Diving and Rolex go hand in hand like a duck and water. From the early 1950s until today, the dive watch niche has been the one in which they have most feverishly defended their dominance. They pioneered the modern dive watch with the Submariner, they invented the helium escape valve, and they have provided commercial divers, soldiers, and many other maritime individuals with the tools required to tackle the high-seas, so when Omega launched the Planet Ocean 6000M Ultra Deep and dethroned the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea as the king of luxury dive watches we all know Rolex would come out swinging, and today they have done exactly that.
Rolex and James Cameron
While they might seem an unlikely duo, Rolex and James Cameron have been partnered together for ten years now, with their relationship beginning in 2012. In fact, Rolex attached a prototype Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea Challenge to the outside of his vessel as he went to the depths of the Mariana Trench in a solo mission that saw him find the bottom of the sea, a mere 10908 meters (35787ft) underwater. This prototype was the watch that most directly inspired the new Deepsea Challenge.
From there, Rolex launched the Rolex Sea-Dweller Deepsea “James Cameron” ref. 126660 (which they replaced with an upgraded version, the ref. 136660 this year) in 2014 to commemorate his journey. While that watch was the undisputed king of dive watches with its 3990m of water resistance, it wasn’t good enough when Omega blew it out of the water. And so, Rolex have launched the Deepsea Challenge ref. 126067.
Their Largest Watch Ever?
Weighing in at 50mm in diameter, the new Deepsea Challenge is quite the beast, but it isn’t their largest watch ever; that goes to its historical predecessor, the Deepsea Special. A 42mm x 62mm behemoth that boasts 10908m of water resistance, the evolution from one record holder to another goes to show just how far Rolex has come to give the new Deepsea Challenge ref. 126067 an incredible 11000m depth rating, all the while making it considerably more wearable. Of course, 50mm in diameter and 61mm lug-to-lug is still quite large, and its 23mm tall side profile is certainly pretty thick, but all considering it could still pass as a watch that someone could wear if they had sizeable wrists.
Their First Foray into Titanium
One of the most common criticisms of Rolex is just how slow they are to update their offerings and create something new, but with the Deepsea Challenge ref. 126067, they did that and finally made their first move into the world of titanium, and it is the perfect time considering how large the watch itself is.
As a result of the super lightweight RLX Titanium (a patented grade 5 titanium alloy that is particularly resistant to deformation and corrosion), the Deepsea Challenge is 30% lighter than the steel watch that adorned James Cameron’s vessel in 2012, and is much lighter than your mind might assume from photos. Instead of weighing a literal tonne, it weighs in at around 250 grams, about 80 grams lighter than the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore “Brick,” which is a pretty appreciable difference after spending a long day on the ocean floor with Spongebob and Patrick.
So Who is This For?
While its 11 kilometers of water resistance is all well and good, the Deepsea Challenge ref. 126067 begs the question, who is this watch for? And honestly, it is hard to tell. It seems Rolex have launched the Deepsea Challenge ref. 126067 in a bid to reclaim their ultimate dive watch crown and produce the first commercially available timepiece that could be worn to the bottom of the ocean, a depth rating almost double that of the Omega Planet Ocean 6000M Ultra Deep which was already strictly theoretical given how those pressures will never ever be reached by a person.
It is also worth noting that Rolex has demonstrated some serious know-how with this new launch. To commercially produce a watch that can go to depths that only prototypes have been able to go before is very impressive and certainly will silence Rolex’s critics that claim they don’t innovate. Sometimes innovation is less obvious than one would originally think, and with this launch, it doesn’t look like too much of a stretch to assume that Rolex will begin to fit their dive watches with deeper depth ratings as they take their lessons from the Deepsea Challenge ref. 126067 and apply them to their other models.
While this new launch launch might not be Rolex's best-looking watch, or their most wearable, or even their best value considering its $26000 pricetag, it showcases their desire to remain on top of their competition, and that they will actually produce innovative timepieces when they feel what they are producing is worthwhile. Rolex have never been a watchmaker that jumps the gun because other watchmakers have done so, and this launch proves it.
They have clearly taken their time and launched a timepiece that is by far the best in its class, something that is distinctively Rolex and whether we like the watch or not that is something Rolex don't ever seem too concerned about. Also, its exciting to see them branch into titanium, even if you don't like the release it does hint at exciting things to come.
If you'd like to learn more about the Rolex Deepsea Challenge feel free to check out Rolex.com for more.