The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER
Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean
Part 3 of 6
Part 3 of 6
Rolex DEEP-SEA Special
The photo below shows Jacques Piccard in 1953 in Trieste, Italy holding and examining a Rolex DEEP-SEA prototype, while standing in front of his Bathyscaphe Trieste. Bathyscaphe is a greek word for "DEEP BOAT". When broken down in Greek "bathos" means deep, and "scaphos" means ship. It is important to note the Bathyscaphe was a Submersible not a Submarine, thus it was able to dive 30 times deeper than a Submarine.
The photo below shows Jacques Piccard with his father and fellow legendary explorer, Auguste Piccard after they successfully set the all-time depth record in September of 1953, when the navigated the Bathyscaphe Trieste Submersible down to 3150 Meters, which is 10,350 Feet. Auguste Piccard is in the center of the photo and he is wearing his trademark Beret, and his son Jacques Piccard is standing behind him, holding his arm. It is fascinating to note that Auguste Piccard was 70 years old when this photo was taken in 1953.
Auguste Piccard's scientific and technological prowess and determination stands testament to the notion that talent does what it can, and genius does what it must! It took two hours and 15 minutes in total for the record to be set in the Bathyscaphe.
The photo below is of the actual 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Prototype that was attached to the observation chamber of the Bathyscaphe Trieste which is pictured above. This first super-high resolution version of the 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special is and exclusive photo that appears courtesy of Christies Auction House, who auctioned it in 2005 for around a quarter of a million dollars.
The photo below is os the same watch and appears courtesy of John Goldberger, and it appears in his book, 100 Superlative Rolex Watches. I recorded a podcast interview with Honnback in 209 and it is fascinating if you get a chance to listen to it.
The 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special is a two-tone stainless steel with 9kt yellow gold waterproof Rolex prototype named the Deep Sea Special. It measures 42x62mm. It has a highly domed crystal and screw back with a special screw winding crown. It is a 10.5 ligne movement with a Caliber 1000 movement, which was the newest generation movement at the time. Contrast this with the first Rolex Submariner models that had reference numbers of 6204 and 6200, which had the A260 and A296 Caliber movements respectively. The 6200 Caliber movement found in the Rolex Submariner reference 6200 was a better movement than the A260 found in the Reference 6204. The 1000 Series Caliber movement found in the 1953 DEEP-SEA Special was already COSC certified.
This watch has a serial number 1, and is believed to be one of 7 prototypes made. The watch pictured above was a given as a personal gift from Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf to a friend. Rolex designed it to resist a minimum pressure of 600 atmospheres.
Today, this Rolex Deep Sea Special is in a private collection and the Smithsonian Institute has a different one in its permanent collection that was attached to the 1960 record setting Bathyscaphe Trieste.
The Rolex Deep Sea Special was constructed for testing to withstand great water pressure and was tested by Professor August Piccard's on his Bathyscaphe. Rolex experimented like crazy to try and make a watch this strong, and after many unsuccessful attempts, they finally built a watch they felt good about. Just before the dive, a Rolex representative handed a Rolex DEEP-SEA Special to Professor Picard at Castellamare, Italy.
On September 30, 1953 one of the Rolex Deep Sea Special watches attached to the exterior of the Trieste depth craft submarine, which reached a world-record depth of 3150 meters which is 10,245 Feet or 2 miles down. This was achieved off the coast of Ponza island.
After surfacing the watch was carefully inspected and was intact and functioning properly.The 1953 Rolex advertisement pictured below tells the story about how in 1953, Jacques Piccard took navigated his Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible down to a record setting depth of 10,350 feet to set an all-new depth record, with the Rolex DEEP-SEA Prototype attached to the outside of the Trieste. Piccard sent Rolex a telegram to their Geneva Office that simply said:
"Watch Performed Perfectly Depth 3150 Metres Piccard."
