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Making of Rolex Deepsea Challenge with James Cameron

To The Deepest Reaches of
the Oceans

Rolex Deepsea Challenge

True to its passion for underwater exploration, Rolex took an active part in the historic DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition of film-maker and explorer James Cameron (director of Titanic, Avatar) in partnership with the National Geographic Society. On 26 March 2012, the expedition’s submersible descended 10,908 metres (35,787 feet) to reach Challenger Deep, the deepest point in the world’s oceans. The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER carried an experimental divers’ watch, the ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, on its robotic manipulator arm. The timepiece worked perfectly throughout the dive at extreme pressures, confirming Rolex’s position as the leading brand in waterproofness.

Rolex historic Deepsea Challenge
Rolex Deepsea Exploration Challenge

The making of
the Rolex Deepsea Challenge

The story

The story behind the making of this experimental divers’ watch starts and finishes at Rolex headquarters in Switzerland, where the watchmaker’s know-how and the expertise of a highly specialized team were put to the test — and proven successful — in yet another pioneering endeavour.

An engineering challenge

53 days before the dive

Taking as their starting point the diameter of the movement and dial of the ROLEX DEEPSEA, the design engineers calculated the technical dimensions required to resist the shock of the 1,500-bar pressure test. At a depth of 15,000 metres, the load exerted on the crystal is 17 tonnes and on the case back nearly 23 tonnes; the equivalent of about 10 SUVs piled on the watch.

Rolex and the Deepsea Challenge
Rolex Deepsea special model

A watch named Rolex Deepsea Challenge

43 days before the dive

Once the project was launched, the experimental watch needed a name. The choice was obvious: it would be baptized ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE in tribute to its three-fold heritage: the name of James Cameron’s project; to the 1960 Deep Sea Special model, which had accompanied the Trieste; and finally to the 2008 ROLEX DEEPSEA, the watch’s conceptual, technical and aesthetic blueprint.

Rolex Deepsea composition
Sea-Dweller Design

are everything

24 days before the dive

Rolex's ring lock system
Rolex watchmaking

under pressure

21 days before the dive

Rolex watchmakers are used to working on highly confidential special projects. But for two of them, the latest mission was truly exceptional. It would be up to them to place movements in the oversized cases of the five ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE watches, to seal the case backs and to subject the watches to all of the standard Rolex functional and chronometric tests. An enormous responsibility considering that, as the last links in the chain, the whole project would hang on the quality of their work.

Rolex deep sea exploration

Mission Accomplished


Rolex Deepsea Challenge
Rolex Deepsea specifications

Rolex Deepsea Challenge


James Cameron

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