Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The Old Man & The SEA-DWELLER: Dr. Joe MacInnis

James Cameron and Dr. Joe MacInnis 

The Magic of Mentoring

The Royal Canadian Geographic Society just published the following video seen below that features two really famous Canadian Rolex Brand Ambassadors and DEEP-SEA explorers, and they discuss their mentoring relationship. I remember when I interviewed Dr. Joe MacInnis for the article below the video he spoke very fondly about his mentorship relationship of James Cameron.

I could not help but notice Jame Cameron was rocking his D-Blue DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER during the interview:

Celebrating Dr. Joe MacInnis

Dr. Joe MacInnis is a man of great accomplishments and has received many accolades through his lifetime. After the event that occurred in the video above, they celebrated Dr. Joe's lifetime achievements:

This is IT. This is THE REAL STORY of THE Rolex SEA-DWELLER. This is what we have all been waiting for—and now the story can finally be told in its entirety!!! For the first time we have a complete picture, which is a crowning achievement in-and-of itself: 

"We shall not cease from EXPLORATION, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." 

—T.S. Eliot 

2005 Dr. Joe MacInnis pictured above during James Cameron / Discovery Channel 

Live Broadcast from Titanic sporting his Single-Red SEA-DWELLER

The Old Man & The SEA-DWELLER

Dr. Joe MacInnis

Renowned Physician Scientist,

Author & DEEP SEA Explorer

Dr. Joe MacInnis' 1967 Single Red Sea-DWELLER [Reference 1665]

Depending on his Trusted Companion 


for over a Half-Century

This is an exclusive story with many images that have never been seen or previously published including close-up photos of Dr. Joe MacInnis' Single Red SEA-DWELLER—which is the first and only documented Single Red SEA-DWELLER used during The U.S. Navy SEALAB III Mission. Dr. Joe's Holy Grail Single-Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER is so rare it is like finding Bigfoot, or a Rainbow Unicorn...Before this story there were ZERO. Now there is ONE ultra-rare specimen that is documented here.

This story represents one of the most profound discoveries I have ever made in my close to a decade-and-a-half of publishing Jake's Rolex World and showcases one of the greatest missing puzzle pieces of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER history!!! 

Dr. Joe MacInnis has been an iconic Rolex Ambassador for over a half-century and has been a judge for Rolex's "Spirit of Enterprise Awards." He also appeared in three different Rolex Submariner ads that were published from the 1960s to the 1980s as we see one below from 1974. He has received many honors including The Order of Canada

Dr. Joe MacInnis is a living Rolex legend whose career achievements are mind-boggling! To date he has written nine books about his undersea work including 'Breathing Underwater', 'James's Cameron's Aliens of the Deep', and 'DEEP LEADERSHIP.'

I have often asked, "Can a man be a watch?" This amazing story begs the question, 'Can a watch be a man?" This it the story of man and his machine...his Rolex time Machine...

Dr. Joe MacInnis is a profound thinker and deeply philosophical and equally articulate. His tac-sharp memory (at age 84) offers an invaluable trip back in the Rolex Time Machine to the Genesis point of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. I could not help but notice Dr. Joe knows almost EVERYBODY and EVERYTHING having to do with the early history of diving in the context of Rolex...He has an encyclopedic knowledge that is truly awe inspiring...

Over the course of the last two years I have interviewed "Dr. Joe" many times and I plan to publish an amazing multi-hour podcast in the future where you can listen to his story in his own words.

"There are too many hermetically-sealed scientists–men who spend great sums of money collecting knowledge that they jealously keep to themselves. Knowledge is useless unless it is shared." 

–Dr. Joseph MacInnis

Dr. Joe during the Triton Test Series in the Bahamas in 2015 rocking his Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER

Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Dr. Joe MacInnis' Single Red Sea-DWELLER is no ordinary Rolex sport watch. His 'Single Red' SEALAB SEA-DWELLER has witnessed unbelievable history and worlds far beyond imagination! It was not only on his wrist during SEALAB III, but has dived under the ice at the North Pole, been to Antartica, Siberia, Kashmir, Bhutan, down twice to explore the Titanic in her watery grave, and has even been worn in outer space when it rocketed up to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor. It is doubtful there is another tool watch on earth that has seen as much action and witnessed so much exploration as Dr. Joe's Rolex Single Red SEA-DWELLER.

Pictured above and below we see 
Dr. Joe MacInnis' Single Red Sea-DWELLER floating in space 
aboard The Space Shuttle Endeavor from Mission STS-118 to the International Space Station in 2007.

Why is this Story so Important?

This is The Very First 


to be directly associated with 

U.S. Navy Project SEALAB!!!

The Rolex SEA-DWELLER was once part of a classified experimental deep sea project with the U.S. Navy that literally involved sea-dwellers living in the ocean. This story is filled with intrigue and all the key characteristics of a great novel—and so much more! When I began publishing Jake's Rolex World back in 2008, the false consensus narrative put forth universally was Rolex had developed the Rolex SEA-DWELLER with the French diving company named COMEX for their diving teams. This is NOT true. On Jake's Rolex World I always strive to separate fact from the fiction and in this story you will learn the REAL History of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER...

