The Rolex Deep Sea Challenge, The Undisputed King of Perpetual
In the world of Rolex, the word perpetual can mean many things. It’s the name of their Bi-directional winding system, indicates their relentless pursuit of incremental improvements and, perhaps most annoyingly, it describes how long you’ll be on the waitlist for a Daytona.
Nevertheless, there’s one meaning behind the word that encapsulates Rolex completely. Their never-ending quest to take you (and your watch) deeper underwater, a mission that started in 1926 with the first-ever oyster case. Named the ‘Oyster’ because it was sealed shut, like an oyster…obviously. Over the years, Rolex has taken their watches ever deeper, entering partnerships with COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises) a French deep diving engineering company, developing the helium escape valve, and incrementally increasing their capacity to withstand high-pressure environments.
From the current collection, the budding diver has a choice of the Submariner (300m) the Sea Dweller (1220m) and the Sea Dweller Deep Sea (3900m). All of which are completely overkill, considering the wettest most of them will get is on the wrist of a banker getting caught in the rain after a corporate lunch.
I'm sure they know this over in Switzerland, but, nevertheless, Rolex has to push the boundaries.
The problem was, however, that there was a little known brand from Bienne that had them beat. The Omega Ultra-Deep was launched in March 2022 and could withstand depths of 6000m. Rolex was in second place.
Not ones to be outdone, on the first of November 2022, the buffins in Geneva dropped their biggest (physically and literally) release of the year. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Challenge.
Let’s dive in…
How big is the Deep Sea Challenge?
At a whopping 50 mm, It’s big… Like really big. I have been lucky enough to try it on my child sized 17 cm wrist, and it’s a joke. Being 4 mm bigger than a dinner plate sized IWC Big Pilot, and thicker than a WW2 tank, it isn’t for the thin wristed.
What is it made of?
Rolex loves naming things, sometimes unnecessarily. Oystersteel, Cerachrom, Chromalight, all silly names for things that already had them.
To continue this trend, they have taken their pens to a grade 5 titanium allow and dubbed it ‘RLX Titanium’. Whether it is any different to normal Ti is unknown. Although the fact that Rolex states, “RLX titanium is a grade 5 titanium alloy selected by Rolex” on their website, it sounds to me that it wasn’t developed by them.
This isn’t actually the first time Rolex has used the highly resistant material on one of their watches, The Deep Sea has had a Titanium case back for a few years. Is that also ‘RLX Titanium?’. I tried to find out, but they don't mention it on their website.
As a fun side project I tried to find some more info about ‘RLX Titanium’ by searching for the code printed on the case blank metal in the image above but came up empty-handed. If there are any materials experts out there that can shed some light, please get in touch!
How deep can it go?
11,000 m 36,090 ft 1.1Km
However you look at it, it's bloody deep. Add to that the fact that Rolex had to develop brand-new machinery with COMEX to test it to 15% over the rated pressure, and you’ve got a watch that can withstand unimaginable pressure.
This is in part thanks to Rolex’s patented Ring Lock system and an extremely thick crystal with a double chamfered edge, also a first for Rolex. Cool stuff.
Considering the deepest anyone has ever gone with dive gear is 332.35 m (1,090 ft 4.5 in), I would say that the Deep Sea Challenge is overkill for most people. A submariner would probably be sufficient. But true luxury is all about excess, and that's absolutely what the Deep Sea Challenge is. Excessive.
You also get a Helium escape valve, but to be honest, that’s irrelevant because no one uses it. Moving on.
What powers the DeepSea Challenge?
Beating inside this hulk of a watch is the Rolex Calibre 3230. It’s the same movement that’s in the Submariner, The Oyster Perpetual, The AirKing and probably the Milgauss when they update it at the end of March. I’ll throw in that prediction for free!
Anyway, the 3230 has a 70-hour power reserve, features Rolex’s patented Chronergy escapement with a blue Parachrom hairspring and, of course, has no date. They mustn’t have had room for it in the case….
The Rolex Deep Sea Challenge in detail
Reference number: 126067-0001 Movement: 3230 Power reserve: 70 Hour (approx.) Accuracy: +-2 seconds per day (Superlative Chronometer certified) Water Proof: 11,000 m/36090ft Case Size/Material: 50 mm/RLX Titanium Case Thickness: I don’t, know… 30 cm? It’s thick. Warranty: 5 years, the usual Rolex stuff. Price: AU$36'700 Ouch!
To wrap this up, I don’t think Rolex intends to sell a bunch of these to your average fanboy. My uneducated prediction is that they will produce a limited quantity of Deep Sea Challenges for the big-boned and die-hard collectors that will put it in a safe and leave it at that. Just to say, “I’ve got one”.
What it really is, for Rolex, is a statement of their engineering prowess and a hero product to anchor them firmly in the realm of dive watch royalty. The fact that they now produce the deepest diving watch gives their other, more wearable, dive watches more credibility. Being able to own something from a company that is the best at something is incredibly valuable.
Or maybe it’s just the next step of the perpetual dick swinging contest they have with Omega. Who am I to say.
I’m excited that Rolex is going perpetually deeper, pushing the boundaries and producing something completely ridiculous and unnecessary. That’s what us watch nerds like. After all, If we just wanted to know the time, we would look at our phones.