Review-Rolex Rolex and Comex

COMEX is a French diving company founded in 1961 by H.G. Delauze to explore the depths of the oceans: it is the NASA of the deep sea…. At that time, Yuri Gagarine was travelling around the earth at 300 km of altitude, but none dared to travel over 70 m under the sea.

&nbsp,Replica Panerai – Radiomir PAM00337 men watch;

H.G. Delauze in 1963


Delauze and COMEX ran an incredible industrial and human challenge: the conquest of the depths. Their hyperbaric boxes simulated the condition of life under sea and COMEX improved them, as well as the gas mixtures and diving equipments.


As they got more and more experience and technologies, the records were all broken:


Ludion 1966-68 : 120 m in hyperbaric box

Physalie 1968-72 : 610 m in box (doesn’t that remind you something ?)

Janus I in 1968 : 4 divers at 150m for 14 hours of work.

Janus II en 1970 : 3 divers  at  250m for 34 h of work

Janus IV in 1977 : 6 divers for a simulation of work at 460 m . Two of them will go to 501 m… world record !!!!


From 1967 to 1997, COMEX worked closely with Rolex and many of their deep sea divers were issued Rolex watches as a tool to do their work. Rolex used this as a way to test some of their new watches and to resolve some with issues from COMEX, such as decompression divers and their watches not being able to withstand depths. The Helium Escape Valve (HEV) was developed and tested on 1665, 5513 and 5514 (reference for COMEX only) for COMEX before being commercially available in the original Sea Dweller in 1971.


The COMEX issued watches have also been associated with records and experiments such as the max depth of 701 meters or the Hydra experiments and it is common to see those watches with specifics engravings.



What makes them very collectible is that they were never sold by stores (Authorized Dealers) and only issued to divers or officials and that they were made in extremely small quantities even after all those years with COMEX. They also have special characteristics and unique COMEX serial numbers and engravings on the casebacks, which make them very interesting for collectors. They played a big part of the development of the watches that we wear today.


Here are the references, production and date ranges of the watches delivered to Comex:


1970-1973 Early Submariners Ref. 5513 and Sea Dweller Ref. 1665


The Rolex Comex Submainer ref 5513 were the first prototypes to be tested by Comex, together with a handful of thin case DRSD’s. They were specially assembled with a Helium Escape Valve (HEV) at the side of the case in order to solve the problem during decompression, where often the crystal and winding crowns would literally explode from the watches: Rolex and Comex developed the HEV and at first fitted it to a small batch of thin case Sea Dweller ref. 1665 and  ref 5513 Submariners


5513 Comex (Photo: BJSonline)



1972-1978 Submariners Ref. 5514 (made for Comex only) 


The 5514 models was a batch of watches with a reference that was specially made for COMEX and its divers and never sold by retailers.  It was delivered after the successful testing of the 5513 with HEV and COMEX made a special order of these watches.


5514 Comex (Photo: Antiquorum)


The early watches had “Rolex COMEX” across the caseback, the later watches around the caseback. The COMEX numbers came in about three sizes: small, medium and large.



1977-1980 Sea dweller Ref. 1665


The 1665 was delivered to COMEX from 1977-1981.  These watches can be found with the original dial with 600m ratings or the replacement dials with 610m ratings. The COMEX numbers were in the range of 2000-2300 with only 300 watches delivered.


1665 Comex (Photo: Antiquorum)



1978-1979 Submariner Ref. 1680 


Some of these non-HEV watches were given to divers for non saturation dive and most of them were given to employees, customers and suppliers. Most of 1680 COMEX were resold and redialed as normal Rolex watches, as many owners didn’t really like the “advertisement” on the dial and the case back ! COMEX  received approximately 60 examples of these watches.


1680 Comex (Photo: Antiquorum)



1980-1984 Sea Dweller Ref. 16660


The 16660 was a transitional watch for Rolex: the new case, sapphire crystal,Replica Roger Dubuis Excalibur Chronograph RDDBEX0264 men Watch, larger helium valve meant that the new watch could be taken to depths up to an incredible 4000 feet or 1220 meters. There was also a new movement inside the case: the 3035 to replace the 1575 in the previous Sea-Dweller model.


16660 Comex (Photo: Antiquorum)


Interestingly, the new watch also was designed to have a new dial, a glossy dial with metal rims around the markers. In the mean time, there was still some matt dials that needed to be used, so they first batch had a matt dial and the later models had the new shinny dials. The 16660 was delivered to COMEX in 1980-1984. The first 50 watches had the older style matt dials and two lines of writing, while the remaining 150 watches had the new glossy dials. 


1982-1986 Submariner Sapphire Ref. 16800


Approximately 100 examples without HEV have been deliverd with matt or gloss dial.



1988-1989 Submariners Ref: 168000 no valve with glossy dial


Approximately 100 examples without HEV have been deliverd with matt or gloss dial.



1992-1997 Seadweller Sapphire Ref. 16600  


These watches were delivered in two batches :


– 100 examples in 1992 with the straight “Rolex COMEX ” writing on the case back&nbsp,TAG Heuer Carrera Heritage WAS2110.FC6180 Watch; and COMEX number 32XX

– 100 examples in 1997 with the “rounded” writing  and COMEX number 33XX


An additionnal small batch of this reference was delivered in 2004.



1986-1997 Submariner Ref. 16610


There were approximately a couple of hundred examples delivered and many are commonly seen complete with box and papers,Replica Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic RDDBEX0353 men Watch, Many were issued by non saturation divers or as gifts.


The 16610 Sub is desirable watch since it is considered as a COMEX watch. But, it carries a stigma by serious collectors as being the least desirable due to being a late sapphire crystal model and a non HEV model and possibly less likely to be used for deep sea exploration and more likely to be “desk-divers “or executive gifts.


&#65279,Cartier Cartier d’ART Watches;An additionnal small batch of this reference was delivered in 2004.





16610 Comex (Photo: Eric Ku)



Acknowledgements: Guill@ume, Ed Delgado



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