Rolex Deepsea with D Blue Dial: Commemorating James Cameron’s Historic DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Expedition

On the occasion of the release of National Geographic’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D film about the expedition to the deepest reaches of the ocean by explorer and film-maker James Cameron, Rolex has introduced a new version of its Deepsea watch.

This ultimate divers’ watch, resistant to extreme pressure, is equipped with a “D-blue” dial representing the colours of the deep. The deep blue to pitch-black gradient dial is reminiscent of the ocean’s twilight zone where the last trickle of light from the surface disappears into the abyss, echoing James Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition.

As a tribute to the partnership between Rolex and Cameron, the “DEEPSEA”  marking  on  the  new  dial  adopts  the  colour  of  the  explorer’s  green submersible as it is perceived underwater.

Image Credit: Rolex

The new Rolex Deepsea watch with D-Blue dial (116660B) was introduced on Monday 4 August in New York, during the US premiere of the documentary film in the splendid Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History, in the presence of James Cameron and many other personalities from the worlds of underwater exploration and cinema.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D traces Cameron’s historic dive into the Mariana Trench with the support of Rolex and National Geographic.

On 26th March 2012, film-maker and explorer James Cameron  made  a record-breaking solo dive 10,908 metres (35,787 feet) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean piloting the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible. He remained on the ocean floor for three hours to explore, take samples and capture the first-ever high-resolution images of this last frontier.

Image Credit: Rolex

Scientists estimate that 95 per cent of the oceans remain unexplored and hold hidden clues to life on Earth. The samples taken on the expedition have led to the identification of at least 68 new species. The documentary film follows the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE adventure from its very beginning to the last of its 13 Pacific dives.

The inspirational DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition paved the way for a new era in scientific exploration of the deep. No human being had returned to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench since 23 January 1960, the date of the first manned dive to the bottom by the bathyscaphe Trieste.

Rolex watches have a connection with both the Trieste and the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expeditions. During both historic dives, an experimental Rolex watch attached to the hull of the submersible was exposed to the most colossal water pressure on the planet, some 11 kilometres (7 miles) below the surface. Both watches emerged working perfectly, illustrating the supremacy of Rolex in mastering waterproofness.

Rolex played a pioneering role in the conquest of the deep with the creation, in 1926, of the Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, then of professional divers’ watches:  the Oyster Perpetual Submariner (1953), Sea-Dweller (1967) and Deepsea (2008).

Image Credit: Rolex

The Rolex Deepsea, a new-generation divers’ watch, is waterproof to an extreme depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet). Its 44 mm Oyster case, reinforced with the patented Ringlock System, was designed to exceed the most exacting demands of professional divers. It defines new standards of robustness, precision, functionality and reliability.

James Cameron was wearing a Rolex Deepsea during his expedition into the Mariana Trench. The model also served as the blueprint for the design of the experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge, waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres (39,370 feet) and tested in real-life conditions during Cameron’s dive, affixed to the robotic arm of his submersible.

With the Rolex Deepsea (reference 116660B) with a gradient “D-blue” dial, Rolex is celebrating not only its partnership with James Cameron’s historic expedition, but also its commitment to exploration, innovation and the constant desire to push the limits of human endeavour.

Image Credit: Rolex

Waterproof to an extreme depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet), this state-of-the art diving watch benefits from exclusive  innovations developed by Rolex to exceed the most exacting demands of professional divers.

The Rolex Deepsea defines new standards of robustness, precision, functionality and reliability. In essence, the Rolex Deepsea is the ultimate Oyster: a watch that defies the elements. Its 44 mm Oyster case, reinforced with the patented Ringlock System, was designed to provide the highest degree of resistance in a size that remains wearable and practical.

Image Credit: Rolex

The Rolex Deepsea’s waterproof Oyster case is hewn from a solid block of 904L stainless steel superalloy. This particularly corrosion-resistant grade of steel is greatly valued in the chemical and aerospace industry for its high performance. The Oyster case holds the three components of the Ringlock System.

The Triplock winding crown, equipped with three seals, screws down securely against the case, completing the waterproofness system and offering watertight security akin to a submarine’s hatch.

The Rolex Deepsea owes its exceptional strength, waterproofness and pressure resistance to the exclusive Ringlock System. This innovative case architecture patented by Rolex enables the watch to resist the massive pressure exerted by water at the depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet), equivalent to a weight of approximately 3 tonnes on the watch.

Image Credit: Rolex

Its construction is based on three elements: A nearly indestructible nitrogen- alloyed stainless steel compression ring is positioned inside the watch case, around the movement, to provide support for the crystal and the case back.

