1926 of the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch in history, as well as by all the divers’ watches, such as the Submariner and the Sea-Dweller, launched by the brand since the 1950s.


Human adventure and technological innovation


This watch bears witness in a spectacular way to the privileged ties that link Rolex to exploration in general and to the underwater world in particular. The Rolex Deepsea Challenge perpetuates a story combining human adventure and technology, innovation and the constant pursuit of excellence. An adventure punctuated with exceptional moments, some of which have entered the annals of history, when Rolex watches have proven their mettle under extreme conditions by accompanying men and women in their quest for the absolute.

Rolex Deepsea Challenge

Technical specifications

Category :Experimental watch
Case :Oyster (monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown)
Diameter :51,4 mm
Thickness :28,5 mm
Architecture :Ringlock System with a nitrogen-alloyed stainless steel support ring
Materials :904L steel superalloy, case back in grade 5 titanium
Winding crown :Screw-down, Triplock triple waterproofness system
Crown guard :Integral part of the middle case
Crystal :Domed synthetic sapphire, 14.3 mm thick
Bezel :Unidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated;
Cerachrom insert in ceramic with numerals coated in platinum via PVD
Dial :Black lacquer
Chromalight display with long-lasting luminescence
Waterproofness :12,000 m (39,370 ft)
Movement :Calibre 3135, Manufacture Rolex
Mechanical movement with bidirectional self-winding via Perpetual rotor
Functions :Centre hour, minute and seconds hands.
Instantaneous date with rapid setting.
Stop seconds for precise time setting
Frequency :28,800 beats/hour (4 Hz)
Precision :Officially certified Swiss chronometer (COSC)
Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring with Breguet overcoil
Large balance wheel with variable inertia
High-precision regulating via gold Microstella nuts
Power reserve :Approximately 48 hours
Bracelet :Oyster; folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Glidelock system for fine adjustment of bracelet length, Fliplock extension link

Double heritage

Deep Sea Special 1960 &nd Rolex Deepsea 2008 

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge enjoys a double heritage:
  • In historical terms, it is the heir of the 1960 experimental Oyster Deep Sea Special, which dived to the bottom of the Mariana Trench with the bathyscaphe Trieste to a depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet).
Deep Sea Special 1960
  • Technically and aesthetically, it is an enhanced version of the commercial Rolex Deepsea, launched in 2008 and guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet). The Ringlock System architecture developed and patented by Rolex for this new-generation professional divers’ watch has also been used for the Rolex Deepsea Challenge model.
Rolex Deepsea 2008
The three models are compared in the table below:

Deep Sea Special
Rolex Deepsea
Deepsea Challenge
Type:Experimental watchProfessional watchExperimental watch
Etanchéité:10,916 m / 35,814 ft3900 m / 12 800 ft12,000 m / 39,370 ft
:- -3.1 tonnes13.6 tonnes
Diameter:42.7 mm44 mm51.4 mm
Thickness:36 mm17.7 mm28.5 mm
Case:OysterOyster + RinglockSystem Oyster + Ringlock System
Materials:Steel904L steel (middle case)
Nitrogen-alloyed steel
Grade 5 titanium (case back)
904L steel (middle case)
Nitrogen-alloyed steel
Grade 5 titanium (case back)
Crystal /
:Plexiglas / 18 mmSaphir / 5.5 mmSaphir / 14.3 mm
(double waterproofness)
(triple waterproofness))
(triple waterproofness)
Movement:1570, self-winding mechanical3135, self-winding mechanical3135, self-winding mechanical
:No Yes Yes

Deepsea Challenge 2012

The Mariana Trench


The Mariana Trench, which stretches in an arc around the Mariana Islands in the Pacific Ocean, is the deepest part of the world’s oceans. The deepest point in the trench, known as Challenger Deep, lies some 11,000 metres (nearly 7 miles) below the surface. If Mount Everest, the world’s tallest peak, were set in the trench, there would still be approximately 2,000 metres (1.3 miles) of water above it. The trench was created by subduction, the sideways and downward movement of the edge of the Pacific tectonic plate into the mantle beneath the Mariana Plate.

Challenger Deep was named after the 1875 British Royal Navy Ship HMS Challenger, the first vessel to sound the depths of the trench.

