I am trying to learn how to Dougie. For those of you who are not as sentiently tapped into the zeitgeist of rap culture, this is a dance that involves you moving from side to side whilst rolling your shoulders, ironically enough, kind of like Axl Rose. This is important for me because I like to “get fresh” on the dance floor. Unfortunately for a man like me, as relentlessly mired in the past as Marcel Proust, encoding the latest dance moves in my muscle memory is proving difficult. For some reason, I keep regressing into the Electric Slide, the Cabbage Patch, the Smurf and, wait for it, the Worm.
Okay, the real reason I want to learn to Dougie is that I inadvertently — no, seriously — came across a video of Sports Illustrated swimsuit covergirl Kate Upton Dougie-ing at an LA Clippers game to the eponymous track by Cali Swag District. If I ever happen to meet Kate Upton and she asks me to Dougie, I want to be fully prepared.
For those of you not familiar with Kate Upton, it is my belief that future anthropologists will classify her as a human personification of fertility so potent as to rival Aphrodite. Seriously, in the Kalahari Bush Breaks somewhere, there’s a guy crafting a fertility symbol out of sand and twine that looks exactly like her.
You may ask what Kate Upton has to do with Rolex’s latest diving watch, a one-of-a-kind tool strapped to a robotic arm fixed to a submarine piloted by director James Cameron to Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench — the deepest point on earth. Allow me to extrapolate. I am a fan of deep saturation dive watches. The deeper the better, and yes, I am aware of the fact that there is absolutely no way a human being could descend to the 12,800ft (3,900m) depth rating of the standard Rolex Deepsea without being crushed into a gelatinous blob that would fit inside a Mason jar.
I am aware that only eight people are known to have dived to a depth of 790ft (240m) using normal scuba gear — less than the number of men who’ve walked on the moon. I am aware that the Holy Grail scuba-diving depth of 1,000ft (300m) was only first achieved in 2001; I am aware that the 1,752ft (534m) depth attained in 1988 by non-pressure-suit-wearing, Rolex-equipped Comex divers performing pipe-connection exercises was nuts. I am aware that the deepest dive ever achieved in an atmospheric diving suit was 2,000ft (610m). So, you might ask, why would anyone need a dive watch that could descend to 12,800ft (3,900m)?
The simple answer is because the creation of something so excessive, so high-performance categorizes it along with the creation of supercars that exceed 200mph (322kmh), as perfect expressions of the philosophy of awesome. No one needs to have a 1,200hp Bugatti Veyron. Attempting to attain its 267mph (431kmh) top speed (which entails mounting a set of £20,000 tires that last only 30 miles) is — unless you have a top-secret East German track situated in a Cold War no-fly zone — tantamount to suicide. So, why have one? Because it is awesome in its sheer excessiveness, and awesome in the technical ability expressed by its mere existence.
Similarly, why would God put a woman with a physique as primordially concupiscent as Kate Upton’s on earth? Because she is awesomeness defined.
To those of you who, like me, are devotees of all things awesome, then be prepared to have your world rocked and your normal perception of awesomeness ascend to an ever-higher level. Because the new Rolex Deepsea Challenge is guaranteed to be waterproof to a depth of 39,370ft (12,000m). If you feel like high-fiving yourself, it would be appropriate now.
No one brand on earth has more legitimacy in the creation of dive watches than Rolex. In 1926, Rolex invented the waterproof watch. While many brands had attempted this, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf was the first to combine a threaded closing system and a moisture-proof winding stem to create the world’s first truly pragmatic waterproof watches. Indeed, these “Oyster” case watches were often displayed inside fish tanks in shop windows to underscore their reliability when immersed. This was the same type of watch that was carried by Mercedes Gleitze in 1927 as she swam the English Channel.
In 1953, Rolex invented the diving watch with the Submariner ref. 6204 (pristine models of this watch trade for a quarter of a million dollars today); and in 1967, Rolex created the world’s first deep saturation diving watch in collaboration with the oil-exploration company Comex — the Sea-Dweller, the first watch to feature a helium release valve. The rationale behind the helium release valve is simple. Helium molecules enter dive watches at depth. When a diver attempts to resurface, these molecules expand, compromising the watch at its weakest point, often the crystal.
Throughout the years, Rolex has continued to be the world’s greatest innovator in dive watches. The brand’s objective has never been to focus on the integration of complex mechanisms such as depth gauges, but instead to continue to produce the most robust, reliable and useful dive watches in the world.
The current-production Rolex Submariner Deepsea replete with Ringlock technology, which shifts the burden of pressure experienced at depth to a special highly stressed nitrogen-alloyed stainless-steel ring — think of this as the diving watch’s equivalent to Notre Dame’s flying buttresses — is a supreme statement of the brand’s unrivaled achievement in deep-diving mechanical watches. But if you think Rolex would be content to rest on its past achievements and unrivaled commercial success, think again!
Just when you thought we would see a respite in innovation at Rolex following the launch of the ingenious Sky-Dweller annual-calendar watch at the 2012 BaselWorld fair, the mighty green giant demonstrates that this was only the first shot in a lethal double tap meant to demonstrate their unparalleled innovation to the competition.
For those of you who loved the Sky-Dweller’s inner workings but yearned for a more sporting-inclined case, the Deepsea Challenge is your daisy. Because Rolex’s new diving watch, in a spectacular riff on Spinal Tap’s philosophy of amplifiers “going to 11”, is waterproof to the deepest spot on earth. Think about it this way, even if you were, say, Kal-El from Krypton and the sun’s rays gave you superpowers, you would not be able to find a deeper place to dive to than the Challenger Deep, in which case the one watch you could wear would be the Deepsea Challenge. If you’re the type of guy who thinks that the Bugatti Veyron’s 1,200 metric horsepower is just shy of sufficient and that Kate “Dougie Master” Upton could have a soupçon more décolletage, then this is the watch for you.
