During the early 1950s, Rolex carried out a series of extreme and rigorous tests on a new experimental wristwatch. This special watch, which was not a dive watch was constructed from steel. It was designed with one objective in mind, to be the most water-resistant watch ever built.
By August 1953, Rolex had engineered their experimental wristwatch, which was known as the 'Deep Sea Special'. It was first tested down to 1,080 meters, approximately 3,543 feet, then to 3,150 meters approximately 10,334 feet, which it reached later that year. It was finally ocean tested a third time 3 years later in 1956 to a depth of 3,700 meters, approximately 12,138 feet.
In 1960, with the knowledge that they has gained from the making of the first two watches, Rolex begun work on the third 'Deep Sea Special', which again was constructed to be able to withstand the enormous pressures from the ocean's depths. It would remain unmatched in terms of water-resistance for another 52 years!
Its steel 'Oyster' case measured just 42.7mm in diameter, but had a thickness of 36mm. It was fitted with an 'Oyster' double-sealed crown, a massive screwdown steel caseback and 18mm thick Plexiglass acrylic crystal. The watch was powered by a Rolex 1570 self-winding mechanical movement.
This incredible watch (even by today's standards) was then strapped to the Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible, manned by two intrepid pioneers of the deep, Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh - in readiness for the ultimate field test.
On January 23rd, 1960 the Rolex Deep Sea Special, an experimental mechanical wristwatch was submerged to the incredible depth of 10,916 meter, 37,800 feet on a mega-dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the deepest known point on the Earth. It survived the historic dive in perfect working order.
To this day the Rolex Deep Sea Special continues to intrigue. Its design is as fascinating as the story behind it. Engineered for extremes, its most prominent feature, the exaggerated monolith that is its crystal, was designed to withstand the 6 crushing tons-per-square-inch of pressure that are present 6 miles deep - its case, though, remains deceptively uncomplicated.
The un-guarded, oversized crown, a trait of its fine vintage. The dial that distorts under the enormous crystal as if it were already at great depth is as clean and tranquil looking as I've seen. For me the watch epitomizes both brawn and beauty.
It evokes a feeling of nostalgia as we look back fondly on the days, when making watches likes these was as much about discovering the unknown as it was about venturing into it. Sadly, but not surprisingly the Rolex Deep Sea Special watch never went into production. Beautifully impractical, but nonetheless desirable, it has remained out of reach -
so it may not come as much of a surprise that as you read this there are those, who are already working on making the unobtainable obtainable! Deep Sea dreamers, your prayers may have been answered! Stay glued to OceanicTime, where all will be revealed shortly . . .
Follow the link HERE to see OceanicTime's rare and exclusive live images of the 2012 Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA Challenge watch . . .