Beast of the Deep, Titanium Rolex Deep Sea Challenge 126067
Once an experimental project, now part of a current series…you can actually take it to 11km!
A month ago, Rolex replica released a new model…not just a new variant of an existing watch, but simply their most advanced dive watch ever, the Deep Sea Challenge. What was once an experimental model dedicated to one man and his record for deepest dives on Earth (since beaten by another man and another brand) is now becoming a watch “available” to the general public. Honestly, the new Deepsea Challenge is better than the experimental watch. A lot has been said about this watch. Its resistance to incredible pressure was an outstanding technical achievement, it was the first Rolex made entirely of titanium, and it was an almost unwearable watch. But it’s not just numbers, so it’s time to dive into the (easy, I know…) meaning of this new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Challenger 126067.
The Current State of the Deep Dive Watch Industry
Behind this deep-sea challenge is actually nearly 70 years of research and development by Rolex and its partners – Comex, the military and explorers like Picard or James Cameron. Described by Rolex as their ultimate deep-sea watch, it is the direct successor to several experimental watches, starting with the original Deep-sea Special Edition from the late 1950s – a watch that dived all the way to the bottom of the Mariana Trench (10,916 meters or 35,814 feet) with the Piccard & Sons in 1960. If you’re interested, it’s on display with Trieste at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Fast-forward to 2012, and Rolex teamed up with film director James Cameron to break another record, delivering an experimental Deep Sea Challenge watch that accompanied him on his historic 10,908-meter (35,787-foot) descent. The latter is an important watch as it was actually the starting point for the development of this commercial Deepsea Challenge 126067.
Meanwhile, a man named Victor Vescovo achieved the culmination of his Five Deeps project, becoming the first person to dive into the deepest part of the world’s five oceans. During his descent down the Mariana Trench, Vescovo dived deeper than Cameron, reaching a depth of 10,928 meters – a record that seems unlikely to be broken. Attached to the exterior of his vessel are three Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Extra Deep Professional watches specially designed for this mission, officially tested to withstand pressures of 1,500 bar, or the equivalent of a depth of 15,000 meters.
This is for the experimental side of things. How about watches that you can buy from classic watch retailers? Well, even without an official definition, the concept of a deep dive watch (at least in my book) involves anything that can resist at least 100 bars, which means 1,000 meters or 3,300 feet or deeper depths. Honestly, these ratings have reached the point where they are unnecessary, as no one has ever dived – at least not in a pressurized vessel – below the 675m mark, which is the current record, set by French Comex diver Théo Mavrostomos in 1992 November 20, 2011, during an experimental dive (remember, this record required weeks of incredible compression and decompression procedures, and highly specific breathing mixtures).
Not many best quality watch replica are resistant to 100 bar and above. Some examples are Omega Ploprof (1,200m), Rolex Sea-Dweller (1,220m), Doxa SUB 1500T (1,500m), Sinn U2 EZM 5 (2,000m), Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller (3,900m) or Delma Blue Shark III (4,000 meters). Recently, Omega launched its seahorse series ocean universe ultra-deep commercial version. , with a water resistance of 6,000 meters (remember, Master Chronometer-certified watches are subject to 25% more pressure, which means up to 750 bar pressure, or about 7,500 meters). That’s not all. The Bell & Ross Hydromax is a quartz-powered watch with a silicon-filled case and very compact dimensions, launched in the early 2000s and rated to a depth of 11,100 metres. Finally, a German brand called H20 Watch advertises a watch called the Kalmar 2 Deep Diver, which was tested and officially certified by a German institute to withstand a pressure of over 2,500 bar, or about 25,000 meters.
Let me put it this way… Regardless of the record, any watch capable of exceeding 3 or 4km depth is impressive, and Rolex’s Deepsea Challenge with its 11,000m rating is simply exceptional. The forces and pressures experienced at such depths are enormous, especially when you consider that these apply to objects as small as 5 centimeters in diameter. Now let’s see how Rolex does it.
Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE 126067, Facts
What is the new Deep Sea Challenge? Basically, this is Cameron’s watch open to the public. In fact, it doesn’t even stop there. This new model is actually better and more advanced in several ways. It has nearly the same level of resistance, but is smaller (or less massive), lighter and equipped with more advanced materials. The original 2012 Cameron Deep Sea Challenge reached the Mariana Trench, a stainless steel monster rated for a depth of 12,000m (that’s 13.6 tons of pressure…imagine a bus crushing your chest) with a diameter of 51.4 mm, the depth is 28.5 mm thick, the sapphire crystal is 14.3 mm thick, and the weight is approximately close to 400 grams.
The new Rolex Deepsea Challenge 126067 has many design elements and overall concepts with Cameron’s watch, but it has actually been improved in several ways. Let’s start with materials. This watch is the first Rolex watch made entirely of titanium. Rolex has used titanium in the past for the caseback of the Deepsea Sea-Dweller, or in the Yacht-Master 42 prototype it made for Sir Ben Ainslie. The group’s only (commercially speaking) all-titanium watch is the Tudor Pelagos, but no Rolex watch has ever been made entirely of titanium. The alloy that Rolex is using here is called RLX Titanium, which is the internal designation for a grade 5 alloy. Titanium has several advantages and makes sense in the current context. It’s highly resistant to corrosion, it’s about 40% lighter than steel (not a small detail for such a beast) and it also has higher mechanical resistance, which is always useful against such stress.
Let’s talk size…I won’t hide the fact that the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Challenger is a massive watch. period! Diameter: 50mm. Height: 23 mm. Lug to Lug: 61mm. Crystal thickness: 9.5mm. Weight: about 250 grams. However, look again at the specs of Cameron’s Deepsea Special. Everything shrinks, and not by a small amount. I’m not saying it makes the 126067 a compact watch, but it shows what Rolex has done between experimental models and commercial watches. Keep in mind that the whole watch would be thicker without the branded Ringlock system.
How do you make a watch that can withstand a pressure of about 1100 bars, or 13 tons? Well, it’s a combination of elements, starting with a firmly secured crown and a high strength gasket, in this case the triple interlocking crown. Then, mostly the Ringlock system does the job. Patented in 2007, the Ringlock consists of a compression ring that absorbs most of the stress caused by pressure and reduces stress on the case. This compression ring made of BioDur 108, an alloy used in orthopedic implants, can withstand three times the stress of Oyster steel (or 904L steel). It sits between the crystal and the titanium case back, transferring most of the pressure to its extremely solid structure. With it, the case can be made thinner, and the crystal can be made thinner (relatively speaking, of course).
As far as other diving credentials go, the Deepsea Challenge is basically a well-equipped but fairly classic dive watch. The case back is screwed on (of course), there is a helium escape valve on the left side of the case, and the crown is protected by a side guard. The chunky crystal is framed by a unidirectional bezel with a Cerachrom ceramic insert, a glossy black ceramic insert engraved with a fully graduated 60-minute scale and filled with platinum. Yes, the watch is officially rated at 11,000 meters or 36,090 feet, but keep in mind that cheap Rolex applied an extra 25 percent of the pressure during testing — or 13,750 meters — thanks to its longtime partner Comex specific device developed.
Regarding the design of the watch, it is certainly an unsurprising model. Conservative in most respects, it basically looks like an enhanced version of Deepsea Sea-Dweller 126660. At least from a distance. Still, there are multiple details that distinguish this deep-sea challenge. The case is mostly brushed, even on the sides (this is new), and has polished bevels on the lugs (this is old). Not sure why Rolex chose to bring those chamfers back – probably to visually reduce the size of the watch – but they look great, but might not quite fit in an instrument watch like this.
As for proportions and wearability, I’ll cut to the chase. I know what Rolex has done to make this Deepsea Challenge 126067 smaller, thinner and lighter than Cameron’s watch, but it’s still a huge, barely wearable watch. Of course, deep inside and out of the wetsuit, it looks purposeful. But in day-to-day, casual wear, it’s a gigantic watch. Just look at it next to the already large Deepsea Sea-Dweller (44mm x 18mm watch) and Sea-Dweller 4000 (40mm watch) and you’ll see what I mean.