In January 1960, Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and the then Lieutenant Don Walsh manned the 150-tonne, U.S. Navy bathyscaphe Trieste for the journey to Challenger Deep and back. Since then, only unmanned vessels have descended to such depths.



From the Trieste to the Deepsea Challenger 


1960 – Trieste


2012 – Deepsea challenger


The bathyscaphe
  • 18.1 m (59.5 ft) long, oriented horizontally
  • Weight: 150 tonnes
  • Buoyancy provided by gasoline tanks
  • No technology to collect samples or specimens
  • No external technology to take photographs
The submersible
  • 8 m (26 ft.) tall, “vertical torpedo” shape
  • Weight: 12 tonnes
  • Buoyancy provided by Isofloat syntactic foam Equipped with multiple HD cameras, including some that are 3-D capable for film production
The dive
  • Naval expedition
  • Two-person
  • Depth reached; 10,916 m (35,814 ft)
  • Dive time: nine hours including just 20 minutes at the bottom
  • Discovery of deep-sea life forms
The dive
  • Scientific expedition
  • One-person
  • Depth target: about 11,000 m (36,100 ft)
  • Estimated dive time: about 10 hours including six hours at the bottom
  • Collection of samples; filming and photography
The watch
  • Rolex Deep Sea Special experimental watch
  • Waterproof to 10,916 m (35,814 ft)
  • Attached to the exterior of the bathyscaphe
  • Diameter: 42.7 mm
  • Thickness: 36 mm
The watch
  • Rolex Deepsea Challenge experimental watch
  • Waterproof to 12,000 m (39,370 ft)
  • Attached to the submersible’s manipulator arm
  • Diameter: 51.4 mm
  • Thickness: 28.5 mm

Rolex and the deep

A passion for exploration 

Fifty-two years ago Rolex made watchmaking history when it joined the bathyscaphe Trieste, crewed by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and the then U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, as the Swiss-designed bathyscaphe descended to what was at the time the deepest-known point in the ocean.

An experimental Rolex Deep Sea Special wristwatch was attached to the exterior of the Trieste when it touched the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean on 23 January 1960, reaching a depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet). It successfully withstood tremendous pressure that no submersible, let alone watch, had confronted before and that no human could ever survive. The dive marked the culmination of a long association with Jacques Piccard and his father Auguste Piccard, the inventor of the bathyscaphe, as they stretched the boundaries of deep-sea exploration. It was also the fruit of decades of unrelenting development of the waterproof wristwatch, which was invented by Rolex.


A history of discovery


Rolex has always been associated with exploration of the planet’s most extreme frontiers and pushing the limits of human endeavour, in keeping with the spirit instilled by its founder, Hans Wilsdorf. He actively led the company through the most adventurous decades of the 20th century, a period marked by discovery of the world about us and immense technological progress.

The Swiss watchmaker has, in particular, nurtured a special relationship with the sea and its deepest reaches from the very beginning. Rolex is simply the natural partner for Deepsea Challenge, a scientific expedition that heralds the beginning of a new era in marine exploration.

Robust, precise and highly reliable Rolex Oyster watches have not only accompanied the Trieste on the world’s deepest dive. They also equipped the expedition by Sir John Hunt, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the top of the world in 1953 – leading to the pioneering ascent of Mount Everest – and Chuck Yeager when he broke the sound barrier in 1947.

The Piccards, Don Walsh and their bathyscaphe followed in the steps of those adventurers, providing the ultimate test for Rolex technology and the experimental Deep Sea Special watch. After the Trieste surfaced from its record dive in 1960, a cable was sent to Rolex headquarters: “Happy announce to yo your watch as precise at 11,000 metros as on surface. Best regards, Jacques Piccard”.


Inventing and proving the waterproof wristwatch


Exploits of the kind have also provided a proving ground for Oyster wristwatches from the very beginning. Rolex is in its element in water, and the name chosen for its iconic collection of waterproof wristwatches is no accident. Waterproofness was a fundamental feature that helped to make the wristwatch reliable and accurate. Rolex invented the first waterproof wristwatch in 1926, and provided a real-life demonstration of its waterproofness when Mercedes Gleitze swam the English Channel wearing one a year later. The Oyster watch innovated with its screw-down case back, bezel and winding crown, forming the essence of the modern-day sealed case that protects a high-precision movement. Such reliable waterproofness is today inherent in every Rolex Oyster Perpetual model.