In a strange twist of fate I stumbled into the TRUE history of the SEA-DWELLER—much to my pleasant surprise—when I interviewed pioneering NASA Astronaut and U.S. Navy Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter back in 2008 who told me the U.S. Navy had co-developed the SEA-DWELLER helium release valve with Rolex which he witnessed firsthand!?!!

U.S. NASA Astronaut & SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter (right) with Jacques-Yves Cousteau

This initial discovery sent me on an amazing multi-decade Rolex history exploration odyssey where I interviewed countless SEALAB aquanauts and project team members including Dr. Walt Mazzone, and lead SEALAB Aquanaut Bob Barth as well as Henri Germain Delauze who was the founder of COMEX. Henri-Germain Delauze confirmed to me in a 2008 interview COMEX had ZERO to do with the development of the SEA-DWELLER or Rolex's development of the Helium Release Valve. Ironically, Henri told me that in 1968 COMEX had not begun working with Rolex and they were working with Omega!?!! In fact, COMEX began working with Rolex years later...

Founder Of COMEX, Henri Delauze [1970]

From my research I was able to distill the first Single Red Sea-Dwellers were co-developed by SEALAB aquanauts to test for Rolex. The super crazy challenge is I was not able to locate even one Single Red SEALAB Sea-Dweller that could offer proof positive confirmation the SEALAB divers actually wore and tested Single Red DEA-DWELLER models!?!! 

Despite my discovery, which seemed like a hypothesis at the time as it could NOT be proven with direct positive ID evidence, nobody challenged my new narrative I put forth. In other words, if somebody had said, "Listen, Mr. Know-It-All Smarty-Pants Rolex Historian, if the SEALAB members actually developed the helium release valve on the SEA-DWELLER with Rolex then why isn't there even one example of a SEALAB team member showing up with a SEALAB Single Red Sea-DWELLER?"

Granted, nobody ever made such an accusation, but if they had, not only would it have put me in an awkward position, but I would have had a hard time defending what I believed to be true to a 100% standard. Essentially, all the Single-Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER models have been lost to antiquity for one reason or the other, which I will go into more detail later in this story.

The great news is I FINALLY found the first Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER and as you can see pictured below on Dr. Joe MacInnis' wrist!!! With this amazing new piece of the puzzle, I feel like for the first time ever I can present the complete REAL history of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

Dr. Joe's Single Red Sea-DWELLER

I first discovered and published evidence of Dr. Joe MacInnis wearing his Sea-DWELLER more than a decade ago as witnessed with the photo below. Little did I realize he was rocking a single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER!?!!

In the photo below we see a recent photo of Dr. Joe's Single Red SEA-DWELLER (Reference 1665) in all it's glory! In an interview, Dr. Joe referred to his Single Red SEA-DWELLER as "my time-keeping friend." Up until recently he wore this watch regularly but I suggested to him it was too valuable to continue wearing as its value today is immense, so he put it away in a vault for safe keeping. In my opinion, this watch really belongs in Rolex's Museum Collection.

Dr. Joe MacInnis' Single Red Sea-DWELLER Today

Dr. Joe's Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER is 1 of 5 out of 13 currently known or documented Single Red models that features the prototype Helium Escape Valve (HEV) which today is the trademark standard feature on the SEA-DWELLER.

Amazing Career

Dr. Joe MacInnis was born in Barrie, Ontario, Canada on March 2, 1937 which makes him 84 today. His family moved to Toronto where he grew up after his father, a Royal Canadian Air Force instructor passed away in an airplane crash when Dr. Joe was only a few months old.

Dr. Joe (Pictured above, top row on far right) was the captain of the swim team at the University of Toronto and was an excellent swimmer. Dr. Joe earned an MD from the same school in 1962. Dr. Joe learned to scuba dive in 1954 when he was 17 years in Florida. 

His incredible story spans six decades of pioneering undersea science and engineering projects. 

Dr. Joe shared his story: 

"As a young boy in Canada, big skies and big lakes went into me. They slowed me down, made me think, made me somehow, reverential. There was something about them that said: 'Come . . and find out.'

My father was a flying instructor in the Royal Canadian Air Force. His death in a mid-air collision brought the perils of human existence into my dawn-of-consciousness days.

As a teenager, I was captivated by the natural world—and the human family. To enhance my understanding of the natural world, I began to free dive and scuba dive. To satisfy my curiosity about the human family, I went to medical school..

These were the opening years of a new decade—the 1960s. Americans and Russians were putting the first humans into space and the deep ocean. Mercury astronauts were orbiting the earth. The U.S. Navy deployed a manned vehicle into the Mariana Trench that carried two men seven miles into the ocean. More than anything, I wanted to participate in this grand adventure!"

It is fascinating to observe Rolex was invisibly behind many of these above mentioned events serving humanity with explorers quietly keeping their time. As a matter of fact, a Rolex DEEP-SEA special was aboard the U.S. Navy Bathyscaphe Trieste (pictured above) when it set the all-time depth record in the above referenced Mariana Trench in 1960

Dr. Joe's deep aquatic adventure began unfolding right after he graduated from medical school in the early 1960s at which point he was a "freshly-minted medical doctor, full of optimism about exploring a new frontier." 

