Christie’s has announced that the ‘Rare Watches Auction Geneva’ will be held on 8 November 2021 at the Hotel Four Seasons Les Bergues. This landmark auction will offer several extraordinary and rare timepieces, including the legendary Rolex Experimental Deep Sea Special N°1.
This Holy Grail watch is the first and only Rolex Deep Sea Special that made the first dive attached to Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe Trieste in 1953. The case, the original movement and the bracelet of this historic timepiece are in perfect working condition.
Developed as a prototype for perfecting the Rolex diving watch concept, this Rolex Deep Sea Special N°1 was attached to the hull of Auguste Piccard’s bathyscaphe Trieste for the inaugural deep-sea trial to a depth of 3,150 meters in the Mediterranean on 30 September 1953.
This watch then served as the proving ground for the Rolex Deep Sea Special N°3 that would reach 10,908 meters in the Mariana Trench with the Trieste on 23 January 1960 and is today on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
It is believed that seven Christie’s to Auction the Rolex Deep Sea Special N°1 Watch prototypes were built between 1953 and 1960. Among them, only three have so far been identified:
- The Deep Sea Special N°1: This prototype has a ‘low glass’ made from Plexiglas. It accompanied Trieste on its first deep-sea trial down to 3,150 meters (10,245 feet) off the island of Ponza in 1953.
- The Deep Sea Special N°3: This prototype features a ‘high glass’ (a taller and thicker crystal, also of Plexiglas, one of the invaluable learnings from N°1). It made the trip down to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (10,916 meters, 35,814 feet) in 1960 and is today out of reach but on display, together with the Trieste, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
- The Deep Sea Special N°5: Also a ‘high glass’ version, which presumably served as a proving ground for further extreme testing in the period leading up to 1960, and was offered at auction by Christie’s in 2000.
In the early to mid-1960s, to celebrate the dive down to the world’s deepest place and after the unexpected worldwide success and enthusiasm that this event generated, Rolex produced about three dozen display models to share their exploit and know-how with the public. In 2009, Number 31 of this commercial/promotional series was sold by Christie’s.
In the early 1950s, Swiss physicist-inventor-explorer Auguste Piccard began developing a deep-sea vehicle for exploring ocean depths. Using the physical principles of his stratospheric balloon, particularly with regard to pressurization, Auguste and his son Jacques developed a submarine to reach the deepest trough at the bottom of the ocean. Their strange-looking deep-sea submarine known as bathyscaphe Trieste was launched on the 16th of August in 1953.