It’s always big news when Rolex announces a new model – but the Deepsea Challenge is a bigger release than most. Pun entirely intended.
Rolex has already had a pretty big year, with the 117-year-old Swiss watchmaking giant having whipped watch fans into a frenzy earlier in April after unveiling the unique left-handed GMT-Master II ‘Sprite’ at Watches & Wonders Geneva – as well as a few other tasty releases, including a new platinum Day-Date and an update to the Air-King.
But it seems Christmas has come early. The new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge (ref. 126067) is a totally unexpected gift, and one of the biggest pieces of watch news probably ever: not only is it a milestone for the brand, but also for watchmaking as a whole.
Take a look at its reveal below, and we’ll explain why it’s such a big deal.
WATCH the reveal of the Rolex Deepsea Challenge below.
The Deepsea Challenge represents three significant firsts for Rolex.
Firstly, and perhaps most interestingly, it’s their first production model to be made out of titanium. While sister brand Tudor has dabbled in titanium watches, namely with the Pelagos dive watch, it’s a material Rolex has previously eschewed.
Last year, Rolex fans were hyped after yacht captain Sir Ben Ainslie was spotted testing a prototype titanium-cased Yacht-Master during the 2021 Prada Cup. At that point, that was the only public sighting of a titanium Rolex. However, it’s now clear that the Deepsea Challenge will be the first publically available titanium Rolex.
Secondly, it’s the biggest watch Rolex has ever made. It boasts a mammoth case diameter of 50mm, and while we don’t know how thick the watch is in its entirety, Rolex has stated that its domed sapphire crystal alone is 9.5mm thick – so we can easily assume it’s thicker than the Sea-Dweller Deepsea, Rolex’s previously most water-resistant consumer-available watch, which is 17.7mm thick. In short, it’s a bloody massive watch.
Lastly, it’s the most water-resistant watch Rolex has ever produced, capable of withstanding a mind-boggling 11,000m. That’s deeper than the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest place on Earth. Keep in mind that humans can only dive around 300m on their own, and that’s with serious equipment and breathing gas, not oxygen.
Crucially, it’s 5,000m more than the new OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep which came out in March, meaning the Deepsea Challenge has stolen the crown as the most water-resistant watch available to consumers. We bet OMEGA are feeling pretty ordinary this morning after seeing this news…
So, some more details about the Deepsea Challenge: specifically, it’s made from RLX titanium, a proprietary grade 5 titanium alloy selected by Rolex for its lightness and resistance to deformation and corrosion. Unusually for a Rolex, the Deepsea Challenge’s case features a rather noticeable grained satin finish – so it’s aesthetically unique within Rolex’s range (if its huge case size wasn’t enough of a differentiating factor).
Titanium, of course, is the ideal material for a tool watch as it’s stronger yet lighter than steel while also being resistant to rusting and corrosion. The result? It’s around 30% lighter than the Sea-Dweller Deepsea, despite being so much bigger and more water-resistant than it.
Like the Sea-Dweller Deepsea, it boasts a Glidelock adjustable clasp, a helium escape valve and a chunky, distinct internal flange. Unlike the Sea-Dweller, the Deepsea Challenge has no date window, as it’s powered by Rolex’s calibre 3230, a tried-and-tested movement that can be found in everything from Explorers to Submariners. COSC-certified, it has a 70-hour power reserve.
A nice little touch: the Deepsea Challenge’s caseback is engraved with the words “Mariana Trench” as well as the dates “23-01-1960” and “26-03-2012” on the case back, in homage to the two historic dives into the Mariana Trench in which Rolex watches took part.
The latter was film director and deepsea diver James Cameron’s record-breaking solo descent to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, in the Australian-built Deepsea Challenger submersible – hence the watch’s name. Indeed, the Deepsea Challenge is the realisation of the prototype Rolex that Cameron wore during that dive, over a decade ago.
It’s crazy to think it took Rolex a decade to make this watch, but that’s Rolex for you. They operate on long timelines. And it’s clearly paid off: the Deepsea Challenge is quite simply unlike any other watch on the planet, let alone in Rolex’s exisiting repertoire.
The price? AU$36,750, and it’s available right now. Normally talking about the availability of a new Rolex is a rather academic discussion, but we reckon there’s a good chance the average punter will be able to get one (well, if you call someone with a spare 37k ‘average’).
Its extremely large size makes it impractical as a daily wearer for 99% of the population, so it’s probably only going to be picked up by musclemen like The Rock or real enthusiasts. That said, it’s a new Rolex, and any new Rolex will be hard to get your hands on.
In any case, good luck, frogmen. Find out more about the Rolex Deepsea Challenge at Rolex’s online boutique here.