Today, as Dr. Joe reflects in the rear-view mirror of life he adds fascinating historical context and insight: 

"Today, I’m a sea-weathered physician trying to push beyond my delusions to understand the lessons of my deep ocean odyssey. What really happened inside and outside those black depths?"

From the beginning, Mother Ocean and her cold, currents, darkness and pressure, was my master teacher. She taught me that life on-board a working ship, or within the claustrophobic confines of a research sub, forces you to make a pact with the ship, the sub and your mates. Part of that pact is self-reliance, respect for machinery, reverence for the sea around you and a love of laughter.

Every time you descend into her depths, Mother Ocean compels you to ask life-and-death questions. Are you prepared? What are your motives? Have you considered the harm you will do? Failure to find the right answers brings you to your knees in a heartbeat or a lifetime."

My love of challenge, search for status and affection for Big Oil and consumer capitalism made me complicit in tearing apart the biosphere. It lays bare the need for radical changes in my earth-ocean relationships. It’s a call-to-action to help build a steady-state, post-fossil fuel economy where Mother Ocean and the biosphere define the limits."


The Rolex SEA-DWELLER is the stuff of legend. The story of Man and the Sea, as well as the story of Man and Machine, have captivated and fascinated the human imagination and psyche since the beginning of recorded history. This story of the exploration of inner-space tells how the science fiction of one century became the science reality of the next century, and how Rolex played a critical role in the history of The Right Stuff as well as mankind's conquest of the ocean. 

This is the captivating story of man returning to live and work underwater in the DEEP-SEA, as depicted in the 1871 illustration seen below from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The SEA. It's Captain Nemo and the Nautilus come to life...This story is about astounding exploration, fueled by The Spirit Of Inquiry...So let's hop in The Rolex Time Machine and set out on a Fantastic Voyage...

French 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea Illustration from 1871 depicts two men located in bottom left corner Dwelling under the Sea 


Dr. Joe's underwater journey began with helping to colonize the continental shelf with the first aptly named "SEA-DWELLERS". In October of 1963 at age 26, Dr. Joe MacInnis joined the American project 'Man-In-SEA' research project spearheaded by Edwin Link in Key West, Florida as a medical advisor. 

At the time J.F.K. was the President of the United States. As Dr. Joe drove across the Canadian border into the United State he was carrying a Green Card and a Draft Card. His Green Card permitted him to work in America and his draft card meant he could be called-up to be sent to Vietnam by the U.S. Military.

Dr. Joe expounds:

"I was headed to Philadelphia and Key West to study diving research at the University of Pennsylvania and join the American Man-In-Sea program. As I crossed the International Peace Bridge in Buffalo, New York, I had no idea of what lay ahead.

Americans and Russians were fighting a ‘hot’ Cold War. Fleets of nuclear powered submarines with ballistic missiles were deployed throughout the Atlantic and Pacific. Long-range B-52 bombers were flying non-stop missions with hydrogen bombs. The Cuban Missile Crisis had just happened; American forces were losing the fight in the jungles of Vietnam. But I was young, bursting with energy and oblivious. The only thing that mattered was: I had a job in America.

In 1963, my career was accelerated by the unthinkable. A billion dollar nuclear submarine was steaming slowly through the depths. A cooling pipe burst. The sub came to a stop, descended stern first and imploded. The USS Thresher and her 129 men were scattered into the depths.

The worst disaster in American submarine history confirmed how little was know about deep water and its effects on complex machines and human performance. Knowing they had no deep water search and rescue system for future accidents, the Navy began asking hard questions. Two of them were: how deep can humans dive? What systems do they need to work safely?

I spent the next eight years with American research teams trying to answer these questions. First, as medical advisor to Edwin Link’s Man-In-Sea project. In 1964, in the Bahamas, Robert Stenuit and Jon Lindbergh, son of the famous flyer, descended to 432 feet—the outer edge of the continental shelf—and took up residence in a small, inflatable dwelling. 

As I monitored their health from our ship moored over their refuge, they remained submerged for two days. They made repeated forays to study the surrounding seafloor and returned to their gas-filled shelter to eat and rest. The multiple stressors on them included an exotic breathing mixture of oxygen and helium. When they surfaced, they had completed the longest deep dive in history.

1964 Jon Lindbergh & Robert Stenuit Man-In-Sea Mission

"We had gone deeper than the US Navy’s SEALAB program and Jacques Cousteau’s CONSHELF project. Suddenly, like them, we were at the centre of a movement to “colonize” the continental shelf by living under the sea. For a young diving physician, there was something about it that was very rewarding, but there was something about it that seemed threatening. Without asking, we had become trespassers . . . trying to bend Mother Ocean to our will."

A year later, I became medical director of Ocean Systems Inc., the world’s largest undersea engineering and diving company. My primary task was to monitor the health and safety of sixty commercial divers working on oil rigs in the Eastern Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. I spent time with dive crews in California, Louisiana and Norway. At our research facility in Buffalo, New York, I co-led a small team developing decompression tables to allow our divers to work at one hundred fathoms.

As the prime contractor to the U.S. Navy’s Supervisor of Salvage, we helped recover an H-bomb lost beneath the Mediterranean Sea and participated in the search for the USS Scorpion, a nuclear submarine lost south of the Azores. We recovered bodies and engines from Pan American Flight 712 in the Caribbean Sea and salvaged a B-52 bomber from the depths of Lake Michigan. These accidents took the lives of more than one hundred souls.

