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The Man With The Golden Sub

The Man With The Golden Sub

Out of the huge number of jumps with his ref. 1680 Submariner, it was one out of 2012 recording sharks off Guadalupe Island in the Mexican Pacific that would leave a recognizable blemish on his watch. By then, Bret Gilliam had logged almost 17,000 jumps around the globe, the vast majority of them wearing the watch. Albeit this specific plunge was trying in the manner shooting 16-foot long pinnacle hunters of the ocean while lowered in an aluminum confine working an in fact complex submerged camera is testing, he had done it ordinarily before.

A Great White Shark is liable for the slash in the bezel embed at the 45-minute mark. 

But this time, the shark he was recording had taken an uncommon interest in Gilliam. Relating the experience, Gilliam discloses to me that while his eyes were prepared on the viewfinder of his camera, an enormous Great White “unexpectedly turned and nibbled the pen directly close to me, and afterward went into somewhat of a wrath and began flailing uncontrollably attempting to get at me. I pulled my camera back and dropped once more into the confine, however not before the shark fiercely affected the enclosure again and my left arm was thumped forcefully into the bars, causing a chip in the Rolex’s bezel.”

A Great White off the shoreline of Guadalupe Island in the Mexican Pacific.

An Icon: The Rolex Submariner

Want to get familiar with the Rolex Submariner? All you require to know can be found in this thorough piece from our own Stephen Pulvirent.

Check out Reference Points: Understanding The Rolex Submariner.

And this wasn’t any old Submariner. Bret Gilliam’s plunge watch is a reference 1680 made of 18k strong gold, with a dark bezel and a matte dark areola dial. The 1680 was the primary Submariner reference to at any point be designed in strong gold, a metal that is ordinarily saved for dress watches. A gold Rolex – even a Submariner – is frequently viewed as a triumph image instead of a genuine instrument watch, yet Gilliam had never given a lot of consideration to rules anyway.  

Gilliam is a remarkable individual in the jumping community. He was enlisted into the Diving Hall of Fame in 2012 for his long term commitment to making jumping more protected and open to all. Presently 69, he’s as yet dynamic, filling in as a specialist observer in plunging and oceanic cases. I went through hours on the telephone with Gilliam examining the advancement of the business from the mid-century time until the current day. There are not many pioneers left who have seen SCUBA jumping advance the manner in which he has. He has an abundance of information, and he shares it with the kind of energy that is practically sudden from somebody who has been in an industry for over 50 years. He hasn’t been bored by his novel position.

This Perry submarine is equipped for jumping to 3,000 ft. This photograph was taken in the  Cayman Islands in 1992. 

Bret Gilliam’s dad was a Navy Officer, so a day to day existence amphibian was natural to him. He began making a plunge 1959 at age eight, when jumping innovation was as yet in its outset. Gilliam has performed makes a plunge a military limit, doing profound jumping projects for the Navy during the ’70s. He fulfilled his ROTC commitments after his university reads by working for the Navy shooting quick assault submarines at profundities around 525 feet. The task evaluated what kind of obvious wake vortex was left by these submarines. The jumps were done utilizing the Navy’s “Extraordinary Exposure” tables, a bunch of tables utilized in outrageous circumstances.

After his administration, Gilliam proceeded to make a plunge various jobs including commercial, logical examination, specialized, and recording purposes. He’s filled in as an expert planning submerged cinematography on various Hollywood films including Dreams of Gold and The Island of Dr. Moreau. He’s even showed up in a couple. His outsized standing in the jump world comes from his accomplishments submerged, yet in addition his enterprising soul outdoors. He’s established various companies including Technical Diving International, an accreditation organization, and he filled in as the President and CEO of UWATEC, a company that created plunge computers. 

Gilliam was shrunk by the USCG to prepare reaction group salvage tasks in Puerto Rico for jumping and oceanic missions. 

And for a large portion of his profession, he’s ragged a Rolex Submariner, however it wasn’t generally a gold one. In 1973, Gilliam established V.I. Jumpers Ltd., a plunging activity that pulled in sporting jumpers and upheld research jumpers in the Virgin Islands. Some portion of the business was retailing Scubapro gear, including watches. During the ’70s, Scubapro contracted Swiss makers to create watches for them, loaning their marking to the dial and caseback. Gilliam wore a Scubapro Benthos 500 jump watch as he was an approved vendor from 1971 to 1985. In 1974, he purchased a treated steel Rolex Submariner that he wore every day both submerged and outdoors. Gilliam said the “watch was impenetrable.” And he might have effectively worn that watch for the remainder of his life.

