The many diving watches in the Rolex portfolio are a testimony to its love for the ocean, starting with the time developed the world’s first waterproof timepiece.
The relationship between the marine universe, its depths and Rolex dates back to 1926 with the Oyster, the first waterproof wristwatch in the world, whose name was inspired by the underwater oyster. A year later, the company founder Hans Wilsdorf tested the limits of his watch’s waterproofing ability by equipping Mercedes Gleitze, a young Englishwoman, with an Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, as she attempted to become the first female from her country to swim the English Channel. After more than 10 hours in the water, the watch emerged in perfect working order.
This event marked the birth of the Testimonee concept and the beginning of a long and fruitful association between Rolex and exceptional explorers, They achieved extraordinary feats wearing Rolex watches, and helped develop many of Rolex’s great watches. Over the years, Rolex has partnered landmark marine achievements. In 1960, a bathyscaphe piloted by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh carried an experimental Oyster watch, the Deep Sea Special, fixed to its exterior as it descended to a record depth of 10,916 metres in the Mariana Trench. The watch withstood colossal pressure that no human could survive.
Here’s a look back at some deep sea pioneers and missions that Rolex has supported over the years.
SYLVIA EARLE : Internationally renowned marine biologist and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Dr Sylvia Earle is a pioneer of the deep, called “Her Deepness” by The New Yorker and The New York Times. After more than 50 years of underwater exploration, she possesses the same drive and passion as when she made her very first dive at the age of 17. She has led numerous oceanographic expeditions researching marine ecosystems and the technology to access the deep-sea environment, logging more than 7,500 hours dive time in the course of her career. Her first connection with Rolex dates back to 1970, when the brand equipped the first all-female team of women aquanauts, led by Earle, on Tektite II, a marine exploration programme which also tested the health effects of prolonged living in underwater structures.
MISSION BLUE : Mission Blue aims to galvanize global support for marine protected areas that will cover 20 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2020, through public outreach, scientific expeditions and partnerships with global corporations and governmental bodies. The organization founded by Sylvia Earle is igniting public awareness for a growing network of Hope Spots around the globe that are regarded as vital to the oceans’ health. Mission Blue’s primary measure of success is the increasing amount of ocean formally protected from environmental damage and over-exploitation each year.
DAVID DOUBILET : American David Doubilet is a pioneer and one of the best-known underwater photographers in the world. After publishing his first article in National Geographic in 1971, he swiftly gained recognition as one of the magazine’s top photographers. From the Red Sea to the South Pacific Ocean, from Suruga Bay in Japan to Monterey Bay in California, and more recently in Antarctica, Doubilet has captured all the waters of the planet. These exceptional images contribute to public fascination for the ocean and its creatures, encouraging their preservation. He is a National Geographic Contributing Photographer-in-Residence
JAMES CAMERON: James Cameron is the only individual to complete a 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. His passion led him to launch the Deepsea Challenge expedition, in collaboration with Rolex and National Geographic, descending 10,908 metres to reach the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, in his specially designed submersible Deepsea Challenger.
An experimental watch, the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres, was exclusively developed and manufactured for the expedition. Cameron also took a 1960 Rolex Deep Sea Special with him.
COMEX : As of the early 1960s, a relationship was established between Rolex and the Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises (Comex), whose divers wore Rolex Sea-Dweller watches while working at great depths. Comex, headed by the late Henri Germain Delauze, played a pioneering role in deep-sea diving and remains a world-renowned specialist in hyperbaric engineering and underwater work. The relationship between Rolex and Comex continues to this day. Every Rolex Deepsea is tested in Geneva in a hyperbaric tank specially created by Comex, to a pressure equivalent to that at a depth of 4,875 metres (16,000 feet).