The 1954 magazine seen above is from Rolex shows the early prototype of the Rolex DEEP-SEA Special that set an earlier record in 1953 on the Bathyscaph Trieste when it set a record of 10,350 feet. This watch differs from the one version that was attached to the Bathyscaph Trieste in 1960 in that it has what appears to be a spinning bezel. Nobody knows for certain, but my best guess is Rolex modified the image of the prototype to make it look like it had a bezel, to make it look much more like the all-new 1953 Submariner. The Illustration below was published in 1954 in a magazine article and is remarkably similar to the watch in the photo with the Number 1 Serial Number. Notice it has no bezel, like in the 1954 Rolex Ad.
Chuck Yeager & The Right Stuff
1956 Rolex Submariner Big Crown: Reference 6538
Legendary Test Pilot Chuck Yeager is pictured below wearing his 1956 Rolex Submariner Reference 6538, so we see that in real life, he wore a Rolex Submariner. This photo was taken almost a decade after he became the first man to break the sound barrier when he flew past Mach 1 in 1947.
The photo below was taken in 1962 of Chuck wearing a his Big Crown Rolex Submariner [Reference 6538]. Obviously Chuck Yeager stared wearing a Rolex Submariner after it came to market.
Notice the number on the tail of Chuck Yeager's is 6062, which is the same Reference Number as my favorite Rolex Moonphase [Reference 6062].
The photo above is cropped from the photo below which is mind-boggling if you click on it and check out the detail. It was taken in 1947 and is a photo of Chuck Yeager haulin' in his X-1.
In October 1947, at Edwards Air Force Test Center, Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager forever changed history, when he was the first pilot to fly faster than the Speed of Sound.
And, yes, you guessed it! Chuck Yeager was wearing his Rolex Oyster Perpetual wrist-watch, that he purchased himself. So what does this mean? What kind of man would wear a Rolex Oyster Perpetual in such an environment?
A few days prior to his record flight, Yeager was seriously injured in a horseback-riding accident and suffered two broken ribs. The injury would jeopardize his flight status resulting in the removal from the mission. Scared, he went to a veterinarian for treatment and only told his wife about the accident. He also told his friend and fellow project pilot, Jack Ridley about the accident.
Yeager, on the day of the record flight, had trouble manipulating the closure of the X-1's hatch, and could not seal it properly. His pal, Jack Ridley, improvised a clever leverage device made from a broom handle, to assist Yeager with sealing the hatch, thus, allowing him to break the "speed of sound" record.
Chuck Yeager was so impressed with his Rolex, he sent an autographed picture (seen below) of his record flight to Rolex in Geneva.
Mankind's Conquest Of Inner-Space
U.S. Navy Bathyscaph Trieste DEEP-SEA Submersible
Next we take a look at another one of Mankind's greatest achievements in human exploration, when U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh (Pilot) and Swiss Explorer Jacques Piccard (Co-Pilot) set the worlds all-time depth record, 50 years ago today, on January 23, 1963 when they dove the Bathyscaph Trieste DEEP-SEA Submersible down into the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench off Guam, down 35,800 feet–a mind-boggling record which stands to this day.
Attached to outside of the magnificently engineered Swiss Bathyscaph Trieste Submersible was another masterpiece of fine Swiss engineering that would set an all-time world record that same day–a Rolex DEEP-SEA Special prototype dive watch. As they say, both took a licking and came up ticking!!!
In the photo below we see Andreas Rechnitzer Ph.D., on the left, who was the civilian head of Project Nekton, and standing next to him on the deck of the Bathyscaph Trieste is Swiss Oceanographer and Professor Jacques Piccard.
The U.S. Navy mission patch below for Operation Tekton says "Pensate Profunde" which, when translated from latin means "Think Deeply." It also has the Navy dolphin and Bathyscaphe Triest logo.
The illustration below shows the exact location of where the Bathyscaph Trieste set the all-time world depth record in the Challenger Deep section of the Mariana Trench. The Trieste during the time of Operation Tekton was located at the U.S. Naval Station at Apra Harbor, Guam, which is approximately 200 miles north-east of the Challenger Deep.
The Challenger Deep
Pictured below, we see a diagram that illustrates just how deep the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench is at 36,070 feet. Notice the Challenger Deep is significantly deeper than Mount Everest is tall. This excellent illustration really puts things in an accurate and easily understandable perspective.
