Watch fans love unnecessary features. We’re sure that plenty of people would even argue that a wristwatch itself is superfluous. They have a point – your phone does everything that a luxury watch can, and at a fraction of the price. But a well-designed watch with intricate workmanship is more than a simple timekeeping device. The best watches also have intriguing backstories, cutting-edge innovation and beautiful designs that rival the best of the arts. But even diehard watch fans can still have WTF moments.
Take OMEGA’s recently released Speedmaster X-33 Marstimer for example. It’s a watch designed to be used on Mars. That’s right, a watch that can keep Mars time. You know, for the next time you’re traversing the red planet’s surface. This year OMEGA also released a watch that can function at the bottom of the world’s deepest oceans. This watch can survive the intense water pressure that would kill a diver. Still, not to be outdone, Swiss rival Rolex has just responded with an even more insane diver that can go deeper. It’s definitely worth taking a closer look at these two record-breaking watches.
Rolex Deepsea Challenger vs the OMEGA Seamaster Ultra Deep
|Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge 126067
|OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep 184.108.40.206.01.001
|Rolex Calibre 3230
|OMEGA Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 8912
|NATO Polyamide Fabric
Let’s be clear from the start, these two extraordinary watches offer completely excessive and gratuitous features. Rolex and OMEGA have played a game of one-upmanship and created two engineering marvels that have absolutely no practical use. And we love it. We love the continual development of the dive watch form and the constant battle to outwit mother nature.
Although the Rolex Deepsea Challenge 126067 is the most recent release, it actually has roots that predate the OMEGA Seamaster Ultra Deep – although it’s worth noting the common history. In 2012, James Cameron – director of Terminator, Aliens and The Abyss – took the Deepsea Challenge submersible to the deepest place on Earth, the Mariana Trench. Strapped to the outside of the craft was a one-off experimental Rolex watch that survived the descent intact. The new Rolex release is an adaptation of that prototype.
In response, OMEGA created its own watch to brave the depths of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. As part of Victor Vescovo’s 2019 expedition to the five deepest parts of Earth, an OMEGA watch was attached to his Deep Submergence Vehicle. At a depth of 10,935M, the OMEGA went 8M deeper than the Rolex had. Fast forward to 2022 and the two brands go head to head as they each release watches based on those earlier groundbreaking models.
With both watches designed for a very specific purpose, it’s no surprise that these two watches share some common attributes. They’re both monsters. The Rolex Deepsea Challenge comes in at a whopping 50mm wide and has a thickness of 23mm. It has a water rating of a staggering 11,000 metres. In comparison, the OMEGA Seamaster Ultra Deep’s diameter is dainty at 45.5mm and compared to the Rolex, its 18mm height is almost sleek. It is water resistant to 6,000 metres.
At extreme depths, stainless steel performs poorly and both manufacturers have opted for titanium construction. The metal utilized – grade 5 titanium – is significantly lighter than steel and is also more resistant to corrosion. The reduced weight is an important bonus given the already oversized dimensions of both pieces. Stylistically, titanium has a darker more brooding finish than steel and both watches exude a tool watch vibe. Another common feature is the Helium Escape Valve. Invented in 1967 by Rolex, this feature allows helium molecules to leave the watches safely during a divers decompression rather than damaging the timepiece from the inside out.
Despite being Rolex’s first-ever titanium watch, the Deepsea Challenge will be familiar to the brand’s fans, being laden with Rolex design cues. The elements that you’d expect are there – the plain round markers, Mercedes hands and prominent chapter ring. It’s highly legible and practical but retains Rolex’s trademark styling very much in keeping with the Submariner and Sea-Dweller.
The Ultra Deep Seamaster is a much more accessible design than OMEGA’s previous deep water diver, the legendary Ploprof. The sandblasted titanium case is paired with a brushed black ceramic bezel, giving the watch a subdued look. The matte titanium dial reinforces the impression and has tasteful blue accents. This variant has an unusual case, with Manta Lugs that allow the canvas strap to be easily slipped into place.
The OMEGA offers a little more versatility than the Rolex and has smaller proportions. But let’s be real. Neither of these watches are for everyday wear. They’re not even for real-life diving. These two watches were created as a show of strength by the manufacturers – a flex to demonstrate what is possible when these Swiss giants are presented with a watchmaking challenge. They’re both oversized and slightly impractical. But if you want to take a watch to the deepest water on the planet? This is it. There are no other options.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deepsea Challenge 126067
Case: RLX Titanium
Movement: Rolex Calibre 3230
Water Resistance: 11,000M
Price: AUD $40,200
OMEGA Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep 220.127.116.11.01.001
Movement: OMEGA Co-Axial Master Chronometer Calibre 8912
Strap: NATO Polyamide Fabric
Water Resistance: 6,000M
Price: AUD $18,825
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