Rolex has also sustained and extended its position at the forefront of watchmaking for diving and underwater research with ground-breaking innovations.


Tools of the trade


During the 1940s and 1950s, developments in diving technology paved the way for a boom in underwater exploration. The exacting professional diving community came to treasure Rolex watches as essential tools of the trade and even helped in their development.
  • The iconic Oyster Perpetual Submariner, first unveiled in 1953, is today waterproof to a depth of 300 metres (1,000 feet).
  • The Sea-Dweller model, first presented in 1967 extended the depth limit for Rolex waterproof watches to 610 metres (2,000 feet) then 1,220 metres (4,000 feet) in 1978.
  • And ultimately the Rolex Deepsea, introduced in 2008, illustrates the supremacy of Rolex in mastering waterproofness. This new-generation divers’ Rolex is waterproof to a depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet), providing a substantial safety margin for those working in the open water at great depth. Each Rolex Deepsea is individually tested in a specially built hyperbaric tank in Geneva.

Harnessing technology


The test tank for the Rolex Deepsea was developed with specialist engineers from COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises), a world-renowned French company specializing in underwater engineering and hyperbaric technologies. Rolex has been collaborating with COMEX for decades and supplied watches to equip its elite divers.

Timepieces such as the Rolex Deepsea and the state-of-the-art, experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge carried by James Cameron’s submersible are the product of nearly a century of finely tuned know-how and innovation. They attest to the pursuit of perfection and the finest engineering. Nonetheless, Rolex’s affinity with the deep does not stop there. It extends to active and sustained sponsorship of renowned marine researchers and ocean exploration, supporting excellence in the advancement of human knowledge.


Our friends


Don Walsh remains part of the Rolex family, while Rolex Testimonees include renowned oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle as well as underwater photographer and marine naturalist David Doubilet. Rolex was associated with The Deep, an exceptional exhibition of deep-sea creatures conceived by film-maker Claire Nouvian in collaboration with scientific researchers, providing visitors with a unique opportunity to discover some of the mysteries of the Earth’s largest reservoir of life. Rolex supports the Our World – Underwater Scholarship Society, funding young Rolex Scholars to gain hands-on experience with leaders in marine-related research including on scientific expeditions. And the adventurous new spirit of marine exploration actively embodied by Deepsea Challenge is also present in SeaOrbiter, a project for a new-generation vessel to monitor ocean life and enhance global scientific research, also supported by Rolex.

In the same vein, James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge is taking us on a new journey, revealing the secrets held by the ocean floor for centuries and shedding light on the deepest frontier accessible to mankind.

James Cameron partners with National Geographic and Rolex

Dive to Mariana Trench will Launch Deep Ocean Research and Exploration Project 

Washington – Filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron announced today that he will attempt to reach the world’s deepest point, the Mariana Trench, nearly 7 miles (11.2 km) beneath the ocean’s surface, in the coming weeks. Cameron’s dive in his specially designed submersible marks the launch of Deepsea Challenge, a joint scientific project by Cameron, the National Geographic Society and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research and exploration to expand our knowledge and understanding of these largely unknown parts of the planet.

Cameron’s historic Deepsea Challenge expedition will be the first extensive scientific exploration by a manned vehicle to the Mariana Trench’s lowest point, the “Challenger Deep.” Cameron plans to spend six hours at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean trench, some 200 miles (322 km) southwest of Guam, to collect samples for research in marine biology, microbiology, astrobiology, marine geology and geophysics.

Relying on advanced engineering and technologies created by Cameron and his team, successful field tests were completed this week off the coast of Papua New Guinea. They included untethered deep-water dives — including one to a depth of more than 5 miles (more than 8 km) — in the revolutionary, single-pilot Deepsea Challenge submersible, the result of an eight-year engineering effort and the deepest-diving manned marine vehicle in existence. The public will be able to follow Cameron’s progress on the expedition at; on Twitter by following @DeepChallenge or using #deepseachallenge; or on Facebook.

“The deep trenches are the last unexplored frontier on our planet, with scientific riches enough to fill a hundred years of exploration,” Cameron said. “National Geographic, which has been exploring the world for nearly 125 years, is the ideal partner to help usher in a new era of deep-ocean research and exploration that supports leading scientific institutions in answering questions about the deepest, unexplored parts of the Earth. Our goal is to build a scientific legacy for generations to come. It’s also to inspire people across the globe to celebrate exploration and to explore with us online and through the media we produce.”

