Fifty years ago

January 23, 1960: the bathyscaphe Trieste and Rolex reach a depth of 10,916 meters

A deep dive record

The Watch Quote™ - March 19th, 2010

The bathyscaphe Trieste

50 years later, this deep dive into uncharted waters not only remains an unmatched record but constitutes a milestone in underwater exploration and in increasing awareness of the need to better protect the oceans.

Geneva, January 22, 2010 — Fifty years ago, Rolex and the bathyscaphe Trieste made history when US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, accompanied by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard, piloted the US Navy vessel to the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the heart of the Mariana Trench, some 200 miles off the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. Strapped to the outside of the Swiss-designed submersible was a Rolex watch. A third-generation Rolex prototype of the Deep Sea Special was specifically engineered to withstand the tremendous pressure that would be encountered, approximately eight tons per square inch, at a depth of over 10,900 meters (35,000 feet) in the Challenger Deep.

Date: January 23, 1960
Location: Pacific Ocean: The Mariana Trench, approximately 200 miles from the island of Guam
Depth reached: 10,916 meters, a feat unsurpassed to this day
Scientific discovery: marine life thriving in the total absence of light

When the Triesteand her intrepid crew of two surfaced over eight and a half hours later, they had completed the deepest dive ever undertaken by a vessel – manned or unmanned – and the Rolex Deep Sea Special was in perfect working condition. “Happy to announce that your watch works as well at 11,000 meters as it does on the surface”, Piccard wrote in a telegram addressed several days after the dive to the Rolex headquarters in Geneva.

The Rolex Deep Sea Special watch

Their successful voyage to the still deepest known place in the Earth’s oceans not only set a record that has never been broken, but also constituted an important milestone in the exploration and knowledge of the underwater world, an environment that was little known at the time despite its crucial role for man and his survival on earth.

Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard

Nearly seven miles below the surface, Walsh and Piccard used the light from their mercury vapor lamps to witness something never seen before: marine life at the very bottom of the ocean, previously believed to be unsustainable under such pressure and in the total absence of light. A discovery that astonished the global scientific community and contributed to increasing awareness of the need to better preserve our oceans.


Protecting the “blue heart of the planet”

“We are very dependent on the natural systems that sustain us. If we take care of the ocean and the rest of the natural world, we’re really taking care of ourselves”, said Sylvia Earle, the pioneering US marine biologist and Rolex Testimonee who has dedicated her life to the protection of what she calls the “blue heart of the planet”.

Océanographer Sylvia Earle

Walsh and Piccard’s achievement brought Rolex and its extraordinary technology into the public consciousness for its scientific value. Moreover, special notice of the feat was also taken by the elite diving community who would come to treasure Rolex watches as essential tools of their trade. In water, Rolex is in its element and the name of its iconic waterproof wristwatch, the Oyster, is no accident.

Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh

In the years following the Trieste’s “deepest dive”, the Rolex Submariner was the watch of choice for the US Naval School for Deep Sea Divers and for the US Navy’s SEA-LAB program which also provided robust developmental testing, in advance of the Rolex Sea-Dweller’s introduction in 1967.

From the creation of the Oyster in 1926 to the utmost test of its prowess in Mercedes Gleitze’s 1927 English Channel swim, on to the introduction of more and more sophisticated waterproof models since then to the present, Rolex has continuously sustained its commitment to being at the forefront of manufacturing watches that resist water and are ultimately compatible with water-related activities and underwater research.

Mercedes Gleitze’s 1927 English Channel swim

Rolex milestones include: the Submariner created in 1953, originally waterproof to a depth of 100 meters and today to 300 meters (100 feet); the Deep Sea Special prototype of 1960 that withstood the pressure at Earth’s deepest point; the Sea-Dweller presented in 1967, waterproof to 610 meters (300 feet) and featuring a helium valve to protect it during deep dives; the 1978 Sea-Dweller 4000, waterproof to 1,220 meters (4,000 feet); the revolutionary Rolex Deepsea of 2008, waterproof to 3,900 meters (12,800 feet).


