COMEX models hold a special place in the hearts and collections of vintage sports Rolex enthusiasts. Since the early days of deep-sea exploration, Rolex has collaborated with numerous industry experts, including the Marseille-based company COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises), which specializes in diving for the oil industry.
La Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises (Comex) was founded in the 60s and is still considered a major commercial diving company. In addition to offering commercial diving solutions to various industries, they have always been at the forefront of setting new diving records. Comex founder Henri Germain Delauze had a long-standing relationship with Rolex having been impressed by the Sea-Dweller's ability to record depths. COMEX and Rolex have always enjoyed a special relationship and over the decades many watches have been delivered to their specialist divers, with case backs and dials marked “COMEX”.
All COMEX watches were reserved exclusively for the company and never available to the public for commercial sale. As a result, these extremely rare ROLEXes have entered the hearts of collectors and become among the most sought-after Submariner models.
These experiences led Rolex to produce a series of Submariner ref. 5513 – some of which were equipped with helium escape valves – issued in the mid to late 60s. Following these first experiments, two different timepieces were created: the Sea-Dweller, characterized by a thicker case for better waterproofness, which will then be marketed, and the Submariner reference 5514, characterized by the construction of the thinner case typical of the Submariner , but equipped with a helium escape valve.
This relationship led Rolex to commission COMEX to develop and manufacture a hyperbaric tank capable of simulating the extreme depth conditions in which Rolex can test its watches. From 2008 Rolex with the introduction of the new Deepsea Sea-Dweller which is classified at depths up to 3900 meters, up to the latest "King of the Depths" from Rolex the Deepsea Challenge, where Rolex and COMEX developed a very high pressure tank capable of reproducing a test equivalent to that exercised by water at a depth of 13.750 meters (45.112 feet).
The SUBMARINER 16800 reference
In 1967 Rolex introduced the reference 1680, the first Submariner with a date function, and in 1979 Rolex launched the new 16800 model featuring an updated sapphire crystal with a redesigned unidirectional bezel, quick release date function, and improved nominal depth from 200 meters to 300. The model remained in production until 1988 with the first examples featuring a matte dial and luminous indexes, while later watches – like this example – featured a glossy dial with luminous indexes in white gold.
The COMEX SUBMARINER available on DEANGELIS shop
The current COMEX Submariner belonged to John R. Martin, an emeritus diver who worked in the early 80s on the “Uncle John” platform, a unique device made for oil exploration in the North Sea, designed to float to its position and , once oil production ceases, to become available again in other parts of the world. Presented in recognition of Mr. John R. Martin's services throughout his career, this Submariner features an engraved caseback with the date it was presented to him – November 30, 1984 – “JR Martin” at the bottom and the number of issue assignment 6173.
This rare and fascinating specimen is accompanied not only by its original box, the Rolex sales guarantee and all the accessories, but also by documents that testify to the professional career of Mr. John R. Martin with dive logs complete with details of the operations carried out. The watch is new, never worn by its owner who abandoned the more operational part of his work to take care of administrative and office tasks.
The conditions are wonderful, with the case maintaining its original geometries and made even more fascinating by the dial which presents a splendid uniform patina on the tritium indexes and hands.
Like every watch assigned by COMEX to their specialized divers, the company logo is printed on the dial. This watch also comes with a brochure covering the features of the “Uncle John” platform, along with other documents including rare photographs showing John R. Martin in the company of another COMEX diver, Maurice Ward, whose Rolex Submariner 16800 COMEX is was sold by Phillips during The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XIII, in 2021.
Available in our Milan boutique, this incredible Rolex Submariner COMEX 16800 represents a rare opportunity to enrich your collection with a watch that tells the story of one of the best divers in the world, a timepiece that unites two legendary and elite realities like that of Rolex and COMEX, presented in such condition that it has been 'encapsulated in time'... just like when it was given to John R. Martin.
This watch is available on DEANGELIS Shop at the time of publication.