Rolex Deepsea 126660
Redesigned and with new caliber 3235
In the year in which the new Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi and the Root-Beer are launched - both in Rolesor and in full gold - professional diver’s watches like the new Rolex Deepsea make their entrance on the sly. The Rolex Oystersteel Deepsea was presented in 2008 and I can still remember people’s enthusiasm at the time of the market launch; the watch has been incredibly successful thanks to its characteristics that make it an out-of-catalogue hyper-professional diver’s watch.
Among these characteristics are the 3,900m-depth-rating that made this timepiece the perfect heir to the first Sea-Dweller. Ten years and some additional versions later - including the 43mm Sea-Dweller version with a cyclope lens and a red writing on the dial, the audience's interest has gradually diminished and then temporarily re-ignited when, in 2014, Rolex launched its Deepsea D-Blue; a tribute to the Deepsea Challenge (the expedition led by James Cameron into the Mariana Trench).
The continuous improvement
If there is something that has constantly distinguished Rolex in recent years or, better to say since Jean-Frédérich Dufour has become the brand’s number one, it is the ceaseless refinement work that the brand has carried out on all its collections; new dials, new movements and the Superlative Chronometer certification (an expected answer in response to the weakness of the COSC following the launch of Omega's Master Chronometer certification) have gone hand in hand with a general reviewing of the proportions of all the collections, whose models had, in some cases, lost that magical sense of formal balance that has always distinguished a Rolex timepiece since the Rod Laver’s time.
Watches like the Datejust 41 or the Yacht-Master 40mm have thus regained that balance that a brand, whose design aims to communicate a sense of eternity, could not possibly lose. While it might be difficult to overturn or even refine the image of Rolex’s heavyweight champion, this process has not ruled out the new Deepsea.
What has changed?
Being able to spot all the differences between the various versions of a Rolex timepiece is sometimes a challenge, it seems as if Rolex were finding it funny to stimulate the attention of its many fans, many of whom are collectors, who find it hilarious to place one version of an Oyster next to another to spot the differences between one watch generation and another. If we were to exclude the fact that the brand has permanently added the D-Blue dial to this collection - the colour gradient indicates the transition from medium to high depth, where even the last ray of light disappears – Rolex’s designers have not created a new watch, but they have rather worked on particulars so as to give birth to a more balanced and homogeneous Deepsea.
As confirmed by Rolex itself the lugs have been redesigned and the Oyster bracelet has been broadened to improve the comfort level on the wrist of the largest and thickest Rolex watch ever crafted (almost 18mm thick). If there were an Oystersteel watch that needed this improvement it was the Deepsea with its 44mm in diameter and an imposing thickness (the recessed glass only is 5,5mm thick); a steel diver’s watch apt for wrists that we could define as “extra generous”. Moreover, the minute and seconds hands have been elongated. Among the readers that I personally know there are two different school of thought; those who are madly in love with this timepiece and those who would never buy it.
The helium-escape-valve; a Rolex invention that has also become one of its trademarks
There are many people who, when they finally decide to buy a professional diver’s watch, expressly require it to be equipped with a helium-escape-valve. It is universally recognized as trademark of an authentic professional diver’s watch and Rolex patented it in 1967 when it launched its first Sea-Dweller and the valve has since then been gradually adopted more and more by all brands (with the exception of the Japanese school that decided to follow a different philosophy based on the development of a monobloc case, or quite a super-sealed yet traditional case architecture, for example, and an ISO certification).
The valve is used during saturation diving sessions, where the decompression phase is performed in a diving bell filled with oxygen and helium. The particularly small helium particles enter the watch case and the valve allows them to come out once the diver has surfaced. During the experimental phase of diving, where a watch could be considered more of an instrument rather than an accessory, the Sea-Dweller was a perfect tool for saturation diving sessions. The technical solutions available today allow us to do without the valve, but it does not matter in this case because it is a milestone in the history of the brand that Rolex has wisely used in its marketing strategy.
The real change
If we were to exclude these non-trivial factors (sometimes only a few mms are enough to change the looks of a watch), not much would change from an aesthetic point of view between the old version and the new version of the Deepsea that has maintained the Ringlock System architecture underneath the sapphire crystal to ensure that the case could withstand a pressure that is 25% higher than the indicated pressure of 3,900m (i.e. a real value of 4,875m).
A human being will never be able to reach such depths except in pressurized means, but it is clear that the technological effort used to craft this watch is far greater than that required to craft any other Rolex Oystersteel solo tempo timepiece. The most interesting product innovation is the introduction of the 3235 calibre that belongs to Rolex’s new generation of high-efficiency (and better decorated) calibres. This is a calibre that centres its distinctive features on the new Chronergy escapement, and the 70-hour power reserve is a great added value.
I find it hard to instinctively tell you how much a Rolex Deepsea could be desirable if compared to a steel Daytona a Pepsi or, instead, a Yacht-Master II. Given its characteristics and dimensions, it is a second Rolex because it is difficult to wear at all times. If the assessment were based on the relationship between the euro and technology, the Rolex Deepsea would be by far the most advanced of all the Rolex Oystersteel timepieces available in the catalogue, among the three-hands ones, and its retail price of €11,700 makes it even look accessible if compared to other comparable Rolex timepieces.
However, the real retail price of this new timepiece has already positioned itself above the €13,000 threshold, as it has often happened for Rolex in the last two years. This is the umpteenth result of a policy that aims at sizing the product availability to make retail prices rise. In my opinion, the value of these timepieces has consistently remained high over time since the brand launched its five-year-guarantee (besides reducing the offer); a marketing operation that makes every Rolex watch - the most traded luxury brand on the second-hand market - extremely desirable even after it has reached three years of life.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®