The new version of the Rolex Deepsea (reference 116660B) sports a deep blue to pitch-black gradient dial, reminiscent of the ocean’s twilight zone where the last trickle of light from the surface disappears into the abyss.

This new “D-blue” dial echoes the journey to the deepest point in the ocean undertaken by film-maker and explorer James Cameron in 2012 with his DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, partnered by Rolex and National Geographic.

As a tribute to this partnership, the “DEEPSEA” marking on the new dial adopts the colour of James Cameron’s green submersible as it is perceived underwater.

Image Credit: Rolex

The watch face is protected by a dense, 5 mm dome-shaped sapphire crystal, made of high-purity aluminium oxide. Finally, the case back in grade 5 titanium is held tight against the high performance compression ring by a screw-down ring in 904L stainless steel. The almost imperceptible flexibility of grade 5 titanium allows the water pressure to strengthen the hermetic seal of the case as depth increases, by forcing the components tighter and tighter together.

The Chromalight hour markers and hands are filled with a luminescent material emitting a long-lasting blue glow – lasting up to twice as long as traditional materials. On the bezel, the zero marker of the graduation, in the form of a triangle, is visible in the dark thanks to a capsule containing the same luminescent material.

The unidirectional rotatable bezel of the Rolex Deepsea is fitted with a 60-minute graduated black Cerachrom insert that allows divers to safely monitor their time underwater and their decompression stops. The insert, made of an extremely hard and corrosion-resistant ceramic, is virtually scratchproof and its colour never fades.

The numerals and the graduations are engraved in the ceramic and coated with platinum using a PVD process patented by Rolex, for optimal legibility and durability. The bezel’s knurled edge offers excellent grip when setting dive time, even with diving gloves.

The Rolex Deepsea’s Oyster case is equipped with a helium escape valve. Patented by Rolex in 1967, this safety valve acts as a miniature decompression chamber for the watch and is essential for deep-sea saturation diving. During the decompression phases that professional divers undergo in hyperbaric chambers, the helium valve automatically regulates the excess pressure trapped inside the watch case without compromising the waterproofness of the watch.

The Rolex Deepsea Reference 116660B is powered by Calibre 3135, a self-winding mechanical movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex.

Like all Rolex Perpetual movements, the 3135 is a certified Swiss chronometer, a designation reserved for high-precision watches that have successfully passed the Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) tests. Its architecture, like that of all Oyster watch movements, makes it singularly reliable.

The Rolex Deepsea’s Oyster bracelet is equipped with an Oysterlock safety clasp that prevents accidental opening, and with a double extension system that allows the watch to be worn comfortably over a diving suit up to 7 mm thick. The Fliplock extension link extends the bracelet by 26 mm, while the Rolex Glidelock system allows fine adjustments of the bracelet length in 2 mm increments for a total of approximately 20 mm. Neither of them requires the use of any tools.

In deep- sea diving, reliability and security are paramount. Each Rolex Deepsea therefore undergoes stringent waterproofness and pressure-resistance tests. To this end, Rolex uses a specifically designed piece of equipment: a high-performance, stainless steel hyperbaric tank, which is cast in a single piece and weighs 1.3 tonnes. It simulates the pressure at 4,875 metres (16,000 feet)  below sea level, 25 per cent greater than the depth indicated on the watch dial.

This test is destructive, meaning that the slightest weakness in a watch would cause it to implode. Obviously, all Rolex Deepsea watches offered for sale have survived this test. This high-tech equipment was developed and manufactured by Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises), an internationally renowned company specializing in underwater engineering and hyperbaric technology.

Rolex has been collaborating with Comex for decades and supplied watches to equip the French firm’s elite divers on deep-sea engineering missions. Comex’s professional divers set the world records for the deepest saturation dives, and still hold them to this day.

In 2012, the innovative case architecture of the Rolex Deepsea and its Ringlock System served as the blueprint for the design of the Rolex Deepsea Challenge, an experimental divers’ watch guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 metres (39,370 feet). Entirely engineered and manufactured by Rolex, it was custom-made to resist the extreme pressure found in the deepest reaches of the oceans.

On 26 March 2012, it  accompanied James Cameron on his record-breaking solo submersible dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. Cameron reached a depth of 10,908 metres (35,787 feet) in the Challenger Deep, the ocean’s deepest point.

The Rolex Deepsea Challenge emerged unscathed. To achieve this level of performance, Rolex engineers only had to scale up the dimensions of the commercial Rolex Deepsea, from 44 to 51.4 mm, trading wearability for ultimate pressure resistance. Because the only practical limit to the Rolex Deepsea’s performance is the requirement that it fit on a human wrist.

