Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Gear Review: The Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller Apocalypse Watch

In the field of survival, especially that where a significant amount of prediction is needed, it is often fun to review those pieces of kit that might beyond the esoteric. Such as a $12,000+ watch for example. So here we go. A review of what might be the world’s toughest EMP-proof watch. And a slightly out-of-reach survival item for the average prepper.

Narrowing down the possible candidates for tough watches will first eliminate all electronic movements such as those of the quartz variety. The next cutoff is easily made by chopping out all the watches that don’t suggest at least 100 meters of water resistance. But making that cut means little since the tougher watches will leave 100m in the dust when it comes to pressure testing.

The next limit will be of case material. Stainless steel is an obvious candidate, but titanium is worth considering. Those cases of carbon fiber and super-plastics are few if any when it comes to watch movements that won’t be affected by electromagnetic pulses. Plus they are quite limited in their pressure rating due to the nature of the flexible materials.

And the final easy cut is that only watches in production and are accessible will be considered. The custom makes and those of highly limited run are not of much good if you cannot ever get one.

So when considering the above limitations, a single category rises to the top: stainless steel case automatic movement dive watches. And the undisputed king of that particular category is the Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller. Of course the Rolex DSSD, as it’s nicknamed, is a massive watch, nearly half a pound in weight, 1.7 centimeters thick and a five-figure price tag.

But the good is that the Rolex Deepsea has a rather amazing depth rating. Not the 100 meters common to most sports watches, nor 200m that’s a minimum of sport diving watches. And not the 1000m of the famous Rolex Submariner. Instead the Rolex Deepsea will survive just fine at at 3900m or 12,800 feet!

Sure the Hublot Oceanographic 4000 was the first watch to break the 4k meter pressure barrier, but its limited run of 1000 titanium pieces and 500 carbon fiber ones keeps it off our list since you can’t walk into a store and buy one. Plus, a little known fact about the Rolex Deepsea is that it actually passed pressure testing of 4,875m or almost 16,000 feet in order to meet the ISO 6425 Divers’ Watches Standard the design must account for a 25% margin of error. This fact launched Rolex back into the top spot of production watches’ depth rating.

But of course when it comes to one-offs, Rolex does have the world record for watch depth with its Rolex Deepsea Challenge and a successful depth of 35,787 feet. If you were able to wear such a watch, you could count on it surviving the weight of 10 SUVs driving over your wrist at the same time. So like all these exercises in mechanical toughness during survival situations, there won’t be a human around to witness it if the watch does fail.

You call that a watch? This is a watch!
Arguments abound on the internet as to whether or not a dive watch is the category of toughest watch. Some argue that a lightweight watch has better survival fitness due to it’s more nimble low mass and thinness. But that line of reasoning is from the perspective of avoiding conflicts, not running headfirst into them. The Rolex Deepsea is for when you cannot hide, cannot run, cannot avoid the dark side of survival.

Clamping a half-pound watch to your wrist is not something for those lacking confidence or a small wrist for that matter. The Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller is absolutely massive by watch standards. Well, almost. It is actually smaller than my first two Garmin GPS watches but not my third. And the Rolex Deepsea is smaller in diameter than my Suunto compass/altimeter watches, but the Rolex is at least three times the Suunto weight.

It’s Complicated
Each feature of a watch beyond hours and minutes is an additional complication. Add a date, add a complication. Chronographs add another complication as do alarms, months, moon phases, etc. The most complicated wristwatch has 33 complications so needless to say, its chance of surviving a rough ride is exactly zero. The Rolex Deepsea has one complication beyond time...the date. Why this is important is due the fact that the more complications, the more chance of failure. As systems interact, a lesser system could take down a major system. And as more complications get stuffed into the same small watch housing, well, it gets so complicated in there that the chance of failure is exponentially greater than the regular mind boggling mechanical complications of a lightly featured Rolex. If the point of wearing a watch is to know the time, then you certainly don’t want a 1000 year calendar complication to take down your hourly notation.

Keeping it Simple
By adding a trendy three-dial chronograph on a watch, at least three more complications were added that are three more pathways for failure. Well, actually there are way now way more than three since the complications interact and each interaction is also a point of failure that could take down the whole watch.

The Rolex Deepsea has a uni-directional bezel that can note a specific position on the minute hand for an old-school way of locking in a starting time. And that bezel is a special ceramic material that is harder to scratch than a losing lottery ticket. But all those amazing advances in watch technology along with the never-compromising Rolex name also means I have a potential high-value bartering asset on my wrist at all times.

The Rolex Deepsea is not the lightest, thinnest nor cheapest mechanical analog watch on the planet, but it is certainly one of the toughest. In fact, wearing half a pound of Rolex on my wrist is something I had to get used to, it is nothing I would ever change. So when time no longer matters, Rolex is there for you. And it will be there when time matters again. Something to think about. Right?

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