However, and here’s the rub, you may just need to be as profoundly hooked up as James Cameron to get one, as it is yet unclear whether the Deepsea Challenge will be: a) a one-off prototype to demonstrate Rolex’s submersible awesomeness and technical supremacy in the creation of dive watches; b) created in a very small edition like the Piccard bathyscaphe commemorative watches; or c) created for one and all, which means yours truly will be setting up camp outside my Rolex dealer with the frenzied obsession of a Ritalin-amped 14-year-old girl lining up for Bieber tickets. I’m hoping it’s “c”. Good God, let it be “c”.
So what’s so special about the new Deepsea Challenge? It’s a 51.4mm herculean beast, with a massive domed crystal that has descended to the Challenger Deep — a spot at the bottom of the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean, a destination a full seven miles below sea level — in a joint project with legendary filmmaker James Cameron and National Geographic. It is relevant to point out here that only Rolex could achieve this incredible goal. In fact, the brand had already done it once before.
This depth was reached only once before in human history. This was achieved in 1960 by Swiss scientist Jacques Piccard and US Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh in the bathyscaphe Trieste. Walsh recalls “a pretty hairy experience” when their outer Plexiglas window cracked under the demonic efforts of six tons of pressure per square inch.
Can you imagine that pressure exerted on the hull? Now imagine this exerted on a mechanical watch. Rolex could not only imagine the pressure, but also created a special timepiece with a hand-tooled steel case and a Plexi crystal that was 18mm thick, which would be strapped to the outside of the hull of the Trieste.
This was a one-off prototype Rolex “Deep Sea Special” — a 42.7mm Submariner-derived dive watch. Before his Mariana Trench dive, Rolex already had a strong working relationship with Jacques Piccard. Different versions of the Deep Sea Special began their experimental descents to depth starting in 1953 with a dive to 3,543 feet (1,080m), then 10,334 feet (3,150m) and, later in the same year, to 12,138 feet (3,700m). In other words, for Rolex, the Deep Sea Special would be subjected to trials by extremes. This same pattern of subjecting timepieces to the most extreme conditions possible would be repeated during the creation of the Sea-Dweller together with the deep-sea oil-exploration company Comex.
Upon completion of his descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, Piccard sent another telegram to Rolex in Geneva saying, “Happy [to] announce to you your watch [is] as precise at 11,000 metres as [it is] on [the] surface. Best regards Jacques Piccard”.
Having been worn at the summit of Everest in 1953, Rolex watches had now been to both the highest and deepest points on earth — a resounding statement that cemented their status as the most performance-oriented watches on the planet.
It is important to understand that one reason for Rolex’s immeasurable success is that their watches are intrinsically linked to the story of human conquest over the earth. To celebrate this achievement, Rolex would later release a few commemorative editions of the Deep Sea Special. (The last one we know of was sold for US$500,000, though the speculation is that today, it would fetch many times this figure.)
Cut to 26 March 2012. James Cameron and his submersible are lowered into the waters of the Pacific Ocean. At precisely 5:15a.m., he begins his dive to the bottom of the Challenger Deep while shooting 3D footage the entire way down. The journey down takes two hours and 36 minutes, and by the end of it, Cameron has become the first man to make a solo dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
“This journey is the culmination of more than seven years of planning for me and the amazing Deepsea Challenge expedition team,” said Cameron, after triumphantly resurfacing. “Most importantly, though, is the significance of pushing the boundaries of where humans can go, what they can see and how they can interpret it. Without the support of National Geographic and Rolex, and their unwavering belief that we could successfully make it to the deepest point in the ocean — and back — this would not have happened.”
Strapped to the outside of Cameron’s submersible was none other than a Rolex Deepsea Challenge watch that had been specially prepared to withstand the insane depths that it experienced. What is important to note here is that while the Deep Sea Special fixed to the Trieste had already achieved similar depth resistance, it was never a commercially released sports watch.
Here, by fixing what is essentially an augmented version of an existing commercially released timepiece, Rolex is making a massive statement of its technical ability to create the most high-performance dive watches in the world, bar none. From what I can tell, the watch differs primarily in size and I imagine the growth of case size from 42.7mm to 51.4mm is due to a much larger Ringlock element — the nitrogen-alloyed stainless-steel ring that retains the watch’s structural integrity at pressure. This ring in the new watch can bear a load of 13.6 tons, as opposed to the normal Deepsea’s load resistance of 3.1 tons.
Interestingly enough, the case of the Deepsea Challenge does not feature a helium release valve, being designed specifically to dive on the outside of a submersible and not with a saturation diver.
The evolution from the original Rolex Deep Sea Special to the Deepsea Challenge is an incredible example of Rolex’s heritage in deep diving timekeepers as well as a highly illustrative view of technical evolution related to materials used for these purpose-built Rolex timepieces. The Deepsea Challenge is a real and highly faithful descendant of the Rolex Deepsea model released in 2008 and will now cement this timepiece as one of the most important Rolexes of all time.
An official press statement from Rolex reads: “Timepieces such as the Rolex Deepsea and the state-of-the-art, experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge carried by James Cameron’s submersible are the product of nearly a century of finely tuned know-how and innovation. They attest to the pursuit of perfection and the finest engineering. Nonetheless, Rolex’s affinity with the deep does not stop there. It extends to active and sustained sponsorship of renowned marine researchers and ocean exploration, supporting excellence in the advancement of human knowledge.”
The Italians have a word for what Rolex has achieved: fantastico.