A Look Back Into Rolex’s Deep Sea Expedition

Over the course of nearly a century, Rolex has expanded its support for successive generations of explorers in their achievements, as they push back the limits of endurance and expand knowledge of our planet.  
A Look Back Into Rolex’s Deep Sea Expedition
Photo courtesy: Rolex

As we move from an era of discovering the world to one of preserving the environment and learning how best to protect what has been explored, Rolex is at the forefront and partners those who strive to achieve the extraordinary.

For over 90 years, Rolex has accompanied many of humanity’s greatest feats as men and women have broken long-standing records, defied the elements and explored the globe’s most forbidding frontiers, revealing unexplored environments.

Expeditions to the highest and deepest points on the planet also led to the development of what became known as the Professional range of Rolex watches, veritable tools that also serve those who embark on the world’s most challenging endeavour. The exploits carried out by explorers accomplishing extraordinary feats wearing Rolex watches helped to develop a series of Oyster Perpetual models such as the Explorer and Explorer II, the Submariner, Sea-Dweller and the Deep Sea.

The relationship between the marine universe, its depths and Rolex dates back to 1926, and the launch of the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch in the world, whose name was inspired by the underwater oyster.

On 23 January 1960, in the Pacific Ocean, some 320 kilometers from the coast of the US island of Guam. A vessel from another age, the Bathyscaphe Trieste, with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and American Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh on board, descended to the record depth of 10,916 metres under the sea in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench.


A Look Back Into Rolex’s Deep Sea Expedition 1

The Bathyscaphe Trieste. Photo courtesy: Rolex

A Look Back Into Rolex’s Deep Sea Expedition 2

James Cameron. Photo courtesy: Rolex

A first in oceanic history

Attached to its hull, an experimental model, the Deep – Sea special, was an integral part of the expedition. Specially developed to withstand the colossal pressure present at such great depths, the watch surfaced, almost nine hours later, in perfect working condition. By discovering that life exists nearly 11 kilometers under the surface of the sea, the Trieste and its crew not only set a record that has yet to be equaled. They also established a fundamental milestone for deep-sea exploration and in the knowledge of the underwater world. Deep-sea diving is not only a fascinating way to surpass limits, but also a means to discover the existence of unknown species, rare geographic phenomena, new frontiers and historic vestiges.

A Rolex Testimonee since 2013, James Cameron is the only individual ever to complete the dive to the deepest area in the world’s oceans in a solo vessel, and the first person since 1960 to reach the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Although best known as a film-maker, James Cameron is also an intrepid explorer, inventor and avid creator of cutting-edge technology.

Cameron’s passion for engineering and fascination with the ocean led him to launch the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, in collaboration with Rolex and National Geographic. On this expedition, Cameron – a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence – descended 10,908 metres (35,787 feet) to reach the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, in his specially designed submersible DEEPSEA CHALLENGER.

An experimental watch (fixed to the robotic arm of the submersible), the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres, was exclusively developed and manufactured for the expedition, using decades of unique know-how and technology for divers’ watches. James Cameron also took a 1960 Rolex Deep Sea Special with him in the cockpit, as a tribute to the pioneers of the Trieste that symbolically connected two eras of marine exploration.

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