Every death was brutal. The B-52 was on a night training mission over Lake Michigan, flying 360 miles an hour at an altitude of 500 feet when metal fatigue split her left wing. Cartwheeling into the lake, her 25,000 gallons of jet fuel exploded in a fireball seen 20 miles away. During the savage operations, there were no signs of her nine-man crew. They had vanished on impact.

Research was an essential part of our work. In our steel chamber at Union Carbide’s Linde Plant in Buffalo, we dove to 400 feet, 500 and 600 feet. Our subjects were our field divers and volunteers from our research team. We measured physiological responses during ‘bounce’ dives and ‘saturation’ dives. The most challenging descent was a 48-hour saturation dive to 650 feet. Our objective was to apply what we learned in the lab to the ocean’s depths.

Our favourite research device was the first-ever lock-out sub. Deep Diver had two compartments: one for the pilot and an observer; a second for two divers who opened a hatch and slipped into the sea to work. Deep Diver had what every diver wanted: mobility. We used her for science dives and saturation dives. We flew with her to the Azores to assist the Navy in the hunt for the USS Scorpion and to Newfoundland to search for a Navy cable-burying machine on the Grand Banks. During a series of dives in the Bahamas, I monitored the health and safety of two men who dropped out of the sub at 700 feet.


I first learned about SEALAB in detail from legendary NASA Gemini Astronaut and SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter who is pictured below. 

[On a side-note, Jose and I are working on a fascinating special project I will be making a huge announcement on soon!!!]

Rolex was the primary pioneer with waterproof watch technology going all the way back to the introduction of the Rolex Oyster which debuted in 1926 as the worlds first commercially available waterproof watch that had been brought to market by Rolex's brilliant founder, Hans Wilsdorf

In 1953, Rolex took things to the next level with the Deep Sea Special Prototype Number 1 which set an all-time depth record attached to the outside of the Bathyscaphe Trieste off Ponza Island when she dove to 10,350 feet (3150 Meters). In 1953, Rolex also introduced their Submariner which has become the most iconic dive watch in history.

Click image to zoom in for much more detail

Jose from and I put together the poster above named "HISTORY OF THE ROLEX SEA-DWELLER—Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean" which shows the historical ark of how the Rolex SEA-DWELLER evolved from the original Rolex Oyster. The most significant takeaway point in my mind about the SEA-DWELLER is that the SEA-DWELLER is, and remains a Rolex Submariner variant to this day, or as Jose puts it so eloquently: 

"The SEA-DWELLER was designed to be an Uber Submariner that could go much deeper." 

This is evidenced in may ways including the fact the original Single Red SEA-DWELLER models along with the later Double Red SEA-DWELLER models had a 'SUBMARINER' designation on their dials. Notice in the recent exclusive photo below of Dr. Joe MacInnis' Rolex the line under the Single Red SEA-DWELLER dial designation reads "SUBMARINER 500 M-1650 FT".

Jose and I discovered the fact Rolex made the original Single Red SEA-DWELLER models for SEALAB to test aboard SEALAB III in late 1967, but SEALAB III kept getting delayed. All the original Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER models were made in Switzerland WITHOUT gas release valves, but some were later retrofitted by Rolex U.S.A. master watchmakers to incorporate a Helium Release Valve including Dr. Joe MacInnis' model as seen below in a recent exclusive photo.

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.

Single Red Details

Rolex made a small batch of Single Red SEA-DWELLER Prototypes for the SEALAB project in 1967, but due to significant delays, they were not given out until 1968. Rolex U.S.A. modified some of the Single Red SEA-DWELLER models by installing a helium Release Valve on them. Below is a collage of all known Single Red SEA-DWELLER models known to scholarship which was put together by Jose from 

Jose also put together the following ROLEX SEA-DWELLER PRODUCTION TIMELINE graphic that puts all significant details in perspective. When Jose and I do research all our findings get entered into visual databases and we then take all data, timeframe information and photos and lay them out to best understand all the amazing details. Such taxonomy techniques ensures we don't get confused with details later and assist us with better understanding contextual relationships. 


"Water is the driving force of all nature."

—Da Vinci 

"Nothing is more enticing, disenchanting, enslaving...than life at sea." 

Joseph Conrad

Dr. Joe received his ultra-rare Single Red Sea-DWELLER (Reference 1665) from Rolex U.S.A. Executives, T. Walker Lloyd, and Rolex U.S.A. President, Rene Paul Dentan at Rolex U.S.A. Headquarters in New York in March of 1968 just after he joined the U.S. Navy SEALAB III program. 

At the time T. Walker Lloyd was serving as an Oceanic Consultant for Rolex in large part due to his relationship with SEALAB lead diver, Bob Barth. Dr. Joe originally met T. Walker Lloyd at The Boston Sea Rovers and the two became close friends. T. Walker Lloyd is featured below in the Rolex SEA-DWELLER from 1974 which features a later Double Red SEA-DWELLER: Serial Number 1602912.

