In the opening events of one the many apocalyptic fiction books I’ve read there was a scene where a woman’s Rolex stopped due to the EMP. My first thought was she must have had a counterfeit watch with a quartz movement. All real Rolex watches have a mechanical movement. Not an electrical circuit, battery or microchip in sight. In reality, Rolex watches have been a go-to timepiece globally for special ops boys and girls and tough guys for half a century, especially SEALs and other big guns. I remember my dive instructor loved to tell the story about watching his Rolex Submariner go flying off his wrist while he was lobbing grenades in Vietnam. Must have been left-handed was my first thought.
By Doc Montana, a Contributing Author to SHTFBlog and SurvivalCache.com
The 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 be 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. But there are some lessons to be learned here that can apply to more affordable survival watches.
The Road Less Traveled
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 a 100m watch 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 synthetic watch cases 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 a highly limited run are not of much good if you can’t ever buy 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.
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But the good news is that the Rolex Deepsea has a rather amazing toughness and 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. Or even the 4000 foot rating of the Sea Dweller. No, instead the Rolex Deepsea will survive just fine at 12,800 feet underwater! The Rolex Deepsea is like a Rolex Sea Dweller on steroids, which in turn the Sea Dweller is a Submariner on steroids, and the Submariner is a dive watch on steroids, and dive watches are sports watches on steroids, and sports watches are dress watches on steroids. To appreciate the Deepsea, you need to study the absurd amount of technology and engineering that goes a hyperdive watch.
Sure the Hublot Oceanographic 4000 was the first watch to break the 4000 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 since the design must account for a 25% margin of error. This fact launched Rolex back into the top spot of production watch’ depth ratings. 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 10 full-sized 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. At least a living one anyway.
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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 Deepsea is for when you cannot hide, cannot run, cannot avoid the dark side of survival. The watch body is a special ultra strong 904L stainless steel. The watch back is thick titanium. And the crystal separating the watch face from a Mad Max world is a full five millimeters of sapphire-hard sapphire crystal.
But clamping a half-pound watch to your wrist is not something for those lacking confidence. The Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller is absolutely massive by watch popular 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 watch, but the Rolex is more than three times its weight.
Each watch feature beyond hours and minutes is an additional complication in watch movement mechanics. Add a date and you get another complication. Chronographs add another as do alarms, months, moon phases, etc. The most complicated wristwatch has 33 complications so needless to say, its chance of surviving a rough date is like 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. 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 important hourly notation.
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By adding a trendy three-dial chronograph on a watch, at least three more complications are added that are three more pathways for failure. Well, actually there are 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.
Keeping it Simple
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. It’s a tried and true dive timer that can only err towards safety.
The bracelet of the Rolex Deepsea has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. First, it is made of solid stainless steel core links adding strength, but also weight. The pins connecting them are overbuilt as well, and the clasp is reinforced including a micro adjustment Glidelock allowing for subtle changes in bracelet size necessary for an eight ounce watch. A feature will you definitely need when switching between a wrist of skin to one of dive suit neoprene on the fly.
Watch for the Apocalypse
I’ve had watch batteries die when on adventures. I’ve had watches break, and straps snap. I’ve even killed a quality watch in a washing machine. So having a mechanical auto-winding watch is my first choice after a solar powered dive watch. But the thought of wearing a $10k barter item on my wrist at all times is also something that crossed my mind.
The Rolex Deepsea is not the lightest, smallest nor cheapest mechanical analog watch on the planet. Not even close. But it is certainly one of the toughest. In fact, wearing a half pound of Rolex on my wrist is something I had to get used to, and it is nothing I would ever change from now on. So when time no longer matters, the Rolex Deepsea is there for you. And it will be there when time matters again. Something to think about, right?