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Explorer Don Walsh (left) and filmmaker and explorer James Cameron show off wristwatches that have gone to the deep sea with them - Rolex Deepsea Special and Rolex Deepsea Challenge, both of which descended to ocean depths surpassing 10,000 meters. Victor Consaga / For China Daily
Don Walsh never leaves home without the Rolex watch that accompanied him on his trip to the depths of the Mariana Trench in 1960.
Walsh, the first person in history to make the maximum descent into the Mariana Trench, was invited to witness the Rolex Deepsea Challenge Exhibition, which is being held from Apr 17 to May 20 in Shanghai exclusively at The Rolex Experience on the Bund.
A retired captain of the US Navy, Walsh joined Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard in a descent to a depth of 10,911 meters in the Mariana Trench in a submersible called the Trieste on January 23, 1960.
Rolex was proud to sponsor this expedition and affixed an original Oyster Deepsea Special wristwatch to the outside of the submersible. With a special design, the watch can function perfectly even at a depth of more than 10,000 meters.
"Only 10 percent of the ocean is explored, and the remaining 90 percent is unknown. So we have to attract more people into exploring the oceans because if we don't understand the oceans, we don't understand the planet we live on," said Walsh.
Throughout the years, Rolex watches have traveled to the top of Mount Everest, into space with astronauts, and to the deepest parts of the ocean, Walsh said. They are everywhere, standing at the frontier of exploration, he said.
"Rolex invests in exploration to help people understand how exciting it is. It's not merely about marketing watches, but exploration, which is the first part of scientific knowledge," he said.
Walsh said he understands that companies like Rolex cannot replace the billions of dollars that governments must investment in oceanic research. But they can help give supplemental help in areas where there may not be a large government's presence.
Rolex supports explorers who could not get help anywhere else, Walsh said.
"They are worthy people, but they are little people. They don't have the ability to attract budgets from governments," he said.
"So they can go get grants from Rolex for a few thousand dollars to get started. Once they get started, then they can go to bigger foundations, using that as a kind of leverage," he said.
In terms of real business, Walsh said that Rolex is not only making some "wrist candy" but also practical things too.
"When they build the equipment, that is, watches for extreme environments, they learn to make better watches," he said.
The brand's line of consumer watches derives its excellence from the DNA of the experimental watches that are not produced for general consumption, he said.
"Making better watches will be easier, more reliable. That comes from this experimental watch development," he said.
For Walsh, the practical use is more important.
"Time is important in navigating, especially in the ocean. You have to know the time to know where you are," he said.
On March 26, 2012, filmmaker and explorer James Cameron made an unprecedented solo dive to the deepest point in the oceans, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, with the experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge watch attached to the exterior of his submersible.
The Rolex Deepsea Challenge descended to a depth of 10,898 meters, defying extreme technical challenges during an expedition that opened a new chapter in deep-sea exploration. This experimental watch, guaranteed waterproof to a depth of 12,000 meters, was exclusively developed and manufactured for the expedition.
The exhibition will showcase both watches as well as models of Cameron's submersible, the Deepsea Challenger, and the Trieste.
Rolex, headquartered in Geneva, enjoys an unrivalled reputation for quality and expertise the world over. Its Oyster watches, all certified as chronometers for their precision, are symbols of excellence, performance and prestige.
(China Daily 04/26/2013 page15)