The Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge marks a new milestone in the human and technical adventure that Rolex engineers and deep-sea explorers have shared for decades – the desire to expand even further the horizons of our planet’s undersea realm.
Last November, a full month before the world premiere of his blockbuster Avatar: The Way of Water, acclaimed movie director and Rolex Testimonee James Cameron took time out of his busy schedule for the unveiling of Rolex’s new Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge – a timepiece that takes inspiration from the experimental watch that accompanied the filmmaker on his historic 10,908-metre descent into the Mariana Trench back in 2012.
And while that experimental watch was attached to the manipulator arm of the filmmaker’s submersible – a remarkable mini-submarine of his own design – the new Deepsea Challenge is definitely designed to be worn on the wrist.
In the prestigious pantheon of Rolex divers’ watches, this latest model represents a new milestone, delivering with it a set of unprecedented credentials. Crafted from RLX titanium, a grade 5 titanium alloy selected by Rolex, it’s guaranteed waterproof to an astounding depth of 11,000 metres – over 6,000 fathoms!
Engineered to withstand extreme pressure, it’s capable of accompanying divers in any environment, ranging from freedives, to submersible dives, to hyperbaric chambers. In short, the Deepsea Challenge is specifically designed to turn pressure into an ally in any situation.
Not surprisingly, years of research were required to overcome the watchmaking and manufacturing challenges that the fabrication of this watch presented, especially as it has been conceived with everyday use in mind.
From the case to the bracelet, every element of this 50mm timepiece has been carefully considered, incorporating the full spectrum of Rolex’s expertise in divers’ watches. Thanks to the aforementioned RLX titanium – a robust and particularly lightweight metal – the Deepsea Challenge is 30 percent lighter than the experimental model of 2012.
In addition, modifications were made to some of the components in order to create optimally harmonious and ergonomic proportions, most notably with the crystal having been slimmed down.
The Deepsea Challenge is also a showcase for many of the major innovations developed by Rolex over the years. The Ringlock system, for instance, is a patented case architecture that enables the watch to withstand extreme pressure.
The helium escape valve, meanwhile, allows surplus gas to escape from the watch during a diver’s decompression phase in a hyperbaric chamber, reducing the pressure inside the case that could otherwise damage the watch. Also of note is the Triplock crown, with three sealed zones, and the Chromalight display, whose long-lasting luminescence provides exceptional legibility.
Aesthetically, the Deepsea Challenge is distinctive for the particularly visible grain in its satin finish, and for the polished edges of its lugs. On a distinctly practical note, the clever bracelet extension systems – Rolex Glidelock and the Fliplock extension link – allow the watch to be worn over a diving suit up to 7mm thick.
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, thanks in no small part to the technologically advanced calibre 3230, a movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex.
This self-winding movement contains such patented components as the Chronergy escapement and the Parachrom hairspring – insensitive to magnetic fields – as well as Paraflex shock absorbers. And thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency, the resulting power reserve clocks in at approximately 70 hours.
Of course, to meet the needs of deep-sea diving professionals it’s a watch’s waterproofness that really counts, and this has been a fundamental pillar of Rolex’s watchmaking strengths since the Oyster case was first unveiled back in 1926 (almost a century ago). A completely hermetic construction, in which the bezel, case back, and winding crown are screwed down against the middle case, it’s a system that has only gotten better over time.
In 1953, Rolex released the Submariner, which was guaranteed waterproof to 100 metres, and subsequently to 300 metres. Then, in 1967, the Sea-Dweller made its debut, fitted with an automatic helium release valve and guaranteed waterproofness to 610 metres (and later 1,220 metres). More recent developments include the Rolex Deepsea, presented in 2008, which came equipped with a Ringlock system that could resist the pressure exerted at 3,900 metres.
Now, adding to this noble lineage, comes the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge, and to test its unprecedented waterproofness Rolex specially developed – in partnership with Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) – an ultra-high- pressure tank capable of reproducing a test pressure that’s equivalent to that exerted by water at a depth of 13,750 metres.
As an homage to explorers of the ocean depths, the Deepsea Challenge comes with the words ‘Mariana Trench’, as well as the dates ‘23-01-1960’ and ‘26-03-2012’, engraved on the case back; a thoughtful tribute to two historic dives made into this fabled underwater abyss. The first was that of oceanographer Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh aboard the Trieste, in 1960, while the second commemorates filmmaker and explorer James Cameron’s daring solo descent a little over a decade ago.