Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Baselworld 2019: All-New Rolex Model Rolesor SEA-DWELLER

Baselworld 2019 

60th Anniversary Model



43mm Yellow Gold & Stainless Steel

In 1933 Rolex registered the term "Rolesor" to describe its watch models that combined steel and gold, and has made countless Rolesor models ever since. These models are most commonly referred to as being "Two-Tone." Eighty-six years after first using Rolesor, Rolex launched this all-new Rolex 43mm SEA-DWELLER at Baselworld 2019 last week. Many people have attempted to condescendingly discount this model as well as other Baselworld models. I am NOT a Rolex apologist, but I will say I believe there are many people who "DON'T GET" this watch, and in this article I will put into perspective why I believe this to be the case.

I have heard people say things like "The new two-tone SEA-DWELLER is just a big two-tone Submariner," and that is partially true. The SEA-DWELLER began its life as, and remains a Submariner variant. Historically Rolex introduced new Submariner models first in yellow gold, then in two-tone, then in stainless steel. Thus, some people have pointed out with the advent of this two-tone Rolesor SEA-DWELLER, Rolex has done the opposite. What they don't understand is Rolex—from what I understand—does not intend to launch an all-yellow gold SEA-DWELLER in the future, although releasing a limited edition all-gold model next year at Baselworld 2020 for the 60th anniversary would be a really cool surprise and perfectly on-point. 

Jake's Rolex World Managing Editor, Captain Danny Crivello was wearing the Single Gold SEA-DWELLER within the first several hours Baselworld 2019 got underway last week and showcased the following preview images:

60th Anniversary Single Gold

The all-new Single Gold SEA-DWELLER as I am calling it is unique as it has a gold dial designation for the word "SEA-DWELLER," which not only looks awesome, but also differentiates it from any previous two-tone Rolex sports model, including the Submariner, GMT-Master and Daytona. In other words, it is the first modern Rolex Professional watch made that I am aware of with a yellow-gold model designation on the dial. Just like with the Single Red SEA-DWELLER with its slight splash of red, it's amazing how that extra touch of gold improves this model!

50th Anniversary SINGLE-RED

In 2017 at Baselworld, Rolex introduced the all-new 43mm 50th-Anniversary SINGLE RED SEA-DWELLER that the new 2019 SINGLE GOLD SEA-DWELLER is based upon. I wrote a six-part story on the advent of this watch AMAZING Rolex named "The Return Of The Single RED SEA-DWELLER 50th Anniversary Model". This story is Chapter 19 of 20 Chapters in my series named: "The Complete History Of The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean."

60th Anniversary Model

The Rolesor SEA-DWELLER is an homage to the original Rolex DEEP-SEA SPECIAL models Number 1 and Number 3, which set all-time depth records respectively while attached to the outside of the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1953 when she dove to 10,350 feet (3,150 meters), as well as when the U.S. Navy took her 7 miles down to 35,815 feet (10,916 meters) in 1960 to set an all-time depth record, which remains unbroken to this day. Notice both the Number 1 and Number 3 DEEP-SEA SPECIAL Prototype models that were attached to the outside of Piccard's Bathyscaphe were both two-tone Rolesor. In other words, Rolex has not come out and said it, but I will: This all-new Rolesor SEA-DWELLER is a 60th anniversary model that pays homage to the deepest dives in history. The deepest dive took place 59 years ago, in 1960, and we will soon be celebrating the 60th anniversary of this amazing human accomplishment.

Jose and I worked together on the timeline poster seen below titled, "HISTORY OF THE ROLEX SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean." You can download a high-resolution version of this poster for your desktop wallpaper or purchase a large poster version of this magnificent poster on

Rolex DEEP-SEA Special 

1953 Prototype

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 Bathyscaph Trieste was designed by Augusté Piccard who was a famous Swiss scientist. Piccard's Bathyscaph was financed by the Italian government and was built in Italy. The upper section of the Bathyscaph was made in Trieste Italy, and the lower sphere was built in near Naples. The photo below shows the Trieste off the coast of the Island of Ponza off the west coast of Italy between Rome and Naples.

The photo below shows the Bathyscaph Trieste in front of Ponza, Island in Italy where it set the all-time depth record in 1953.

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 stand 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 was taken right after the Piccards set the depth record in 1953. Notice Piccard's Bathyscaphe is flying both the Italian and Swiss flags as the Italian government had provided the funding to build the Trieste.

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 appears courtesy of Christies Auction House, who auctioned it in 2005 for around a quarter of a million dollars.

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.  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 National Geographic magazine ad seen above is from Rolex and 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 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.

Two Jacques

There were two different men named Jacques who helped Rolex develop and test the Submariner and later the SEA-DWELLER. That would be Jacques Piccard and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. I discovered the  two photos below in the MIT Archives and they show Jacques Piccard in 1954 rockin' his Rolex Submariner prototype while working on his Bathescaphe which had just set the all-time depth record to date in 1953 when he dove it to 10,350 Feet (3,150 Meters). I am 98% certain Jacques Piccard is wearing a Rolex Submariner in this image. The only other watch it could be would be a prototype of a GMT-Master, which he also wore.

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 this next press image take in the second half of 1959 we see Jacques Piccard (right), with his father Augusté Piccard (center) along with Andy Richnitser (left) reviewing a then confidential U.S. Navy depth map of the Challenger Deep which was believed to be the deepest part of the ocean floor at 7 miles down. Notice Jacques Piccard is still wearing his Rolex with no crown guard.

In the photo below we see Professor Jacques Piccard on-board the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960, and notice he is wearing his Rolex.  

In this next photo we see U.S. Navy Don Walsh and Swiss Oceanographer and Explorer, Jacques Piccard on board the Bathyscaphe Trieste examining a part. Not so long after this photo was taken, these two men would earn their place in the history books.


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

The following diagram gives a fascinating perspective on the Mariana Trench and the Challenger Deep. It is profound to note that the Challenger Deep at more than 35,000 feet is deeper than the highest point on earth which is Mt. Everest at just over 29,000 feet.

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.

All Time DEEP-SEA Depth Record 

Trieste Descends To 36,070 Feet

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.

Inner-Space Conquered

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

Below is a photo of the ACTUAL Rolex DEEP-SEA #3 prototype that was attached to the outside of the Bathyscaph Trieste when it set the all-time depth record in 1960 in the Challenger Deep...Jose from got this high-res photo of DEEP-SEA #3 from the Smithsonian Institute.

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

The following Rolex Magazine appeared in the international version of Life Magazine on October 24, 1960, and it perfectly contextualizes the way Rolex saw this achievement at the time. You can click on the image to make it easier to read the text.

Pictured below we see a Rolex DEEP-SEA magazine ad that was published in Japanese. Special thanks to my brilliant researcher Alan from Honk Kong who found this really cool vintage Rolex ad...

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.

If you speak French, you can check out the Jacques Piccard interview below: 


As is often the case with Rolex, the Single Gold Rolex SEA-DWELLER is not what it initially appeared to be, which is commonly the case with Rolex.

It's nice to see Rolex giving the nod (seen below) to the U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanauts and Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Conshelf Aquanauts who played a critical role in the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER in their "experimental underwater habitat programs."