Dr. Joe knew and worked with many key pioneers of deep sea exploration, including U.S. Navy SEALAB's Dr. George Bond who is pictured below (center) being interviewed with legendary submariner and sea-dweller Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Dr. Joe was a great admirer of Jacques-Yves Cousteau and associate of his. Dr. Joe wrote:

"Jacques Cousteau invited us to lunch in Boston to talk about his Conshelf 3 Project, and later to his research lab in Marseille. 'Le Grand Seigneur' of undersea exploration had an immutable sense of awe of intuition. He was as eloquent on stage as he was graceful underwater. From the beginning, he was our role model and mentor."

Dr. Bond who was affectionately known by his close SEALAB Aquanauts as 'Papa Topside' is pictured below wearing a Rolex Submariner or SEA-DWELLER prototype during the SEALAB mission. Dr. Bond was a pioneer in saturation diving which would allow men to essentially live and work in the ocean.

Scott Carpenter was one of the key Aquanauts of the U.S. Navy SEALAB program, and in the photo below we see him rocking his Rolex Submariner.

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]

Dr. Bond (Pictured below on right) co-developed the U.S. Navy SEALAB program with his right-hand man, Walt Mazzone (pictured below on left). I interviewed and became friends with Walt before he passed away in 2014. Walt was amazing and was the one who came up with the name SEALAB.

U.S. NAVY SEALAB founders Dr. George Bond (top) and Captain Walt Mazzone in the ocean off of La Jolla, California in 1965 as they prepare to visit the 10 SEALAB Aquanauts living and working at 205 feet below the ocean surface aboard SEALAB2

Dr. Joe knew and worked closely with all the men mentioned above. Dr. Joe is pictured below at Hunters Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, California where the SEALAB III habitat was in dry dock as she was being prepared for her mission. In the photo below we see Dr. MacInnis rocking his new Single Red Sea-DWELLER prototype which he received from Rolex U.S.A. through T. Walker Lloyd.

In the photos below we see Dr. Joe MacInnis putting on his red Mark Eight diving helmet during SEALAB III training. 

In the photo below we see Philippe Cousteau behind Dr. Joe as he helps him put on his helmet during SEALAB III training.

Dr. George Bond
The Father of Saturation Diving

Father of Saturation Diving Dr. George Bond

Dr. Bond spearheaded the U.S. Navy SEALAB program and hand-picked Dr. Joe MacInnis to be a medical supervisor for SEALAB III. Dr. Bond was the Officer-in-Charge at the U.S. Naval Medical Research Laboratory located in Groton, Connecticut where he conducted the earliest experiments into saturation diving techniques. Bond began the Genesis project in 1957 to determine if humans could withstand prolonged exposure to different compositions of breathing gasses will being subjected to significant environmental pressure.


Dr. Joe wrote the following about Dr. Bond in his book titled "Deep Leadership":

"I WAS alone in the diving locker back at the US Navy Shipyard in San Francisco, trying to understand the intricacies of the Mark Eight Diving Helmet, when a powerful voice boomed out behind me. 

"Good afternoon, diving doctor." 

Captain George Bond's words were deep and resonant, like an old motorcycle warming up. I turned to face him. A pipe with brightly glowing ashes hung from his lower lip. 

"How many of your body's two thousand moving parts are in pain today? 

"All of them, sir."

Does this mean that civilians can't take the navy's physical training?'

"It does, sir. Civilians are used to feather beds and caviar. We are unaccustomed to breaking into a sweat before noon."

Bond was six-foot-three and had extravagant eyebrows, a thatch of white hair and steel-blue eyes. A senior medical officer, he was the driving fore behind the navy's SELAB I, II and III projects. The undersea stations were placed at depths of 193, 215, and 600 feet, and inhabited by teams of navy divers exploring the physical and mental limits of living under the sea. The 'father of saturation diving" was a funny, screwed, and seductive force of nature. First and foremost he was a medical practitioner who listened closely to his men and advised them on their most personal problems. In return they respected him, even loved him. To a man, they called him "Papa Topside."

Bond had hired me to assist him with the medical support of SEALAB III. He knew I was having a hard time fitting in to the culture of his hardcore navy divers. Each time we met he tried to ease my uncertainty and bolster my confidence.

"And what are you learning in your work with the navy?" he asked.

"It has given me the desire to be a great doctor, not a great athlete. I'm turning down my offer to play fullback for the Green Bay Packers."

"Wise decision. Two minutes on a football field and your soft pink body would be face up on a stretcher."

SIX MONTHS before, Dr. Bond had asked me to meet him in Washington. When I entered his office at the experimental diving unit, he closed the door and motioned me to sit in a hard-backed chair. He remained standing, his burly frame blocking the light from the window.

"Have you and idea why I've asked you to come here?"

One of Bond's associates had tipped me off about his trenchant humor so I smiled and said softly, "To impart some good news—or bad news, sir."

"The bad news is you went to the wrong medical school."

"I know sir. I went to the University of Toronto when I should have attended McGill, the outstanding institution you graduated from."

"I will note the fact that you recognize the difference. The good news is that the navy has approved your consulting contract."

I'd been waiting almost a year for this. Bond and his colleagues were planning to place a station on the Pacific sea floor at 600 feet (SEALAB III). It would be occupied for weeks at a time by nine-man teams of aquanauts. I would be working on America's premier sea-floor colony with America's premier diving physician

"To better understand the physiological and psychological stresses on our men, I want you to train with them. You'll get into shape with them, attend classes and dive with their equipment. If you quality, we might put you on one of the teams."

