Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Return of The Single RED SEA-DWELLER: Part 4 0f 6

The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER
Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean
Part 4 of 6


When I began Jake's Rolex World a decade ago, there was a myth that was perpetuated that said that Rolex co-developed the Rolex SEA-DWELLER watch the French Deep-Sea diving company. It turned out this was NOT true, and I discover the true story of how and why Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER. I literally stumbled in to the true story of the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER and it all begins with this man, Scott Carpenter.

 "The Rolex Submariner & Rolex SEA-DWELLER have a cachet that is unmatched by any other watch. The Rolex brand is the most highly respected in my book. The Rolex Submariner was the preferred diving watch for U.S. NAVY SEALAB Divers." –Scott Carpenter

Conquering Outer Space

On September 12, 1962 at Rice University, in Houston, Texas, President Kennedy gave his second famous Moon Speech which is amazingly inspirational and equally insightful which you can view below. In this speech JFK expressed his ambition to see the Untied State put a man on the moon, and return him safely to earth.

I conducted a podcast interview with Scott Carpenter, and he shared stories about his career achievements that gave me some deep clues as to the real story. Scott Carpenter was the first NASA Astronaut in history to become an Aquanaut. 

The Original 7
NASA Mercury Astronaut Team
March 1, 1960 

From Conquering Outer Space 
To Conquering Inner Space

After he flew his project Mercury mission, he told his commander at the U.S. Navy that he wanted to work with Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the Calypso, with Project Conshelf. The Navy granted him permission to do so, and he flew to meet with Jacques Cousteau and told him he wanted to join the Operation Conshelf team. Jacques Cousteau told him that he would love to have him be part of his team, but the challenge was that very few of the men on Cousteau's Calypso ship spoke English, and since Scott didn't speak French, it would be a challenge. 

Then Jacques Cousteau said to Scott Carpenter. I have a better idea for you. Why don't you join the U.S. Navy SEALAB program as an aquanaut. 

Scott had not heard about  the SEALAB program, but immediately flew back to the United States and joined SEALAB.

U.S. Navy SEA-LAB Aquanauts: Bob Barth, Wilbur Eaton & Scott Carpenter
Team 1 Preparing To Dive Down To SEA-LAB 2 Habitat [August 28, 1965]

Scott told me the Navy issued all the divers who were part of the SEALAB project Rolex Submariners during SEALAB 1, and 2 and Rolex SEA-DWELLER watches during SEALAB 3.

Scott Carpenter was an avid watch collector and clearly suffered from WISitus. He took the photo below for me of his Patent Pending Rolex Submariner Reference 1665. 


Scott Carpenter introduced me to a number of key players who were involved in the the SEALAB program with him, which included Rolex USA Executive, T. Walker Lloyd; SEALAB Co-Director, Walter Mazzone, and SEALAB 3 Team Leader, Bob Barth, as well as numerous other men involved in the mission. I conducted detailed interviews with each of them, and I will offer a topographical overview of the key players.

T. Walker Lloyd

I spent more than 9 hours interviewing T. Walker Lloyd who is pictured below in his U.S. Marines photo. You can listen to my podcast and learn much more in my story named, "The Right Stuff, The Complete History Of The Rolex SEA-DWELLER: Rolex X Files with T. Walker Lloyd."

T. Walker Lloyd is picture and featured below in the 1974 Rolex SEA-DWELLER ad.

Bob Barth

The U.S. Navy Aquanaut & SEA-DWELLER
That Helped To Develop The Helium Release with Rolex

T. Walker Lloyd told me a story about how he was at a Scuba Diving convention in New York, when he met a U.S. Navy SEALAB Mission Diver named Robert "Bob" Barth, who is pictured below wearing a Rolex Tudor Submariner, during Operation Genesis in August of 1963, just before he joined the Operation SEALAB team.

