THE DARK ABYSS

Over half a decade since Rolex’s first deep-sea ex­pe­di­tion and two years after the Mar­i­ana Trench ex­pe­di­tion dive led by James Cameron, a 3-D film chron­i­cling the film­maker’s jour­ney pre­miered at the Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory in New York this Au­gust

Revolution (Hong Kong) - - WATCH CULTUR E - Melissa Lim (text)

The deep sea has long gen­er­ated a pro­found fascination within us all, and while one might have grown ac­cus­tomed to the se­cu­rity and sus­tain­abil­ity of life on land, the space that runs be­neath the deep blue sea is a ver­i­ta­ble trea­sure trove of life, and has long been left over­looked. De­spite roughly 85% of the ocean space com­pris­ing deep sea, our knowl­edge of what (and who) lurks within this dark abyss is, by and large, limited, leav­ing po­ten­tially mil­lions of species yet to be dis­cov­ered.

Reach­ing depths un­known

The stage for many, if not all, deep ocean ex­pe­di­tions was set well over half a cen­tury ago, when the U. S. Navy bathy­scaphe Tri­este, car­ry­ing Swiss oceanog­ra­pher and co- pi­lot Jac­ques Pic­card, and pi­lot US Navy Lieu­tenant Don Walsh, plunged to the un­par­al­leled depth of 10,916 me­ters. They took with them a third- gen­er­a­tion Rolex Deep Sea Spe­cial ex­per­i­men­tal pro­to­type, which was at­tached to the ex­te­rior of the sub­mersible; need­less to say, the watch sur­vived and resur­faced in per­fect work­ing con­di­tion. He fa­mously wrote in a tele­gram, “Am happy to con­firm that even at 11,000 me­ters your watch is as pre­cise as on the sur­face. Best re­gards, Jac­ques Pic­card.” When Academy Award-win­ning film di­rec­tor James Cameron an­nounced his in­ten­tion to reach the bot­tom of the Mar­i­ana Trench on the first- ever solo dive, half a decade later, a fair amount of con­fu­sion was felt the world around. In­deed, one’s knowl­edge of Cameron’s un­der­wa­ter es­capades ap­peared to be limited to his di­rec­tion of “The Abyss” in 1989, and box of­fice smash hit “Ti­tanic” in 1997. On the con­trary: what be­gan as a child­hood dream de­vel­oped into a gen­uine in­ter­est, and most re­cently, was made a re­al­ity in Cameron’s adult­hood. In ad­di­tion to lead­ing sev­eral deep sea ex­pe­di­tions, he is also a Na­tional Ge­o­graphic “ex­plorer-in-res­i­dence” and no­tably vis­ited the wreck­age of the Ti­tanic, some 3,800 me­ters be­low sea level, for film re­search. This was not Rolex’s first foray into nau­ti­cal es­capades, as con­sis­tently demon­strated over the last few decades; it has long been a keen sup­porter of deep sea ex­plo­ration and marine en­vi­ron­ment con­ser­va­tion. It has man­aged to sus­tain this il­lus­tri­ous and en­dur­ing re­la­tion­ship with the ocean, hav­ing long ad­vo­cated the pro­tec­tion of Earth’s nat­u­ral re­sources, whilst work­ing tire­lessly with marine bi­ol­o­gists and sci­en­tists to de­velop tools able to en­dure the pun­ish­ing con­di­tions of the deep sea. Hav­ing ac­com­pa­nied Walsh and Pic­card on their orig­i­nal ex­pe­di­tion, it was only nat­u­ral for Rolex to col­lab­o­rate

with Cameron on his. “My re­la­tion­ship with Rolex is based on the re­spect I have for the in­tegrity of what it does and what it rep­re­sents in terms of mak­ing his­tory and be­ing a part of his­tory. They are es­sen­tially cre­at­ing a sym­bol we can wear and take with us that is sym­bolic of that in­tegrity, that sense of pur­pose, the pre­ci­sion of the de­sign. I never take my watch off; it’s al­ways with me. This part­ner­ship was a beau­ti­ful book­end to the his­tory Rolex made in 1960 when it was in­volved with the Tri­este dive and it was such a pow­er­ful sym­bol of that time,” said Cameron.

A diver’s dream

The ac­claimed film­maker ini­tially dreamed up the con­cept of this ex­pe­di­tion up to a decade be­fore, but it wasn’t un­til 2005 that an ex­pe­di­tion to the Ti­tanic wreck sparked a hazy idea. Be­fore he knew it, he was com­menc­ing work on the box of­fice hit Avatar, and it was dur­ing his lunch breaks and after hours that he spent time on video­con­fer­ence with Ron Al­lum, sub­mersible co-de­signer and pi­lot. Dur­ing this time, pre­lim­i­nary de­sign work and ma­te­rial test­ing be­gan, but it wasn’t un­til 2010 that Cameron was able to turn his fo­cus onto the project at hand, leav­ing all of 2011 to build this oneof-a-kind un­der­wa­ter ve­hi­cle. Hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced a bit of a slow start, con­struc­tion had yet to com­mence when Cameron ar­rived in Syd­ney, where the work­shop had been set up, and the ve­hi­cle assem­bly time was ul­ti­mately whit­tled down to a mere three months. “It all flew to­gether in less than two months. It still amazes me be­cause nor­mally, ve­hi­cle assem­bly and elec­tron­ics in­te­gra­tion is a one to two year process on most deep sub­mersible ve­hi­cles,” said Cameron. Be­gin­ning Jan­uary 2012, the Deepsea Chal­lenger sub­mersible was put through 13 vig­or­ous test and re­search dives off the coasts of Aus­tralia and Pa­pua New Guinea, be­fore mov­ing on to the ex­pe­di­tion site. Weeks later, on March 26th 2012, Cameron made an un­prece­dented solo-manned dive, span­ning 6 hours and 45 min­utes in to­tal, to the Earth’s deep­est point (10,908 me­ters) in the Mar­i­ana Trench. On top of film­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy, sam­ples were taken for sci­en­tific re­search in­clud­ing 68 new species, one of which was an am­phi­pod that pro­duces an im­por­tant com­pound, which has sub­se­quently been stud­ied in clin­i­cal tri­als for Alzheimer’s dis­ease. At­tached to the ma­nip­u­la­tor arm on the ex­te­rior of the sub­mersible was the 2012 Rolex Deepsea Chal­lenge watch. At first glance, this ex­per­i­men­tal watch may seem rather over­sized at 51.4mm in di­am­e­ter and 28.5mm in thick­ness (14.3mm of which is the sap­phire crys­tal). This ex­pe­di­tion proved its ex­treme wa­ter re­sis­tance – up to 12,000 me­ters – th­ese di­men­sions are, if any­thing, on the mod­est side. The patented three-piece case com­prises a sturdy ni­tro­gen-

al­loyed stain­less steel support ring act­ing as a back­bone for the watch, and is placed in the cen­ter case to support the hefty sap­phire crys­tal, as well as the 5.3mm screw-down ti­ta­nium case back. The Triplock screw-down wind­ing crown is equipped with a triple wa­ter resistant sys­tem that is found on all Rolex divers’ watches. The Deepsea Chal­lenge also fea­tures a uni­di­rec­tional 60-minute grad­u­ated bezel with a Cer­achrom in­sert in ce­ramic with Chro­ma­light hands and mark­ers. The self-wind­ing cal­iber 3135 bears a para­m­ag­netic blue Parachrom hair­spring, and the watch is fit­ted with a clas­sic solid-link Oys­ter bracelet and clasp with the Rolex Glide­lock and Fli­plock div­ing ex­ten­sion sys­tems. To com­mem­o­rate the 2012 ex­pe­di­tion, as well as the re­lease of the doc­u­men­tary, Rolex pre­sented Cameron with his very own Deepsea Sea-Dweller with a strik­ing “D-Blue” dial. Tech­ni­cally speak­ing, it bears very sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics as the ex­per­i­men­tal Deepsea Chal­lenge watch; while the Deepsea SeaDweller is al­ready ca­pa­ble of main­tain­ing its wa­ter re­sis­tance to an im­pres­sive 3,900 me­ters, with­stand­ing some 3.1 tons of pres­sure, its ex­per­i­men­tal sib­ling needs to ac­count for 13.6 tons of pres­sure at 12,000 me­ters. It’s a tes­ta­ment to Rolex’s tech­ni­cal de­sign that the Deepsea Chal­lenge watch only re­quired a scal­ing of its di­men­sions to cope with the more ex­treme con­di­tions. On the new Deepsea Sea-Dweller, Rolex de­vel­oped a new gra­di­ent dial that fades from blue to black, rep­re­sent­ing the ocean’s twi­light zone, where light be­gins to melt away, while the green print is in­spired by the strik­ing Kawasaki green of Cameron’s sub­mersible. By em­ploy­ing the lat­est in dive watch tech­nol­ogy, the Deepsea Sea-Dweller D-Blue pays trib­ute to its leg­endary brethren and hon­ors its lat­est ac­com­plish­ment.

Paths col­lide

In Au­gust 2014, the “Deepsea Chal­lenge 3D” doc­u­men­tary film pre­miered on limited re­lease and nar­rated the jour­ney of this ex­pe­di­tion from the very be­gin­ning stages to the last of its 13 dives in the Pa­cific ocean. Be­com­ing a box of­fice hit or break­ing world records was never the sole pur­pose here but rather, for Cameron per­son­ally, that the pub­lic be­come more ed­u­cated and aware of the un­ex­plored parts of the oceans, with the film hope­fully find­ing its way into school cur­ricu­lums one day. When ques­tioned about his legacy, Cameron mused, “For the long­est time I was in­tro­duced as a film­maker but now I am as a film­maker and ex­plorer. When I cre­ate a film, it’s for ev­ery­one else, but ex­plo­ration is for my­self, and it’s en­ter­tain­ing for me. It’s funny be­cause I’ve only di­rected eight films (not in­clud­ing doc­u­men­taries) but I’ve also done eight deep ocean ex­plo­rations. I almost wish I had two lives to lead so I could do all of one and all of the other, but that’s the prob­lem when you’re cu­ri­ous about cer­tain things. Movies give you ac­cess to peo­ple and en­vi­ron­ments and things that I’m fas­ci­nated by, but so does just go­ing and build­ing a ro­botic ve­hi­cle and sub­mersible; go­ing ex­plor­ing. I never thought I’d be build­ing a sub and get­ting in it but I couldn’t imag­ine any­thing more fun. If you asked me 20 years ago if I was go­ing to be do­ing this I would’ve thought you were crazy.” With three more in­stall­ments of Avatar up next to di­rect, tak­ing him all the way to 2018, it may be some time be­fore we see Cameron im­mersed in another in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­di­tion. How­ever, one thing’s for sure, like ev­ery­thing he chooses to be in­volved with, it will be well and truly worth the wait. In the mean­time, he can revel in the fact that only three peo­ple – in­clud­ing him­self – have ever at­tained the deep­est part of the ocean, while 12 as­tro­nauts have walked on the Moon.

This spread from left The 1960 Deep Sea Spe­cial ex­per­i­men­tal pro­to­type watch; James Cameron and Don Walsh; the Deepsea Chal­lenger reaches the bot­tom of the Mar­i­ana Trench with the 2012 Rolex Deepsea Chal­lenge watch at­tached to its ma­nip­u­la­tor arm

THIS SPREAD The 3-D doc­u­men­tary film chron­i­cling the en­tire ex­pe­di­tion pre­miered at the Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory in New York

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