About James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE was a joint scientific expedition led by James Cameron in partnership with Rolex and National Geographic that pushed the limits of human endeavour in underwater exploration, science and innovation.

In the deepest marine trenches, the water pressure is more than 1,000 times greater than at sea level –over 7 tonnes per square inch – and sunlight is completely blacked out, making this environment the most unwelcoming on Earth.  The expedition paved the way for more scientific research of the great depths. Scientists estimate that 95 per cent of the oceans remain unexplored and hold hidden clues to life on Earth.

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGE dives off the coast of Papua New Guinea and in the Mariana Trench shed new light on the deep, providing high-resolution 3D images and collecting valuable samples for the scientific community that have led to the identification of at least 68 new species.

They include shrimp-like creatures called amphipods, sea cucumbers, tens of thousands of microbes, and stringy rock coatings known as microbial mats which contain organisms that can survive in the dark.

Image Credit: Rolex

The expedition included a team of scientists aboard the support vessel who helped to collect and analyse the samples and imagery that Cameron collected on his dives. These assets continue to be analysed by biologists, geologists and marine specialists at research institutions around the world.

In August 2014, James Cameron released a feature documentary, DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 3D, tracing the expedition from its beginnings until the last of its 13 dives in the Pacific. Mankind knows less about the oceans’ greatest depths than about the surface of the moon, and the film, like the expedition, reminds us how much of this planet remains to be explored.

The experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge watch accompanied James Cameron’s green submersible to the deepest point in the ocean.

The Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean is the deepest part of the world’s oceans and one of a global network of deep troughs on the sea floor.

The deepest point in the trench, known as Challenger Deep, lies some 11,000 metres (nearly 7 miles) below the surface and about 320 kilometres (about 200 miles) southwest of the nearest inhabited territory, the island of Guam.

Challenger Deep was named after the 1858 British Royal Navy ship, HMS Challenger, the first vessel to sound the depths of the trench. In January 1960, Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh manned the 150-tonne bathyscaphe Trieste for the first journey to Challenger Deep.

James Cameron’s DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition marked the first time in 52 years – and only the second time in history – that another human made the trip to the world’s deepest known point.

Image Credit: Rolex

The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible is 7.3 metres (24 feet) tall and shaped like a vertical torpedo. But, throughout the nearly seven hours he spent underwater, Cameron could barely move from a near-foetal position in the 109-centimetre-wide (43 inches), pressure-resistant metal sphere that formed his life-sustaining cockpit.

To cope with the extreme conditions in the deepest parts of the ocean, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER incorporated innovative, cutting-edge features and materials that have helped advance the field of submersible design, including Isofloat® syntactic foam for the buoyant hull, pressure-resistant battery packs and a dedicated compact video system capable of capturing High-Definition 3D footage of the world’s deepest sea floor.

Unlike the Trieste, which spent only 20 minutes on the ocean floor and had no research or camera equipment, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER was designed as a science platform and was able to remain at the bottom of the Mariana Trench for three hours to explore, take samples and capture the first-ever high-resolution images of the trench, an ability which remains unprecedented.

Rolex Deepsea Challenge Experimental Watch, 2012/ Image Credit: Rolex

James Cameron’s submersible was carrying a specially made experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge watch on its hydraulic manipulator arm and two others attached to its hull.

By scaling up the technology developed for the Rolex Deepsea divers’ watch, waterproof to 3,900 metres (12,800 feet), Rolex engineers created an experimental model capable of withstanding the crushing pressure of about 12 tonnes on the crystal which occurs in this cold, dark and barren world some 11 kilometres (7 miles) below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

James Cameron gets congratulations from the Deepsea Challenger crew and his wife. The Rolex Deepsea Challenge on the manipulator arm of the Deepsea Challenger after the dive to 11,000 meters/ Image Credit: Rolex

The watches emerged unharmed and kept time perfectly throughout nearly seven hours beneath the water, as Cameron demonstrated by looking at the Rolex Deepsea Challenge on the manipulator arm at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

Special Features of Rolex Deepsea Challenge Experimental watch

  • Water resistance: 12,000 meters (39,370 ft)
  • Load resistance: 13.6 tonnes
  • Case diameter: 51.4 mm
  • Thickness: 28.5 mm
  • Case: Oyster + Ringlock System
  • Case material: 904L steel (middle case), Nitrogen-alloyed steel
  • Case-back: Grade 5 titanium (case back)
  • Crystal: Sapphire, 14.3 mm thick
  • Crown: Triplock (triple waterproofness)
  • Movement: Rolex Caliber 3135, self-winding mechanical

In 1960, Rolex made watchmaking history when it joined the bathyscaphe Trieste on an unprecedented dive to the deepest known point in the world’s oceans.