Into The Mystic
The photo below was taken during the descent when Captain Walsh and Oceanographer, Jacques Piccard were close to reaching the bottom of the Challenger Deep. In an recent interview, I asked Captain Don Walsh if he was ever scared or nervous on the descent, and he said he never was. This came as a bit of a surprise, since during their early descent, at 9000 feet one of the outside plexiglass windows cracked and made a huge noise, shaking the Trieste.
The DEEPEST Dive In History
In the late 1950s, the U.S. Navy purchased the Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible from the Piccard's, and hired Jacques Piccard to continue overseeing its testing.
The U.S. Navy and Piccard were extremely ambitious and after significantly reinforcing the Bathyscaphe Trieste attempted to take it down to the deepest known point in the earths ocean, which was a place named The Challeger Deep, located near Guam in the South Pacific, in the Marianas Trench. Once again, the Trieste was equipped with another Rolex DEEP-SEA Prototype attached to the outside, and of course it came back-up unscathed.
In the photo below we see Professor Jacques Piccard on-board the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960, and notice he is wearing his Rolex GMT-Master sport watch, which was taken only 5 years after the GMT-Master was first made available for the public to purchase.
All Time DEEP-SEA Depth Record
Trieste Descends To 36,070 Feet
January 23, 1960
January 23, 1960
The photo below shows the Bathyscaphe Trieste out in the Pacific Ocean as she prepares to set the all-time depth record of 36,070 Feet on January 23, 1960.
The Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible took 4 hours and 48 minutes to descended to the ocean floor.
This next photo was taken of the Bathyscaph Trieste gondola during the 20 minute stay on the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep. U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh is holding the American flag and both Piccard and Walsh have put on sweaters since the temperature has dropped significantly from the balmy tropical seas of Gaum down to a cool 7°C (45°F).
It is profound to consider, at the moment this photos was taken, there was a Rolex DEEP-SEA Special attached to the outside of the Bathyscaph Trieste and it was holding its own, against the more than 16,000 pounds of pressure per cubic inch!!!
Just before they landed on the sea-floor Piccard and Walsh were shocked that as they reached the Challenger Deep sea-floor they were seeing animals swimming around. It was previously believed that no form of vertebrae life could exist under that kind of water pressure.
The ascent back up to the surface took 3 hours and 15 minutes.
This next photo of then U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, and Professor, Jacques Piccard was taken after they had surfaced from their record setting dive, along with the Rolex DEEP-SEA Special, all of which were in perfect working condition.
After they returned from their record-shattering dive, Jacques Piccard sent Rolex of Geneva a historic telegram that simply said:
"Happy to announce that your watch works as well at 11,000 meters as it does on the surface." –Jacques Piccard
This next ad is from early 1961 and Rolex shares its stunning story of accomplishment. It is fascinating to note that Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex was born on March 22, 1881 and passed away on July 6, 1960 in Geneva, just 6 months after the Rolex DEEP-SEA Special prototype had set the world depth record.
Han's Wilsdorf's Oyster Perpetual had successfully conquered the top of the world and the bottom of the ocean–his work was done and he must have passed away one satisfied man.
The 1960 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special Prototype
1964 Rolex Cities Under The Sea
In the mid-to-late 1960s it was apparent to everybody, including Rolex, that Rolex owned the world of Aquatic Watches. Rolex was eager to share this rich heritage with the world as we see in the 1964 ad. It is also worth nothing that this ad serves as serious clue in the puzzle of the SEA-DWELLER.
If we carefully read the conclusion above it number 4, it says "A Rolex takes a long, hard time to create...but it will still serve your son as he keeps appointments in cities under the sea." BINGO!!!! You see, back in 1964 the world was a lot bigger and slower. There was no internet or cable TV. People back then were easily fascinated with non-sensical aquatic science-fiction, like The Creature From The Black Lagoon, or The Man From Atlantis, or Aquaman, or even The Bermuda Triangle. The movie Jaws and Star Wars was still more than a decade away. The idea that man might build and occupy underwater colonies seemed very real, and with underwater habitat programs like Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Operation Conshelf, or the U.S. Navy SEALAB, it all seem real. Even Rolex bought into it, and that is where the name "SEA-DWELLER" comes from, and means.
