In the 19th century hard hat divers used to place common pocket watches inside their helmets to know how much time they’ve spent under water. Fortunately for professional divers worldwide, Rolex stepped into the game in 1926 with its Oyster case patent. A year later Mercedes Gleitze swam through the English Channel with a new Rolex Oyster hanging round her neck - after more than ten hours in cold water the watch remained sealed.
Rolex proved yet again its position as a groundbreaking watchmaker with the release of Submariner in 1954 - still one of the most popular luxury watches in the world. Tested under pressure and water resistant, it was a perfect diving watch. It reached its cult following when it became James Bond’s watch of choice in the 1962 film “Dr. No” and then again, in “From Russia with Love” a year later. The watch proved to be a good choice as Bond was seen wearing a Submariner in the first 10 movies of the franchise.
Part of the Oyster Perpetual line, the watch is being constantly improved, with new movements, better water resistance and numerous small cosmetic changes.
In the 1960s, commercial work in the oceans and seas created demand for professional watches designed for diving operations at greater depths. The first “ultra water resistant” watch was Rolex Sea-Dweller 2000, introduced in 1967. The name comes from its underwater diving depth rating of 2000 ft (610 meters). In 2008, an updated Sea-Dweller was introduced, named Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA, with diving an official depth rating of 12,800 ft (3,900 meters). There’s also an experimental DEEPSEA watch, called DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, which is designed to be waterproof up to 39,370 ft (12,000 metres). It’s been tested in March 2012, when a DSV (submarine) called Deepsea Challenger dived with a prototype watch strapped to its manipulator arm to a depth of 10,898.4 metres (35,756 ft) of seawater. According to the pilot, James Cameron, the “Rolex Deepsea Challenge was the reliable companion throughout the dive; it was visible on the sub's manipulator arm and working precisely at 10,898 meters down at the bottom of the Challenger Deep”.