Crewed by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, the Trieste was carrying an experimental Rolex Deep Sea Special watch when it reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean on 23 January 1960, at a record depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet).

Rolex Deep Sea Special Experimental Watch, 1960/ Image Credit: Rolex

The bathyscaphe and the watch attached to its exterior successfully withstood crushing, deep-seawater pressure that no submersible, let alone timepiece, had confronted before and that no human could ever survive.

The historic dive of the Rolex Deep Sea Special was the fruit of decades of unrelenting development of the Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, invented by Rolex in 1926.

The Trieste, in 1960, surfaces after reaching the record depth of 10,916 metres (35,814 feet)in the Pacific Ocean, with an experimental Rolex watch attached to its hull.

Rolex has for many decades been associated with exploration of the planet’s most extreme frontiers and with pushing the limits of human endeavour, in keeping with the spirit instilled by its founder, Hans Wilsdorf.

The company grew through the most adventurous decades of the 20th century, a period marked not only by some of history’s most daunting challenges in exploration, but also by great technological advances.  Rolex nurtured in particular a special relationship with the sea after creating the waterproof Oyster wristwatch in 1926. Waterproofness was a fundamental feature that helped make watches reliable and accurate.

The Oyster innovated with its screw-down case back, bezel and winding crown, forming the essence of the modern-day sealed case that protects a high precision movement. Such reliable waterproofness is today inherent in every Rolex Oyster Perpetual model.

The Rolex Oyster is in its element in water, and the name chosen for this iconic collection is no accident. Rolex provided a real-life demonstration of its waterproofness in 1927, when a young English distance swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, was equipped with an Oyster as she swam the English Channel.

Robust, precise and highly reliable, Rolex Oyster watches have since then proven themselves in real-life conditions during a series of iconic endeavours, including the Trieste’s dive and the expedition by Sir John Hunt, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to the top of the world in 1953 – the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.

During the 1950s, developments in diving technology paved the way for a boom in underwater exploration. The exacting professional divers’ community came to treasure Rolex watches as essential tools of the trade and even helped in their development.

The iconic Oyster Perpetual Submariner, first unveiled in 1953, is today waterproof to a depth of 300 metres (1,000 feet). The Sea Dweller model, first presented in 1967, extended the depth limit for Rolex waterproof watches to 610 metres (2,000 feet), then 1,220metres (4,000 feet) in 1978.

And ultimately the Rolex Deepsea, introduced in 2008, illustrates the supremacy of Rolex in mastering waterproofness.

Rolex Deepsea (reference 116660-0001)/ Image Credit: Rolex

This new-generation divers’ watch is rated waterproof to a depth of 3,900 metres (12,800 feet), providing a substantial safety margin for those working in open water at great depth.

Each Rolex Deepsea watch is individually tested 25 per cent beyond the guaranteed depth in a specially built hyperbaric tank at the company’s final assembly site in Geneva.

Technical details

Model: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea with D Blue Dial
Reference 116660B

Type: OYSTER (monobloc middle case, screw­ down case back and winding crown)
RINGLOCK SYSTEM case architecture with nitrogen ­alloyed steel ring
Helium escape valve
Diameter: 44 mm
Materials: 904L steel, case back in grade 5 titanium
Winding crown: Screw down, TRIPLOCK triple waterproofness system
Crown guard: Integral part of the middle case
Crystal: Domed, 5 mm­ thick scratch­ resistant synthetic sapphire
Bezel: Unidirectional rotatable 60­minute graduated; CERACHROM insert made of ceramic, numerals and graduations coated in platinum via PVD
Waterproofness: 3,900 m (12,800 ft)

Calibre 3135, Manufacture Rolex
Mechanical movement, bidirectional self­-winding via PERPETUAL rotor
Officially certified Swiss chronometer (COSC)
Frequency: 28,800 beats /hour (4 Hz)
Paramagnetic blue PARACHROM hairspring with Breguet overcoil
Large balance wheel with variable inertia, high­-precision regulating via gold
Power reserve: Approximately 48 hours

Centre hour, minute and seconds hands
Instantaneous date with rapid setting
Stop-­seconds for precise time setting

OYSTER; folding OYSTERLOCK safety clasp with ROLEX GLIDELOCK system for fine adjustment of bracelet length, and FLIPLOCK extension link


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