Thursday, September 16, 2021

Rare Two-tone Deep Sea Special Appears on the Market

A Rare Two-tone Deep Sea Special

Appears on the Market

Unlike its steel counterpart, the Deep Sea Special in two-tone never descended into the Mariana Trench. It was to commemorate the achievement of the original watch's survival, in 1960, that Rolex made a rare few in two-tone steel and yellow gold for special partners, Beyer among them. 

In a Hodinkee episode of Talking Watches, René Beyer said: "I was told that Rolex offered to very special partners the version in stainless steel and gold which is of course understandable. It was exactly produced the same way [as the steel one]."

This November, Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo will offer a Rolex Deep Sea Special from 1965 as a lot in its Geneva watch auction—an auction that could fetch over $2 million. One of just 35 examples ever made, the watch’s numbered caseback features the date of the record-setting dive it commemorates (Jan. 23, 1960) and its water-resistance rating (10,908 meters/35,789 feet). 

So rare is this timepiece it joins the extremely exclusive club (of which five of its kind have been sold in the public sphere) with other publicly known examples owned and displayed by institutions. It has been over a decade since the last example has appeared on the market. Considering the majority of examples are in institutions, there is no telling when another will grace the market.

The two-tone piece commemorates the Jan. 23, 1960, event, when legendary oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh shattered the all-time depth record by descending down into the Challenger Deep to the deepest known point on Earth's seabed into the Mariana Trench. Piccard's submersible had a Rolex Deep Sea Special in steel attached to the outside of the Bathyscaphe Trieste that traveled all the way down 7 miles and returned topside fully functional.

This was not the first time Jacques Piccard set an all-time depth record with a Rolex Deep Sea Special attached to the outside of this Bathyscaphe Trieste: He set an all-time depth record with the Deep Sea Special prototype #1 in 1953 when he and his father Auguste Piccard dove down 10,350 Feet (3150 Meters).

The photo below shows then-U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Professor Jacques Piccard which 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.

The photo below shows the Bathyscaphe Trieste flying the American flag, since it was owned by the U.S. Navy, along with the Swiss Flag, since Piccard was Swiss as well as the Italian Flag, since it was originally constructed in Trieste, Italy.

Oceanographer & Professor 

Jacques Piccard

Oceanographer Jacques Piccard began his teaching career as a professor of Economics at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Jacques Piccard would ultimately leave his career as an Economics Professor at the University of Geneva to assist his father, August Piccard, to build world-class submersibles. Auguste and Jacques Piccard are pictured below.

Jacques Piccard is pictured below during testing of the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1959 near Guam.

Oceanographer & U.S. Navy Captain

Don Walsh, Ph.D

Captain Don Walsh is pictured below on the right side with his Operation Nekton team member U.S. Navy Lieutenant Larry Shumaker who is wearing his hat. Lieutenant Larry Shumaker had previously served with Captain Don Walsh on the U.S. Navy submarine named U.S.S. Rasher. Don and Larry were great friends and Larry served as Captain Walsh's assistant, and they were classmates at the Annapolis Naval Academy.

U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh had an amazing career in the U.S. Navy. In 1958 he was a submarine Lieutenant serving on the staff of Submarine Flotilla One in San Diego, Calif., as part of the U.S. Submarine Force. Submarine Flotilla One commanded 24 submarines along with four support ships which gave it a large theater of operations as part of the Pacific Fleet.

The Four Guys

Lieutenant Don Walsh was chosen by the Navy to spearhead the Bathyscaphe Trieste effort. Captain Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard first met in 1958. In this next photo, from left to right, we see Lieutenant Larry Shumaker; Lieutenant Don Walsh; Dr. Andreas Rechnitzer, Ph.D; Oceanographer and consultant Jacques Piccard.

The Bathyscaphe Trieste is pictured below during the test phase in 1959 which would prepare it for its final record-setting dive.

The Rolex Deep Sea Special Prototype

Attached Outside the Bathyscaphe Trieste

The photo below is of the actual Rolex Deep Sea Special prototype (DEEP SEA SPECIAL #3) that Jacques Piccard attached to the outside of the Bathyscaphe Trieste before it made its record setting dive down into the Mariana Trench and into the Challenger Deep in 1960. The Rolex Deep Sea Special was essentially a Rolex Submariner with a special prototype case and crystal designed to withstand tremendous pressure. The historically significant Rolex DEEP SEA SPECIAL #3 pictured below is currently located in the Smithsonian Institute's permanent collection in Washington D.C. This magnificent watch features a white dial and a case diameter of 42.7 MM, with a Radium dial and a Rolex Caliber 1000 movement.

The special domed crystal essentially worked on the same principle as a geodesic dome, or egg, in the sense it was extremely strong and utilized the laws of physics to withstand more than 8,000 tons of pressure per cubic inch. This is the exact same physics principle the domed sphere shape gondola utilized on the Bathyscaphe Trieste itself. After the successful 1960 successful dive in 1965 Rolex made multiple replica models to showcase their technology which we see in the image below.

One Of Mankind's Greatest Achievements

The U.S. Navy Bathyscaphe Trieste 

Dives Deeply Into History

Challenger Deep, Mariana Trench
200 Nautical Miles South-West of Guam
Morning of January 23, 1960

Walsh and Piccard had a challenging time getting into the Trieste because despite having clear skies, the Bathyscaphe Trieste was sloshing around in huge waves. This made it difficult to get from the USS Wandank (ATA-204) and USS Lewis (DE-540) headquarter-ship into the Trieste.

The photo below was taken of the Bathyscaphe Trieste as she prepares to dive to the deepest known part of earth's ocean on the morning of Jan. 23, 1960, with the USS Lewis (DE-540) behind her.

Into The Mystic

The photo below was taken during the descent when Walsh and Piccard were close to reaching the bottom of the Challenger Deep. In an interview, I once asked Captain 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 9,000 feet, one of the outside plexiglass windows cracked and made a huge noise, shaking the Trieste.

The Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible took 4 hours and 48 minutes to descended to the ocean floor.

At the Top of the Bottom of the World

The illustration below is an artist's rendition of what the Bathyscaphe looked like when it touched down on the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep. Despite having cameras on board, they were not able to take photos at the bottom because when they landed, a tremendous amount of sediment started swirling around the Bathyscape which Captain Walsh said was like "being in a bowl of milk."

Inner-Space Conquered

This next photo was taken of the Bathyscaphe 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 Guam down to a cool 7°C (45°F).

It is profound to consider that at the moment this photo was taken, there was a Rolex Deep Sea Special attached to the outside of the Bathyscaphe 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 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.

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.

A Presidential Welcome & Congratulations

White House, Washington, D.C.

Upon their triumphant achievement of conquering inner-space, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard went to the White House where they were given awards by President Dwight Eisenhower where they received medals.

Captain Don Walsh was one of only three members of the armed forces to receive a military medal from President Eisenhower at the White House during his eight-year term as President of the United States.

A Hero's Welcome

In the next photo we see the Bathyscaphe Trieste being proudly paraded down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 20, 1961, as part of the JFK Inauguration Day Parade.

Into the History Books

The United States, under the Eisenhower administration had finally conquered inner-space with its new heroes, Lieutenant Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, and the new administration under President Kennedy would continue to explore the magnificent ocean while ambitiously directing significant resources toward conquering outer-space with the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo space programs.