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INTRODUCING: Rolex’s first titanium watch, Deepsea Challenge

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is the brand's first titanium watch.

The oversized diver, made in RLX titanium, will be available in stores from this month forth.

Yesterday, Rolex Testimonee James Cameron joined Rolex in unveiling the brand’s very first titanium timepiece, the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge. Rolex has resisted the trend towards new and modern materials for its cases and bracelets in the past, but this debut timepiece takes the brand forward. The Deepsea Challenge doesn’t just break past Rolex traditions of classic precious metals (which includes its 904L Oystersteel) for its cases, but also in every other way.

James Cameron wears the Deepsea Challenge.
James Cameron wears the Deepsea Challenge, with a model of the submersible that took him down to Challenger Deep..


First, the dive watch has a water resistance of 11,000m (36,090ft), or approximately seven miles, the depth of the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the Mariana Trench. The trench, located in the western Pacific Ocean, is the deepest point in the world. A decade ago, James Cameron made headlines when he became the first human to submerge into the Challenger Deep on a solo mission, collecting scientific data, specimens, and a visual record of the deep trench.  

The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea (2008), Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge (2022), Deep Sea Special (1960), Deepsea Challenge (2012) and Oyster Perpetual Submariner (1986).
From left to right: The Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea (2008), Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge (2022), Deep Sea Special (1960), Deepsea Challenge (2012) and Oyster Perpetual Submariner (1986).


Of course, no one needs a dive watch that will survive the crushing pressure of 11km below sea level, but it’s delightful to know that this watch will survive it should it accidentally slip off your wrist during a dive around the Mariana Islands. 

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is housed in titanium, a first for the brand.
The Rolex Deepsea Challenge is housed in titanium, a first for the brand.


NEW AND IMPRESSIVE SPECIFICATIONS
The Deepsea Challenge breaks the brand’s own record-setting Deepsea Sea-Dweller watch, which is rated at 3,900m. Housed in grade 5 titanium that’s monikered RLX titanium (ROLEX without the vowels), it has the brand’s helium escape valve and Ringlock system that’s present in all of its diving models. Rolex chose RLX titanium because it can be polished to a mirror finish, is highly durable and lightweight but also hypoallergenic and corrosion-resistant.

The caseback of the watch is engraved with dive records to the Mariana Trench.
The caseback of the watch is engraved with dive records to the Mariana Trench.


Based on the experimental timepiece that accompanied Cameron on his 2012 dive, the new watch also takes Rolex models to a new size at 50mm, the largest wristwatch the brand has ever produced. It’s unclear why the watch size had to be increased to 50mm compared with the existing Deepseas at 44mm, but given that Omega’s Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep released earlier this year is also oversized at 45.5mm with a water resistance of 6,000m, we can assume it’s likely due to a pressure requirement. It’s nearly unimaginable that a 50mm Rolex would ever be in serial production, but now that it’s here, we can’t wait to try it on.

UPDATE: Rolex confirmed that the 50mm case size is necessary for the water resistance and the reason for using RLX titanium. The company also added that this is the largest case size ever used for a Rolex watch in their catalog, and is 23.3mm thick with a 9.5mm thick sapphire crystal.

Manufacturing the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge's case middle from RLX titanium.
Manufacturing the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge's case middle from RLX titanium.


What is different between Cameron’s experimental watch and the Deepsea Challenge is that the sapphire crystal that protects the watch is slimmer to make it less obtrusive in style. On the dial, the inner bezel is enlarged, with “Original Gas Escape Valve” and “Ring Lock System” printed under the crystal. The titanium bracelet bears Rolex’s Glidelock and Fliplock extension link systems to enable wearing over a 7mm diving suit. The watch is powered by the Calibre 3230, which bears Rolex’s Chronergy escapement and Parachrom hairspring. It has a power reserve of 70 hours and is resistant to magnetic influence, with a Superlative Chronometer accuracy of +/- 2 seconds a day.  

The pressure tank used to test the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge's water resistance, developed by Comex.
The pressure tank used to test the Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge's water resistance, developed by Comex.


To test the watch’s water resistance, Rolex worked with Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) to develop an ultra-high-pressure tank that can reproduce the pressures of 13,750m underwater in order to meet ISO 6425 requirements. You’ll recall that Comex was the organisation Rolex partnered with during the 1970s to create the famed Submariner references 5513 and 5514, as well as the Sea-Dweller reference 1665. This partnership continued well into 2004, with the references 16610 and 16660, which were discontinued.  


The watch is priced at S$36,040 and will be available at all Rolex boutiques and sales points from this month onwards. We suggest you call up your sales representatives to place an order soon.

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Editor

Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.


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