Dr. Bond considered Dr. Joe to be a SEALAB III Aquanaut although Dr. Joe suffered from a discrepancy in one leg. In Dr. Bond's book titled "Papa Topside: The Sealab Chronicles of Capt. George F. Bond, USN" he wrote:

"A Week after arriving in San Francisco, my first stop en route to Long Beach, I was laid low by a vicious sore throat. I resigned myself to bed rest in my motel, a diet of wonder drugs and paperwork. That was where Paul Linaweaver found me to show me the X-ray evidence of bone trouble in the cases of Scott Carpenter and Joe MacInnis.

SEALAB III Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter Pictured Above

In Scott, the films showed clear-cut lesions a few inches above the knees, both port and starboard, corresponding all too well to the areas about which he had complained during decompression almost three years ago—and which I had dismissed as inconsequential muscle disorders.

In the photo below we see Dr. Joe MacInnis wearing his SEALAB III diving gear.

Dr. Joe MacInnis training as an Aquanaut during SEALAB III 

The X-rays for Joe were less distressing, showing only a single discrepancy in one leg, which did not resemble any case of bone disease."

I had planned to put Scott on the bottom with one team, with the same possibility for Joe. Given the X-rays, however, perhaps neither aquanaut should live in the habitat during this exercise. After long thought, I decided Scott should not again be exposed to a saturation dive and subsequent decompression, while Joe could remain on the list of candidates.

Dr. Joe MacInnis pictured above aboard SEALAB 3

On November 25, 1968, Dr. Joe received MAN-IN-THE-SEA AQUANAUT certification from the United States Navy Deep Submergence Systems as seen below. Notice it refers to him as 'a Dweller of the Deep Ocean."

Dr. Joe made many close friends aboard SEALAB 3 including Jacques-Yves Cousteau's younger son, Philippe Cousteau, who T. Walker Lloyd had also given a Single Red Sea-DWELLER prototype to. Unfortunately, Philippe Cousteau's Single Red Sea-DWELLER experienced water damage and had its original Single Red dial replaced with a Double Red dial.

Bob Barth


SEALAB Aquanaut, Bob Barth with Dr. George Bond

Dr. Joe MacInnis was very close with SEALAB Aquanaut Bob Barth. Bob Barth, was a seasoned deep sea diver whom both Jose and I interviewed extensively over the last two decades. Bob was both a rusty scupper and an extremely competent diver as well as being the only Aquanaut to dive on SEALAB I, II & III Missions. Bob was also part of the U.S. Navy Genesis project with Bond which was the precursor to SEALAB. The photo below was taken in 1964 and shows SEALAB Aquanauts, Sanders Manning, Lester Anderson, Bob Barth and Robert Thompson. 

Bob Barth played a significant role in the history of the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER as he came up with the idea for Rolex to build in a helium gas escape valve into the Submariner/SEA-DWELLER. During training SEALAB Aquanauts experienced crystals popping off Submariner models as they came up during the decompression phase of dives. This was due to helium molecules slowly entering the watch, but under the pressure of decompression would essentially explode, thus resulting in the crystal shooting off the watch. 

Bob Barth is pictured below in front of the SEALAB III habitat when it was in dry dock at San Francisco's Hunters Point Naval Station and in the photo below we see Walter Cronkite interviewing Bob Barth.

We All Live In A Yellow Submarine

I always wondered if the Beatles song, 'Yellow Submarine' was inspired by the SEALAB III Habitat, or perhaps Jacques Picccard's Ben Franklin Submarine which in 1969 floated without power in the Gulf Stream from Florida to Nova Scotia. It is also a coincidence that Rolex debuted their first Yellow Gold Submariner model in 1969 (Reference 1680), which was the very first Rolex sports watch to have Solid End Links (SOL) which today is standard on all Rolex sports models.

The SEALAB III habitat is pictured below on her last mission, during which a fatal tragedy occurred that Dr. Joe MacInnis witnessed. 

U.S. Navy SEA-LAB 3 In The Pacific Ocean off San Clemente Island, California 
[55 Nautical Miles (102 Kilometers) Off The Coast of California]

This tragedy involved the two SEALAB Aquanauts below, Bob Barth (left) and Barry Cannon who is pictured on the right wearing his Rolex Submariner.

The photo below is from Bob Barth's personal collection, and we see Bob located in the back row in the center, standing up with the tattoos on his arms. Notice Bob Barth and Barry Cannon (front row on far left) are wearing Rolex diving watches in the photo. Blackburn, Myers, Reaves and Heller are wearing Doxa Diver models.

The say reality is stranger than fiction and certainly Rolex ethos under AndrĂ© Heiniger's tutelage was inspired as such—as were J. Walter Thompson's Mad Men. Below we see a 1967 Rolex Submariner magazine ad which was published during the U.S. Navy SEALAB program. This is the closest vintage magazine ad I am aware of Rolex advertising the Submariner (Pronounced Submarine-er) in relation to a Submarine Captain. Notice the text in the ad reads:

"You're looking at the Rolex Submariner. For many years, it's been standard gear for SUBMARINERS, frogmen and all who make their living on the seas."

