In 1998 I purchased my first quality wristwatch, a Rolex Submariner Date (reference 116610) in stainless steel with a black dial and corresponding black bezel.
The watch cost £2120 and was purchased from Mappin & Webb, Manchester. I felt at the time, the purchase was the culmination of my professional achievement and a worthy reward for my efforts.
The Submariner provided faithful service for many years without mishap or protest, reliably performing its duties.
In 2009, I saw the new Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea (model 116660) with a resplendent ceramic bezel. The seduction was instant and I had to have it!
In the heat of the horological passion that ensued, I foolishly tried to mitigate my financial exposure and decided that I should part with my beloved, faithful Submariner Date. My rationale at the time was that it was aesthetically similar to the Deepsea.
This decision making process was flawed as I later learnt. To part with any Rolex sports model of yesteryear is foolhardy as values seem only to increase with time. This poor decision was further compounded by other collectors informing me of my mistake.
Background to my purchase
I purchased the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea in 2009 from an authorised Rolex retailer in North West England for the list price at the time of £5,760 including VAT.
The Submariner is an icon that has always seemed applicable to the era it finds itself in. Whilst fashion has rendered other watches old-fashioned or sometimes kitsch, the Submariner has a timeless quality like the Porsche 911 or the Montblanc Meisterstuck 149 Fountain Pen.
The Deepsea at first glance looks like a larger cased version of the Submariner, however, closer examination reveals subtle differences which delight me.
The case is 44mm in diameter in contrast to the smaller Submariner (40mm), suiting my large physical frame.
Rolex manufactures the case from a high grade of stainless steel, 904L, typically reserved for the chemical industry where corrosion resistance is critical.
The Oyster case is unique to Rolex and in combination with a “Triplock winding-crown”, is legendary for its ability to prevent ingress of water and dust.
When diving at great depths, divers will acclimatise within a diving bell to increase their tolerance to the pressures at the working depth.
On returning to the surface, great pressure within the watch case could result in the watch glass popping out as the pressure returns to atmospheric levels, hence a helium valve is fitted to release the pressure and prevent damage.
The combination of the Oyster case (with patented Ringlock system) and helium valve ensure the watch is waterproof to 3,900 metres (12,800 feet).
“Shoulders” adjacent to the crown provide it with protection from impact.
The bezel is ceramic, a new development for Rolex in 2009, it has subsequently been adopted on the Submariner in 2010 too. The ceramic disc within the bezel is referred to by Rolex as “Cerachrom”. This material provides great legibility and the unidirectional bezel adjusts (turning counter-clockwise only).
The upper surfaces are brushed stainless steel whilst the sides are highly polished stainless steel. The case back is made of titanium alloy.
The Chronometer has COSC certification and the dial confirms this with those lovely words; “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified”.
The automatic movement has proved equally accurate when compared with my faithful Submariner.
The date changes precisely at midnight unlike some other brands where the date change process is more protracted.
The dial shares its appearance with the classic Submariner with a black dial and contrasting white text and indices. The bezel too is black with similar contrasting white detail.
The Deepsea has additional text on the circumference of the dial stating “Original Gas Escape Valve” (at the top of the dial) and “Ring Lock System” (at the base of the dial). This is a major area of differentiation with the Submariner model.
The Deepsea does not have the “Cyclops” above the date but the date is still easily read.
The luminous indices, hands and zero marker on the bezel, glow a wondrous aquamarine colour as the ambient light diminishes into darkness.
The bracelet features a stainless deployant but with the additional feature of a “Fliplock” which is an extension link that folds into the clasp, aiding divers who wish to wear the watch over a diving suit.
The level and ease of adjusting the bracelet is breathtaking, allowing the owner to size it perfectly for comfortable wearing on the wrist.
The “Glidelock” is a relatively recent invention by Rolex which allows fine adjustment using a centre panel on the clasp in combination with small teeth.
The bracelet looks even better than my old Submariner bracelet and that looked like new when we parted company after an 11 year relationship without a cross word.
Frank Sinatra famously sang “Regrets, I have a few”; and I share this sentiment when I think of my 1998 Submariner which I sold in haste and have regretted parting with since.
To own both would have been an indulgence but a joy.
The Deepsea is a superb watch and a worthy purchase. I love the practical nature of the watch and the comfortable way it sits on my wrist.
The ability to wear the watch in the most extreme environments is unlikely to ever be challenged by this wearer, but I admire the engineering integrity that is intrinsic to this watch.
The Deepsea is for keeps. No rash decisions will be made again. I have learnt my lesson. However, the happy ending that is Deepsea ownership, is to move from Sinatra’s “Regrets” to Piaf’s positive, “Non, je ne regrette rien”. No, I’m not sorry for anything.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.