I spent countless hours interviewing Bob Barth for a podcast, which I still have not published. Hopefully in the future I will find the time to edit and publish my interviews with him. It turns out that he and fellow SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter ended up becoming best friends for life until Scott passed away several years ago. 

The photo below shows SEALAB as she is headed out for open sea as she passes under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The photo below shows Bob Barth's Rolex Submariner [Reference 5512] that he personally wore during SEALAB 1 & 2.  It has a serial number around 1,100,000 with a beautiful gilt dial, with a wicked purple patina. So essentially this watch was worn by the man who came up with the idea for the helium release valve for the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. Rolex deliver the first Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototypes to SEALAB in January of 1969.

U.S. Naval School Of DEEP-SEA Divers

So what do Bob Barth and T. Walker Lloyd have to do with the development of the Rolex SEA-DWLLER? Everything. Basically, they developed the SEA-DWELLER with Rolex. Bob Barth is pictured below, in the back row, third from the left. Speaking of the SEA-DWELLER, where did the name DEEP-SEA come from? Look at the sign that reads, "U.S. Navy School Deep Sea Divers"

After T. Walker Lloyd and Bob Barth met, they developed a close friendship as both of them were DEEP-SEA Divers. One day, Bob Barth was complaining about how the crystals kept popping off the SEALAB divers Submariner watches during the decompression portion of their saturation diving experiments. T. Walker Lloyd asked Bob why this was occurring, and Bob Barth told him it had to do with helium building up in the Rolex Submariner and not being able to escape. T. Walker asked Bob Barth to put together a detailed analysis on paper, and mentioned he would deliver it to the CEO of Rolex at the time. 

André Heiniger

T. Walker Lloyd told me he was shocked when Bob Barth delivered the phone book sized analysis. T. Walker said, he had no idea that Bob Barth was so scientifically adept. T. Walker also told me he thought the document was too complicated for a non DEEP-SEA diver to understand, so he simplified it and presented it to then Rolex CEO, André Heiniger who is pictured below in a photo from 1963, just after he became CEO of Rolex.

André Hiniger was so blown away with T. Walker's synopsis of Bob Barth's documentation, he called the President of Rolex USA, Rene Denton an told him to find T. Walker Lloyd and hire him immediately as an Oceanographic Consultant for Rolex, which he did. Rolex worked with T. Walker Lloyd and Bob Barth to furnish the SEALAB team with watches with the Helium Release valve Bob Barth proposed, the first of which were delivered to the SEALAB III team in January 1969.

1967 Helium Release Valve

The three pages below are a copy of Rolex's Patent Application for the Helium Release Valve. Notice it was originally filed on November 6, 1967.

2017 Helium Release Valve

The illustration below shows a side view of the Rolex Helium Release valve parts found in the Rolex new for 2017 Single RED SEA-DWELLER.

What Is A Helium Release Valve?

Hardhat divers, and early Scuba divers breathed in compressed Air. The air you are breathing right now is mostly comprised of 78.09 nitrogen, 20.95 oxygen, 0.93 argon, and 0.04 carbon dioxide, with small amounts of other gases. The air you are breathing also contains a variable among of water vapor, which on average at sea-level is around 1%. 

If you go SCUBA Diving, and descend below 125 Feet (40 Meters) the 78.09% nitrogen can have an ill effect on you, which is commonly referred to as nitrogen narcosis. Nitrogen Narcosis can actually begin at around 30 Meters, and it is all depends on a persons body composition.

The U.S. NAVY Genesis Program experimented with using different mixes of gases, and proved that if you wanted to perform DEEP-SEA Saturation Diving, the diver would not suffer if they replaced the nitrogen, with Helium. The challenge with saturation divers is they would breath in this mixture of 20% Oxygen and 80% Helium, and their body would get saturated with this mixture. 