Presiden Eisenhower is pictured above congratulating Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh at the White House in Washington D.C. As we see in the picture below, President Eisenhower as the first U.S. President to wear a Rolex.
The press release below tells the story of the actual Rolex DEEP-SEA Special Prototype watch, and how it ended up in the Smithsonian Institute.
JFK & JYC
The Life Acquatic
Back in 1962, U.S. President, John F. Kennedy gave speech at the 1962 America's Cup Dinner, where he made a really profound point. JFK pointed out the fact that we as humans have the exact same amount of salt in our bodies as is found in the the oceans salt water. Our ancestors came 365 million years ago, came from the ocean to live on land, thus we are drawn to the ocean.
"We have learned in the last sixty years how to fly better than the birds–or at least higher and longer, and the Captain has given us a possibility that some day we may swim as well as the fish–or at least deeper, and he is, therefore, one of the greatest explorers of an entirely new dimension, and I can imagine his satisfaction in having opened up the ocean floor to man and to science." –JFK
The AP photo seen above and below was taken in front of Studio 54 on December 13, 1979, and shows JFK's son, John F. Kennedy Jr, wearing a Rolex Submariner as he attempts to evade the paparazzi photographers. I think he is wearing a K-Swiss Rugby shirt in the photo.
I also heard that President Kennedy's brother Bobby Kennedy wore a Rolex Submariner, but I have not yet been able to find a photo of him wearing a Rolex. JFK Jr's cousin, Ted Kennedy Jr. wears a Rolex SEA-DWELLER as seen below.
JFK was a big sailing fan was well as being a sailor himself. The following Rolex sailing ads show how committed was not only to supporting America's cup, but catering to sailors as well.
The watch below is a Rolex Submariner that was from a team member who won the 1964 America's Cup Championship. This watch has is a a classic Rolex Submariner Reference 5513, with a gilt dial. Notice that this watch has no Date complication, as it was made several years before Rolex introduced the Date complication feature on the Submariner and SEA-DWELLER in 1967. Basically, it is the same watch as seen in the Rolex ad seen above, but this one has a crazy/beautiful patina.
Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner [Reference 6538] in The 1964 James Bond movie titled Goldfinger, as seen in the photos below.
Sean Connery wore his Rolex Submariner [Reference 6538] both under his french cuff, as seen above, as well as over his scuba suit as seen below in Goldfinger.
Rolex seems to have taken notice of the fact that James Bond was wearing a Submariner, and responded with this Rolex Submariner ad in 1965.
It's also worth noting the James Bond movie, Goldfinger spurned a Rolex woman's movement (pun intended ;-) when Honor Blackman, who played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger was the first woman on the sliver screen to wear a man's Rolex, as seen in the photo below. Rolex Professional models, or tool watches as we call them today, were no longer just part of a man's world!
1966 Rolex Submariner
1967 U.S. Navy Submariner
Rolex's relationship with the U.S. Navy would deepen significantly when Rolex co-developed the original SEA-DWELLER with the U.S. Navy SEALAB diver, Bob Barth. Rolex seems to have understood, in many ways that exploring the magnificent world of the ocean in some way held the key to mankind's understanding of land.
These next Rolex Submariner magazine ads are from 1968. Notice none of the Submariner models in the photos have the date on them, just like the one in the photo above. That's because all these ads feature the Rolex Submariner Reference 5513, which would soon be replaced by the Reference 1680 that had a date.
The Return Of
The Single RED SEA-DWELLER
50th Anniversary Celebration
Table Of Contents
Table Of Contents
• Chapter 9: The First SEA-DWELLER's: Doctor Bond. U.S. Navy Project Genesis and Jacques Cousteau & Project Conshelf.
• Chapter 16: Dr. Robert Ballard: The Ultimate U.S. Navy DEEP-SEA Discovery Of The 20th Century–Finding The Titanic
• Chapter 17: Ralph White [Explorer and National Geographic Cameraman] Discovering and Exploring The Titanic