Cameron added, “Rolex is also a natural partner in this venture — unique in having reached the Challenger Deep 52 years ago and in its celebrated, century-long history of supporting exploration and helping push the boundaries of human and scientific endeavor.”

The Challenger Deep has only been reached once in a manned descent, on Jan. 23, 1960, by U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh and Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard in the bathyscaphe Trieste. They spent approximately 20 minutes on the ocean floor before returning to the surface. Now, 52 years later, Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge represents breakthroughs in materials science, unique approaches to structural engineering and new ways of imaging through an ultra-small, full ocean depth-rated stereoscopic camera. Cameron’s CAMERON / PACE Group, which supplies 3-D technologies and production support services, has provided the capability to document the historic expedition in high-resolution 3-D.

“Some believe the golden age of exploration is behind us. On the contrary, I believe we are at the beginning of our greatest age of exploration,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president for Mission Programs. “We salute James Cameron for his commitment to science and exploration, and we are delighted to be part of this groundbreaking adventure to the deepest and least explored point on Earth.”

In 1960, an experimental Rolex Deepsea Special watch was attached to the hull of the Trieste and emerged in perfect working order after withstanding the huge pressure exerted at 6.78 miles (nearly 11 km) below the surface. The Deepsea Challenge submersible will carry a new experimental wristwatch, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, strapped to its manipulator arm, renewing the pioneering engineering challenge the Swiss watchmaker took up 52 years ago with the Trieste.

“Our affinity with the deep also extends to active and sustained support of renowned marine researchers, supporting excellence and innovation in the advancement of human knowledge,” said Gian Riccardo Marini, Chief Executive Officer of Rolex SA. “I am convinced that James Cameron is bringing us to the threshold of a long-delayed revival in marine exploration. We are proud to have such a passionate and longstanding admirer of Rolex, and to return to the Challenger Deep on this historic venture to help unravel the secrets of the ocean’s deepest places.”

Cameron was named a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence in 2011. While working on his film “Titanic,” he took 12 submersible dives to the famed shipwreck two and a half miles down in the North Atlantic. The technical success of that expedition led Cameron to form Earthship Productions, which develops films about ocean exploration and conservation. Since then he has led six expeditions, authored a forensic study of the Bismarck wreck site and done extensive 3-D imaging of deep hydrothermal vent sites along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the East Pacific Rise and the Sea of Cortez. Cameron has made 72 deep submersible dives, including 33 to Titanic. Fifty-one of these dives were in Russian Mir submersibles to depths of up to 3.03 miles (4.87 km).

Cameron has written and directed numerous films, among them “Avatar,” “Titanic,” “True Lies,” “Terminator 1 and 2,” “The Abyss” and “Aliens.” His films have blazed new trails in visual effects and have set numerous performance records, both domestically and abroad, including 11 Oscars for “Titanic.” “Avatar,” a 3-D science fiction epic reflecting five years of development of new production technologies, was nominated for nine Oscars and won three. “Avatar” is the highest-grossing film in history, surpassing the previous record holder, “Titanic.”

The Deepsea Challenge expedition will be chronicled for a 3-D feature film for theatrical release on the intensive technological and scientific efforts behind this historic dive, which will subsequently be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel, and documented for National Geographic magazine. Cameron also will collaborate with National Geographic to create broad-based educational outreach materials.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, is the Deepsea Challenge Project’s primary science collaborator. For nearly a decade, Scripps has been involved with James Cameron in developing new ways to explore and study the deepest parts of the oceans. With its decades-long history of deep-sea exploration, Scripps is recognized as a world leader in investigating the science of the deep ocean, from exploring the deep’s geological features to researching its exotic marine life inhabitants.

The expedition also is collaborating with the University of Hawaii, Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the University of Guam. Additional funding for education and digital outreach has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which supports original research and public understanding of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Scientific research permits for the dive have been secured from authorities in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Note: In February, two members of the Deepsea Challenge team, world-renowned filmmakers and explorers Andrew Wight and Mike deGruy, were killed in a helicopter crash in Australia. The team will honor their memory by moving forward with the expedition as a tribute to them and their contributions to the project.

About the National Geographic Society


The National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to “increase and diffuse geographic knowledge,” the Society’s mission is to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 400 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; exhibitions; live events; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy.