on watch

A new ex­hi­bi­tion on Rolex’s quest for the deep ex­plores the pi­o­neer­ing role of the watch com­pany’s most suc­cess­ful divers’ time­pieces

#Legend - - CONTENTS / JULY | AUGUST -

A new Rolex ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores the com­pany's most suc­cess­ful - and pi­o­neer­ing - divers' time­pieces

WHICH WRIST­WATCH WOULD you say holds the ti­tle of the most pop­u­lar and iconic time­piece on the planet? For many, the Rolex Sub­mariner wins, hands down. In­tro­duced in 1953, the Oys­ter Per­pet­ual Sub­mariner ref­er­ence 6204 was the first com­mer­cially avail­able dive watch that had the ca­pa­bil­ity of sub­merg­ing to 100 me­tres.

Rolex was al­ready a pi­o­neer in wa­ter­proof watches with the de­vel­op­ment of the Oys­ter, but the ad­vent of scuba div­ing in the early 1950s ush­ered in a new era for reli­able tool watches that had the abil­ity to func­tion un­der­wa­ter – and the Rolex Sub­mariner quickly be­came a cult favourite amongst pro­fes­sional divers.

Its pop­u­lar­ity grew with the masses, too, largely helped by the ro­bust im­age painted in the James Bond se­ries; played by Sean Con­nery in 1962's Dr No, Bond is seen

chas­ing down the bad guys with a Sub­mariner promi­nently strapped to his wrist. To this day, the Sub­mariner re­mains the most suc­cess­ful time­piece to date – from any man­u­fac­ture, from any era and in any coun­try.

Soon after, the Sub­mariner be­came the blueprint for more ad­vanced re­leases: the Rolex Sea-Dweller and the Rolex Deepsea. The Sea-Dweller is rather niche and not as well-known as the Sub­mariner, the Day­tona or the Date­just, but it fulfi lled ev­ery­thing that the watch­maker stood for. The 1960s marked a sec­ond phase for the brand in its foray into div­ing. Rolex was keen to de­velop a new time­piece that pushed the bound­aries of the depths scuba divers could reach – some­thing that could dive deeper and last longer in the sea. We're not talk­ing about ca­sual dives here, ei­ther; we're talk­ing sat­u­ra­tion div­ing. For those, Rolex was run­ning into a trou­bling phe­nom­e­non with the Sub­mariner – pop­u­lar as they were, the Plex­i­glas crys­tal would of­ten pop out of the de­com­pres­sion cham­ber, much like a cham­pagne cork, after a deep dive.

To solve this un­for­tu­nate prob­lem, Rolex in­vented the he­lium valve – a one-way set valve that re­leased he­lium trapped in the watch and al­lowed the watch to safely de­com­press. Not shy­ing away from risky en­deav­ours and with a new in­no­va­tion in hand, the watch­maker put its ex­per­i­men­tal Rolex Deep Sea Spe­cial wrist­watch on the bathyscaphe Tri­este on an un­prece­dented dive to the bot­tom of the Mar­i­ana Trench in the Pa­cific Ocean, the deep­est known point in the world's oceans. Watch­mak­ing his­tory was made on Jan­uary 23, 1960 when the watch emerged un­scathed, hav­ing sur­vived a record depth of 10,916 me­tres.

The patented he­lium valve was then added to the Sea-Dweller in 1967, creating a new breed of ul­tra-re­sis­tant divers' watches that were wa­ter­proof to 610 me­tres. By 1978, the Sea-Dweller could reach depths of 1,220 me­tres, far deeper than any other wrist­watch avail­able in the mar­ket at the time.

Five decades later, Rolex hasn't stopped in­no­vat­ing on this beloved tool watch. In 2008, Rolex cre­ated the ul­ti­mate divers' watch, the Rolex Deepsea, a watch ca­pa­ble of reach­ing 3,900 me­tres be­low the sur­face – a depth at which wa­ter pres­sure could crush a nu­clear sub­ma­rine like a can of soda. The Deepsea is re­in­forced with the patented ringlock sys­tem, but at 44mm, re­mains com­pletely wear­able on the wrist.

To hype up an al­ready su­pe­rior watch, Rolex set about to recre­ate its 1960 div­ing stunt. The Rolex Deepsea Chal­lenge, which Rolex an­nounced in 2012, was an ex­per­i­men­tal divers' watch that was guar­an­teed wa­ter­proof to a depth of 12,000 me­tres, much like its pre­de­ces­sor 52 years ago. The watch gar­nered world­wide at­ten­tion when it ac­com­pa­nied film­maker James Cameron on his solo sub­mersible dive to the bot­tom of the Mar­i­ana Trench on

March 26, 2012. The ex­pe­di­tion's sub­mersible de­scended 10,908 me­tres to the Chal­lenger Deep, the ocean's deep­est point, with the watch strapped on its robotic ma­nip­u­la­tor arm; it kept per­fect time through­out and emerged un­dam­aged. His­tory re­peated it­self and Rolex's po­si­tion as the leader in dive watches has once again been ce­mented in peo­ple's minds.

There's only so much we can tell you within th­ese pages of the in­cred­i­ble re­la­tion­ship Rolex has with deep-sea div­ing. An upcoming ex­hi­bi­tion by the brand and Dick­son Watch & Jewellery aims to do greater jus­tice to Rolex's deep-sea en­deav­ours. The Quest for the Deep is per­fect for those ready to dive into Rolex's most in­no­va­tive tool watch, as well as those who want to ex­plore the myr­iad ways in which the watch­maker con­tin­ues to sup­port sci­en­tists and ex­plor­ers in their ef­forts to un­der­stand un­der­wa­ter life and ma­rine preser­va­tion.

The Quest for the Deep runs un­til July 31 and is open to all at the Rolex store in Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Air­port's Ter­mi­nal 1.

Clock­wise from top: The Rolex Deepsea; the Rolex Deepsea Spe­cial and the cock­pit of the bathyscaphe; the Rolex Sea-Dweller

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