In the world of Rolex, dive watches are some of the hottest property in the game. And in a world where a basic Rolex Submariner is selling for double its retail price, the upcoming auction of an incredibly rare Rolex Deep Sea Special is guaranteed to generate a lot of interest.
As a bit of history, the Rolex Deep Sea Special was originally designed as the logical final step of the water-resistant Rolex Oyster case from the 1920s. Rolex famously launched the first Submariner in 1954, just as underwater exploration was becoming more possible, but weren’t satisfied with the water resistance and were already testing how much they could improve it.
As a part of this testing, the first Rolex Deep Sea prototype was strapped to the exterior of the Bathyscaphe Trieste Submersible in 1953. The watch successfully achieved a depth of 3,150 metres, but it was in 1960 that the second prototype broke that record, successfully reaching 10,916 metres below the surface as it dove into the Mariana Trench.
The watch we are looking at today is a special commemorative piece that was made following the successful 1960 dive, which was never available for public sale. Each of the Rolex Deep Sea Special pieces is numbered, with this example being No. 35, while its sibling No. 3 famously resides in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC.
The Rolex Deep Sea Special is so rare that only five pieces have ever come up for sale, the last being more than a decade ago at a 2009 Christie’s auction. That example sold for nearly $600,000, almost guaranteeing at least a trebling of the final sale price.
“The Deep Sea Special is the watch that defined what Rolex is today,” explained Alexandre Ghotbi, Phillips’ Head of Watches for Continental Europe & Middle East.
“It is the philosophy behind its creation that led Rolex to focus on tool watches in general and dive watches in particular. Without the “Deep Sea Special” there would be no Submariner or Sea Dweller as we know it.”
“The DSS is a watch that was never available for public purchase and the arrival on the market of an example is a once in a decade event that collectors and watch aficionados celebrate with enthusiasm.”
The watch will be offered by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo on November 5th and 7th during the Geneva Watch Auction XIV. Described as being in “museum quality” condition, the rare Rolex has an estimate of between CHF 1,200,000 – CHF 2,400,000 (AU$1,785,000 – AU$3,571,000).