Call it the original Deep Sea diver.
In 1960, Captain Don Walsh piloted the bathyscaph Trieste to the deepest place in the ocean, a.k.a. Challenger Deep on the southwest of Guam. He ventured 10,916 meters below water with a JeanRichard Aquastar 60 watch that he purchased a year before, and it was used for Navy diver training ahead of the deep-sea journey. Now, the historically important piece is up for grabs as part of Heritage Auctions’s Watches & Fine Signature Timepieces Auction.
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Walsh’s dive watch, ref. 1581, is crafted from stainless steel with a 36 mm case. It houses a black dial with luminous round, baton, and triangle indexes. The date window at 3 o’clock is also magnified by an internal cyclops, while the watch’s bi-directional bezel showcases five-minute marks and numerals. It runs on an automatic movement featuring 17 jewels and offers a water-resistance of 10 ATM, or 100 meters.
Now a retired naval officer, Walsh spent most of his career exploring oceans and polar regions as an oceanographer and engineer. His luxury diver was purchased in San Diego as one of three Aquastar 60s that went home with fellow Triste team members Dr. Andy Rechnitzer and Larry Shumaker as well. Walsh piloted the submersible, however, with Swiss oceanographer and engineer Jacques Piccard. Speaking to the auction house, Walsh said the watch “did its job.”
“We got it, it was standard stock,” Walsh said. “There’s this thing called ‘Mil-Spec’—Military Specification —and if we ordered a watch through the Navy supply system, Mil-Spec, it probably would withstand a direct hit by an H-bomb, chemical warfare agents, and all of that. But I didn’t need that. I just wanted a simple watch that kept time, and that’s what it did.”
Walsh wore the piece to the White House when President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented him with the Legion of Merit for his Triste explorations. And once more to the Challenger Deep seafloor in May 2019 with Walsh aboard the Limiting Factor sub, piloted by Patrick Lahey of Triton Submarines. The captain’s son, Kelly Walsh, was the last to wear the timepiece on a trip to the seafloor via the same sub a year later. Experts say it is in “remarkable condition” considering its three historic dives in the Mariana’s Trench.
You can place your bids on the grail watch now via Heritage Auctions. Bids start at $50,000 and the sale takes place November 15.
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