Andre the Seal, a VIP seal, and Gilliam get comfortable in 1982 at the New England Aquarium. 

But in 1970, Skin Diver Magazine ran a piece that stayed with Gilliam. It chronicled a mission that Dick Anderson, an early pioneer of SCUBA plans and an unbelievable jumper in his own right, took on. Anderson provided his own gold to Rolex and mentioned they produce a watch from it. A crazy thought, however at last Rolex ceded and made Anderson the watch he needed: a strong gold Rolex. At the point when René Jeanneret, deals overseer of Rolex at that point, given Anderson the watch, he advised him, “Simply don’t be hesitant to take it diving.”

One day in 1980, Gilliam got a call from Rolex with an offer he was unable to won’t. “I was contracted to give shooting and on-camera commentary for a broadly broadcast narrative extraordinary on humpback whales. Rolex connected with me and inquired as to whether I would wear a gold Rolex Submariner in the film,” Gilliam describes. What’s more, the most amazing aspect? Rolex would offer him an exceptionally steep markdown on the watch. He bought it from Little Switzerland, a Rolex AD four squares from his V.I. Jumpers central command in St. Croix. The price tag was $6,500, which Gilliam says was more than he paid for the main boat he purchased for his plunging business. 

Gilliam’s Rolex Submariner Ref. 1680 in 18k gold. 

He wore the watch much the same as he wore his treated steel Submariner before that, and that is to say, he wasn’t at all reluctant to get it wet and thump it around. Disregard the foofoo symbolism that commonly comes with a gold watch. “It’s experienced outrageous profound jumps under 800 feet, immersion plunging, as my essential watch for heavenly route as a sea official, medicines in recompression chambers, under ice in both the Arctic and Antarctica, profound making a plunge submarines to more than 12,000-foot profundities … pretty much everything,” Gilliam says.

The watch was on his wrist during an occasion that would land Gilliam in the Guinness Book of World Records. Gilliam completed a progression of record-breaking plunges – in ’90 and ’93 – for the most profound jump breathing compressed air.

Descending to over 400ft on the 1990 Guinness Book of World Records dive. 

On the ’90 plunge, he arrived at 452 ft. at “Mary’s Place” in Roatán, a Caribbean island, while remaining absolutely cognizant, with the Rolex on his wrist. At the point when jump computers were as yet a generally new instrument, he would wear a plunging computer on one wrist and the Rolex on the other. 

Stories will in general expansion in worth more than some other resource, yet Gilliam’s Sub hasn’t performed ineffectively by any means. He reports that he gets “consistent proposals from jumpers who need to get it basically on the grounds that it was mine, and I utilized it for more than 40 years up until this point. The last offer I got was for $45,000 in January.” 

For reference, a pristine strong gold Submariner ref. 126618LN as of now retails for $36,950. Wearing a strong gold sub to complete testing and regularly unstable assignments submerged surely resists customary watch fan thinking, however like René Jeanneret said to Dick Anderson in 1970, one ought not be hesitant to take it jumping. Gilliam took that straightforwardly, and it turns out Jeanneret wasn’t bluffing.

“The watch has never bombed me,” he says.

Gilliam filled in as a Captain on the Ocean Spirit, a voyage transport furnished for cruising the globe and supporting jumping, all things considered. This photo was taken in 1989. 

The 550 ft. Sea Spirit was the leader of Gilliam’s Ocean Quest International, the biggest jumping activity ever.  

Captain Gilliam performing relationships adrift in 1981. 

Gilliam has become very fruitful through his undertakings, and given that the watch has been close by through nearly his whole jumping profession, it’s worth more on a passionate level than any measure of cash an authority can offer. At the point when somebody gets some information about it, the appropriate response is straightforward. He says, “I’m keeping it.”

Taken in 1977, Gilliam is on the arrangement of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

“I have no family or children, however my aim is to leave it to a dear companion that is a jumper. He’s more youthful and will presumably outlast me… at any rate, that is his arrangement,” he says. 

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