In the photo below we see a vintage Rolex Submariner at from 1965 which features a Reference 5513, which was also on-point.

In this next photo we see U.S. Navy SEALAB diver Barry Cannon again. This time he is surrounded with fellow SEA-LAB teammates. Barry Cannon was an electrical engineer in the civil corps with the Navy.

The image below shows two SEALAB III Aquanauts diving in front of the SEALAB Habitat.

The next image below was taken in the SEALAB III Habitat and shows Bob Barth on the right and Barry Cannon on the left checking his Rolex Submariner, or more presumably his prototype Rolex SEA-DWELLER. This image was taken hours before the accidental and terribly tragic death of Barry Cannon.

Breathing Underwater

Dr. Joe MacInnis wrote a book named Breathing Underwater where he wrote a detailed chapter about SEALAB III which describes how Bob Barth tried to save Barry Cannon at 600 feet. Dr. Joe worked with Bob Barth to make sure he had all the facts right and he used quotes from Bob Barth's book named SEA-DWELLERS.

Dr. Joe MacInnis wrote:

Bob Barth was as tough as a marlin spike. Barry's death was an accident that didn’t need to happen. Naval officers made the wrong call to send them back a second time. 

During these brief seconds of reflection, floating over a seafloor made flat by millions years of water, Barth and Cannon were beyond the limit of their physical capabilities. Cold and fatigue had rendered them incapable of recognizing onrushing threats.

SEALAB III Aquanauts 

Bob Barth (green text) with Dr. Joe (blue text) continue the narrative:

Berry and I made our way over to the station and started, for the second time, the procedure to get inside. I was still trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the damn hatch open and Berry had a couple of things left to do. I swam over to get the crowbar. I was determined to get the damn hatch open this time. With my back to Berry, who was not far away, I got the crowbar from its holder. I heard Berry in the background. My impression of this noise was that Berry was working and probably grunting. When I turned around, I saw Berry in convulsions, thrashing around on the seabed, with his face mask at his side.

In the flash of awareness that such moments bring, Barth feels like the first—or last—person on earth. Something is suffocating Cannon’s brain cells, costing him huge amounts of air hunger and pain.

I dropped the crowbar and swam over to Berry. Pulling him over to the area under the hatch, I tried to get him breathing again. His mouthpiece was no longer in his mouth so I grabbed the buddy-breathing regulator and tried to get it in his mouth. I tried again and again, but his convulsions had forced his mouth shut. The whole process wasn’t working and I knew I was wasting valuable time.

I grabbed Berry and started swimming back to the bell with him. The bell looked like it was a million miles away. His umbilical hose or mine kept hanging up on something or other and I had to stop and free it. Berry’s convulsions dwindled down to no movement at all. I knew then without a doubt I had just lost my friend.

Dragging Berry inside we got him started on CPR and made the bell ready for the lift back to the surface … we kept falling into the water while working on Berry … the folks in the topside control room must have been going crazy … we were trying to get a mouthpiece into Berry in the hope we might get him breathing again … I glanced at the internal bell pressure gauge and it read well over 800 feet … all this gas we were trying to get into Berry was driving us deeper … I reached over and vented the bell back to 610 feet and hoped no one had noticed.

As they worked on Cannon, the men inside the bell clenched their teeth and smothered their groans. Death had entered the bell and was occupying the spaces between them.

On the way back to the surface I said, “Berry Cannon is dead.” It seemed like the most logical thing to say. These words must have broken everyone’s heart up there … for a brief moment inside that goddamn bell, the three of us looked down at our dead comrade knowing that we were also looking at the end of the SEALAB program.

In the breaks between my watch-standing duties, I walk slowly around the ship. The men in the command van have faces as rigid as sheet steel. Some of them gaze at the video screens as if wishing for the power to rewind what they have just seen and start all over again. When they signed on for this navy project, there was no indication that they would get caught up in something like this. No one warned them that when a man dives on the deep edge of the continental shelf the difference between life and death is the merest chance, or that if a man’s luck allows him to escape once, the odds are much shorter the second time.

All of us on board the Elk River are part of a new generation of explorers who have staked our careers on undersea technology. The technology is novel; our challenge and responsibility are to prove it will work in an ancient and unpredictable ocean. Then, in a fierce fusion of physics and physiology, Berry Cannon is killed. All of a sudden, we lose confidence in the technology, and a few of us begin to wonder at what point a long, deep dive into the ocean turned into an incremental descent into impaired judgment. .

After SEALAB III concluded, Dr. MacInnis took Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau on a dive down to the Tektite 2 Habitat. In 1990 Dr. Joe and Pierre Trudeau were on the Monterey Canyon Dive with the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Project Sublimos

Dr. MacInnis has led thirty expeditions in his life, under the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. The Sublimnos project took place in Lake Huron, Canada.

Dr. Joe MacInnis was featured in his first Rolex advertisement seen below in 1969 which featured Project Sublimnos. As we see the ad was for a Rolex Submariner.

In 1970, under the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada was claiming sovereignty over the Northwest Passage. Trudeau was an accomplished diver; together, we had descended to Tektite II, a US Navy-NASA undersea project in the Virgin Islands. 