U.S. Navy Aquanaut Scott Carpenter's Helium Release Valve on his SEA-DWELLER Pictured above

When divers would go through the decompression process of coming up from the DEEP-SEA in diving bells, their bodies would naturally release the helium. The challenge is that Helium molecules are the smallest of all gasses, and they would get inside the Rolex Submariner watches by entering though the gaskets. When the divers was decompressing, their watch would release helium at a much slower rate than their body, and that is what caused the crystals to blow of some of the watches.

2017 Single RED Rolex SEA-DWELLER Gas Escape Valve Pictured Above

The solution Bob Barth came up with was to incorporate a gas release valve would release the helium or other gasses built up in the watch if it was not equalized—and that is where the spring comes into play in the illustration above. In other words, if the pressure inside the watch was greater than outside the case, the spring would move to let out the helium or other gasses.

As a result, the SEA-DWLLER was born, and the U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanauts were the first to test these prototype SEA-DWELLER watches in early 1969. The photo below shows one of the first Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototypes. This model is known as a Single Red SEA-DWELLER [Reference 1665], and they are super rare, and worth more than $750,000.00 each today!!! Nobody knows for certain how many exist in the hands of collectors, but the best information points to around a total of 10 known authentic models. I say authentic, because when there is so much money at stake, it increases the likelihood that an unscrupulous person or dealer might try create a counterfeit dial and pass it off as real. 

This ultra-rare early Rolex SEA-DWELLER has a bunch of unique features including the fact that under the Rolex logo on the dial it says "OYSTER PERPETUAL DATE". In other words, the word "DATE" has font that is larger. Also, notice that under the red "SEA-DWELLER" dial designation, it says "SUBMARINER 500 -1650FT". This designation make it very unusual. Special thanks to my good pal, Eric Ku from 10PastTen for sharing this very rare photo.


The U.S. SEALAB program was the brainchild of Dr. Bond who is pictured below wearing a bathrobe, standing next to his right hand man, Captain Walter 'Walt" Mazzone. I spent many hours interviewing Walt Mazzone, who before had been a submarine Captain during World War II. I became close with Walt and we spend many hours talking about SEALAB, Rolex and life in general. I recorded my conversations with him, and perhaps one day I will publish them as a podcast. 

Walt and I planned to get together in person for me to interview him in front of the camera but time ran out. He was 95 years old, and a few months before I was supposed to interview him, the old boy passed away, which shocked me!!! I am so bummed out that I did not get a chance to interview him on camera, but at least I got to enjoy the the pleasure of his stories. He was an extremely smart, wise man with an extremely kind soul to match. He even offered to give me his single red Rolex as a gift, which I refused to accept, as all I wanted from him was his friendship.

"What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on." –Jacques-Yves Cousteau 

The photo below was taken in 1968, and it shows U.S. Navy Doctor George Bond being interviewed with his close associate, Captain Jacques-Yves Coustea, who is the greatest explorer in history. In the interview they were discussing U.S. Navy SEALAB III.

Dr. George Bond first met Jacques Cousteau in the mid 1950s at the Boston SEA-ROVERS, and told him about how he had an idea to build underwater habitats for men to dwell in on the ocean floor. Cousteau told Bond it was a brilliant idea. Then Bond told Cousteau he tried to get the U.S. Congress to fund his SEALAB idea, but they thought it would be a wast of money. Then Bond told Cousteau, that he thought he should do the same thing. Jacques responded by saying, I don't have the kind of money to build underwater habitats and man them. Bond told Cousteau he should try to raise the money to do so, and after Cousteau thought about it he agreed. He ended up raising the money from the French government and other parties and began Project Conshelf.

Dr. Bond was a U.S. Navy scientist who, in the 1950s came up with the concept of saturation diving as a way to increase the duration of untethered deep sea dives. Dr. Bond was responsible for the discovering that after 24 hours the human body would get saturated with atmospheric gases, thus no additional time to decompress would be necessary. This allowed saturation divers work and live underwater for a sustained period of time that last for days, weeks or even months. This could be done with having to make single dives that lasted for a short duration. 

The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER

Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean

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