Taking a Closer Look at Rolex's Legendary Deep Sea Special

With the Phillips‘ Geneva Watch Auction: XIV kicking off today, we take a look at one of the rarest and obscure watches in their lots.

The mother of all dive watches from Rolex — a “just because we can” watch — the Rolex Deep Sea Special represents the brand’s affinity for diving, its developments of the Oyster case, and military and exploration applications, all turned to 11.

A watch that rarely makes it to public auction, the Rolex Deep Sea Special was worked on with Swiss oceanographer and engineer Professor Piccard where its special domed High Glass was developed and fitted to a dense 42mm x 62mm case. It is as tall as it is wide thanks to its thick caseback plate and crystal ball-like front plexi. While it is not the exact watch (this is example number 35) that was strapped to the Trieste bathyscaphe for its trip to the Marianas Trench, this watch carries the same capabilities that took that watch 10,900 meters below.

This particular example was part of a collector’s private museum collection where a Mr. Abeler of the Wuppertaler Uhren Museum received the watch from Rolex in the ’70s. The watch was later deaccessioned and sold on Auktionen Dr. Crott in 2001. It will now be making its way to Phillips this weekend where it is estimated to sell between $1,315,000 – 2,630,000 USD.

Curious if this watch could be worn daily, we tried on the watch for a better understanding of its weight and dimensions. While it is certainly top-heavy and hard to read at certain angles, its uniqueness is why we love it. Another interesting detail is that it is in two-tone, and since its depth rating is too large a number to pint on the dial, “10,908 METRES” and “35,789 FEET” are engraved at the back along with the comemorative date. Head over to Phillips to learn more.

Below are some of the documented examples that have surfaced throughout the years.


No. 03, The Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, USA – believed to be the very watch strapped outside the Bathyscaphe Trieste Submersible

Commemorative Models

No. 01, Musée International d’horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds Switzerland

No. 03, Deutsches Museum, Munich Germany

No. 09, The Musée du Léman, Nyon Switzerland

No. 22, Rolex Geneva Switzerland, toured in the United States with Lt. Don Walsh

No. 30, Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne Switzerland

No. 35, formerly in the Wuppertaler Uhren Museum, currently offered at Phillips 2021

No. 36, Beyer Clock & Watch Museum, Zürich, Switzerland

No. 47, Rolex Geneva Switzerland, toured in Singapore

In other watch news, Christopher Ward drops limited edition C60 Concept Skeletonized dive watch.
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