Project Sub Igloo
1972 Northwest Passage

In the photo below we see Dr. Joe MacInnis in the 8 foot Sub Igloo sphere habitat he designed. Sub Igloo was used as a manned research station located in the northern seas in the Northwest Passage. In this photo we see the Sub Igloo habitat being unveiled in Ontario Place in Canada. Sub Igloo was made by five different companies.

1974 Rolex Under The North Pole
Dr. Joe MacInnis Submariner Ad

"In an age of obsolescence and gimmickry, 
this simple classic virtue of a Rolex is indeed a rarity."

Dr. Joe MacInnis appeared in the following 1974 Rolex Magazine advertisement which is AMAZINGLY cool.

In the photo below taken in 1974 we see Dr. Joe MacInnis' first dives under the North Pole during Operation Frozen Tusker where he was diving with Canadian Forces, and we see his Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER on his wrist on a NATO strap. In 1975 Dr. Joe escorted Prince Charles under the ice of the Northwest Passage.

The vintage Rolex ad below from 1983 features Dr. Joe MacInnis and recounts his HMS Breadalbane mission where his team explored a 140-year old shipwreck under the Northwest Passage: 

In the photo below we see Dr. Joe MacInnis rocking his Single Red SEA-DWELLER on its original Rolex Oyster stainless steel bracelet which featured the prototype flip-lock clasp locking system and diver extension. This photo was taken in 1985 when he was serving as a Media Advisor/Writer for the Titanic Discovery Expedition sponsored by IFREMER & Woods Hole Oceanographic.

The Rolex Flip-Lock Clasp later became standard on the Submariner Rolex models as well as the GMT-Master, and Daytona but owes its genesis to the the original Single Red Sea-DWELLER Prototypes.

Dr. Joe MacInnis is pictured below in 1985 sporting his Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER which has been his trusted companion throughout his life.

Dr. Joe MacInnis in 1985 Mel Fisher Treasure Ship Atocha, Key West, Florida


Aliens of the Deep Project

In 2003 Joined Dr. Joe MacInnis joined his friend, James Cameron for the Aliens of the Deep Expedition, and later joined him when he set out in the Marianas Trench to set a new depth record in 2012. Dr. MacInnis met James Cameron when he was 14 years old and was dreaming of becoming a filmmaker-undersea explorer. 

Dr. Joe said of Cameron: "We watched James apply his code-red creativity to science, engineering and storytelling. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to be in the company of this force-multiplier who's energy, intelligence and optimism are contagious.

acting as

Dr. Joe MacInnis is good friends with Canadian Astronaut Dr. Dave Williams and in 2007 Dr. Joe gave Dave his Single Red SEA-DWELLER to wear on his STS-118 Mission which flew the Space Shuttle Endeavor to the International Space Station.

In the photo below we see Dr. Dave Williams rocking Dr. Joe's Rolex SEA-DWELLER and if a casual viewer saw this NASA photo would probably NEVER guess he was wearing a Prototype Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER. Nick Gould reached out to me one day and said, "You are not going to believe this but I discovered a photo of an Astronaut wearing a Single Red Sea-DWELLER!?!!" Ironically I was already aware of this fact, but it goes to show how eagled eyed Nick Gould is...

Dr. Dave Williams took the photo below of Dr. Joe's Rolex SEA-DWELLER dwelling in zero-gravity aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor as she flies around earth. 

In a bizarre twist of fate Cole Pennington from Hodinkee interviewed Canadian Astronaut, Dave Williams back in July of 2019 for Hodinkee Talking Watches and Dave Williams tells the story about wearing Dr. Joe's "Submariner" SEA-DWELLER to the International Space Station, but neither Hodinkee nor Dr. Williams realized that Dr. Joe's Rolex was a Single Red SEA-DWELLER.

When I see Dr. Joe's Rolex SEA-DWELLER floating around in zero gravity in space, it reminds me of the Rolex Space Dweller which is pictured below.
The Trademark Registration below for the Rolex SPACE-DWELLER was submitted on April 11, 1968, and granted on April 19, 1973. Rolex specifically stated their first use of the term SPACE-DWELLER in commerce was on July 7, 1967. In another ironic twist of fate, the same person who came up with the name SEA-DWELLER for Rolex also came up with at the same time with the name SPACE-DWELLER.

Below we see two interviews with Dr. Joe MacInnis which give you an excellent idea of how fascinating and insightful he is.

Dr. Joe MacInnis appears in the amazing Rolex documentary below named: "The Trieste's Deepest Dive."

In this last photo we see Dr. Joe lecturing with is trusted Single Red Sea-DWELLER on his wrist. I would like to personally thank Dr. Joe MacInnis for all of his invaluable contributions to making this amazing story possible, including his valuable time, insight and historical photos, as well as photos of his Single Red SEALAB SEA-DWELLER which would not have been possible without his gracious and passionate effort.

Dr. Joe said: 

"I have a special place in my heart for my Rolex friends in Geneva, New York, and Toronto. They encouraged me to dance on the edge of the possible—and keep time doing it".

—Dr. Joe MacInnis

“The vision recurs; the eastern sun has a second rise; history repeats her tale unconsciously, and goes off into a mystic rhyme; ages are prototypes of other ages, and the winding course of time brings us round to the same spot again.”  

—Mystic Rhyme (1845)