The world’s most noteworthy exploits

Rolex has always been proud to be associated with some of the world’s most noteworthy exploits: Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent of Everest, Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, Roger Federer becoming the champion of champions in tennis, the many victories of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus, the legendary “Big Three” in the golf world, the triumphs of sailors in major races like the Rolex Sydney Hobart, to name but a few.

Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier

The integrity of these champions and their achievements go hand in hand with the outstanding quality and precision of the Rolex watches they were wearing and the well-earned reputation of the company that stands behind these exceptional timepieces.


About Rolex

Leader in the Swiss watchmaking industry, Rolex is the crowning symbol of quality and prestige. Headquartered in Geneva, and represented in over 100 countries by 26 affiliates, the brand is recognized worldwide for both its savoir-faire and the peerless performance of its exquisite timepieces, all rigorously des-igned, manufactured and assembled at the Group’s four sites in Switzerland. Rolex owes its reputation to the pioneering spirit and perpetual quest for perfection and innovation that have distinguished the brand since its creation over a century ago. In 1926 Rolex invented the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch and, in 1931, it created the first self-winding mechanism with a Perpetual rotor. Rolex is also renowned for its privileged association with the worlds of sport, exploration and culture, the Oyster wristwatch being ever synonymous with excellence and achievement. The brand further prides itself on its avant-garde role in the world of sponsoring and philanthropy.

Timeline - Rolex Diver's watches

1953-2008


1953 - Launch of the first Submariner. The watch, equipped with the new, patented Twinlock system, was waterproof to a depth of 100 meters. Later in the same year, the Submariner became waterproof to the astounding depth of 200 meters.

1954 - The Submariner was unveiled at the Basel fair in the spring.

1960s - Rolex supplies French elite diving company COMEX with Submariner and Sea-Dweller models issued to its specialist divers. Additionally, Rolex Submariners are used by the US Naval School for Deep Sea Divers and the US Navy’s revolutionary SEA-LAB program.

1967 - The Sea-Dweller, equipped with a graduated, rotatable bezel and its patented helium-escape valve is launched and is waterproof to 610 meters.

1970 - Creation of the Triplock system. Rolex fixes a third gasket to the inside tube of the crown. The Sea-Dweller 2000 is now equipped with a Triplock crown.

1978 - Birth of the Sea-Dweller 4000, waterproof to 1,220 meters.

1979 - The Submariner is waterproof to 300 meters.

2003 - A special 50th anniversary edition of the legendary Submariner, fitted with a green bezel, marks the half-century since the first Submariner was created.

2008 - Birth of the Rolex Deepsea. Equipped with the new, patented Ringlock system, this new generation divers’ watch can withstand depths of up to 3,900 meters.


Timeline - Rolex Deep Sea Special

1950s - Rolex produces a watch, technically identical to the original Oyster but larger, intended to resist the intense pressure found at great depths. The first prototype of the Deep Sea Special is successfully depth-tested by expert divers.

In the early 1950s Rolex is in the final stages of perfecting the divers’ watch. In the interest of demonstrating the outstanding efficiency of its waterproof watch at great depths and under tremendous pressure, Rolex begins to work with Swiss inventor Auguste Piccard, father of Jacques Piccard.

1953 - In tandem with dives carried out by the Trieste, a second version of the Deep Sea Special - even more resistant and robust than the first - is strapped to the outside of the bathyscaphe and successfully tested at 1,080 meters. It is submerged to 3,150 meters later the same year. When not being tested, the watch is stored in a specially made wooden box with an instruction sheet detailing how to wind and set the watch tacked to the inside of the lid.

1956 - The same prototype finally reaches a depth of 3,700 metres during a new dive of the Trieste.

1960 - Using the knowledge gained from the making of the first two models, the third Deep Sea Special is created to withstand the most extreme conditions. This is the watch that, strapped one more time to the bathyscaphe Trieste, is found to be in perfect working order after reaching the Challenger Deep portion of the Mariana Trench at 10,916 meters below the surface of the sea.

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