And, at 61mm lug-to-lug (13mm more than the typical 41mm Submariner) and 23mm in height (yes, that’s about 4 Octo Finissimo Automatics stacked), the watch can’t hide its massive Size. That being said, the use of titanium makes the Deepsea Challenge a surprisingly light watch. It’s not light on its own, but somehow it plays with your brain as you think such a beast is much heavier. The problem is more with the size of the watch and not necessarily its weight.
Let’s move on to habillage, more specifically bracelets. No big surprises here either. The Deepsea Challenge is worn on a RLX titanium (grade 5) 3-link Oyster bracelet with safety folding Oyster clasp, Glidelock extension system and Fliplock extension chain. Very classic, still extremely well executed and well appointed. Besides the material, the main novelty is the finish, as most parts of the bracelet are brushed, including the sides of the links (which are often polished).
The dial of this Rolex 126067 plays security again. However, contrary to many of Crown’s modern watches, the dial is matte black and lacks a date window – which is found on regular Deepsea and Cameron watches. The rest are classic Submariner/Sea-Dweller with white gold markers and hands filled with blue luminous Chromalight. Now, if most modern Rolex watches are already pretty chatty when it comes to dial literature, this Deep Sea Challenge really has a lot going for it. There are 3 lines of text and a crown logo at 12 o’clock, 4 lines of text at 6 o’clock, and a fairly obvious reference to the Ringlock system below the crystal. A bit much, don’t you think Rolex?
Beneath the caseback, engraved with a specific engraving relating to the record, is Rolex’s classic movement, the chronograph-only self-winding Caliber 3230. Part of the latest generation movement, it is certified Superlative Chronometer (-2/+2 seconds per day, controlled in case), is equipped with a Chronergy escapement, blue paramagnetic Parachrom hairspring, and has a power reserve of 70 hours . A very capable and precise engine.
How do you view the deep sea challenge?
Like many deep-sea diving watches, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Challenge is a rather useless thing. Hear me out. No one dives to such depths, at least not without getting into a submarine or bathyscaphe. And in this case, that means a pressurized environment…even your most delicate ultra-thin gold watch will feel at ease there. As an object for diving, a tool with a mission, the 126067 is simply over-engineered. The Sea-Dweller is more than adequate for even the deepest diving sessions. So what is the Deep Sea Challenge? It is a display of virtuosity, the real-world application of decades of experimentation, research and development. It is the greatest capability of science and engineering. It is the ultimate Rolex diving watch, condensing all the technologies, patents and ideas created by the brand over the years. In that respect, it’s a masterpiece. In practice, known through professional use of the watch, it brings an incredible (maybe even top notch) level of security. But it’s certainly not essential.
In daily use, wearing this watch has no objective meaning. It’s so big that it’s nearly impossible to wear, and it doesn’t satisfy any rational need. But we humans and watch collectors are not driven by rational needs. Especially when it comes to mechanical watches. Like a 1,500bhp Bugatti Veyron or a 1,000bhp Tesla, this Rolex pushes the boundaries of the possible, beyond the necessary, to meet the extraordinary, in varying degrees. It’s a talking piece, an engineer’s dream, a watch that elicits emotion and conversation, not because it’s elegant or refined, but because it’s a watch strong enough to reach the deepest part of the earth watch. This is, in all its subjectivity and bias, pretty crazy. Nobody is going to use it for what it’s supposed to do, but just know it does,
Technical Specifications – Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Challenge RLX Titanium
Case: 50mm diameter x 23mm height – 61mm lug to lug – RLX titanium (grade 5 titanium) with polished accents – one piece construction – screw down crown and case back – Rolex Ringlock system case construction, Nitrogen alloy steel ring and helium escape valve – Unidirectional bezel with 60-minute scale on black Cerachrom insert, platinum insert – 9.5 mm domed scratch-resistant sapphire – Water resistant to 11,000 meters/36,090 feet
Dial: Black matte dial – Platinum hour-markers and hands – all elements filled with Chromalight
Movement: Rolex Caliber 3230 – Manufacture – Top Chronometer certified – Automatic – 28.5 mm – 31 jewels – 28,800 vibrations/hour – Chronergy escapement – 70 hours power reserve – Hours, minutes, seconds
Bracelet: 3-link RLX titanium Oyster with brushed folding Oyster safety clasp with Rolex Glidelock extension system and Fliplock extension