A gentleman’s stainless steel automatic Rolex Oyster Perpetual Comex Sea-Dweller wrist watch circa 1979 (issued to Comex in 1981, reference 2236). The black dial with luminous hourly markers and hands, date aperture to the three o’clock position, with a black bi-directional bezel, round case fitted with Oyster bracelet with flip lock clasp, reference 93150, case model 1665, serial number 6193253, movement calibre 1570 – numbered D121247. Case diameter 39mm.
What makes the COMEX unique and collectable is its story. And this is a story about conviction and devotion. In a time when the Russians and Americans were competing to reach the moon, a Frenchman by the name of Henri Delauze realized there was another frontier just as hostile and difficult to master, despite being only a step away from earth’s shores: the Oceans and the bottom of the World.
Photo courtesy of Fellows Auction House
Henri embarked on the mission “To boldly go where no man has gone before” and in 1961, in the legendary port of Marseilles, he founded the “Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises” or COMEX as we have come to know it. Like a modern Phileas Fogg in true Jules Verne spirit, COMEX set out with the ambition to explore the depths of the world. With this came the complications of the increasing atmospheric pressure exerted at increasing depths. COMEX developed and made some ground-breaking advances in the field of deep-sea nautical exploration and it become evident that accuracy and timing were crucial factors in staying alive.
Due to helium causing explosive decompression by entering a watch, timing was under threat. To find a solution, COMEX initiated a collaborative partnership with Rolex who embraced the challenge and came up with the HEV – Helium Escape Valve. Fitted on a Rolex 5513, it solved the immediate problems; but because it had not been made in stainless steel, oxidation gave the early prototypes a short life span. Room for improvement was needed and in 1972 Rolex launched the 5514, fitted with an escape valve made of stainless steel. The blueprint for the forthcoming Sea Dweller was made and Rolex had conquered the depths.
This is a story of the successful collaboration of a mission and a brand to solve a key problem – to go further, deeper and where no man has gone before. Added to the uniqueness and rarity of this true historic timekeeper comes the fact that a COMEX marked watch was never sold at any authorised dealership. It was awarded to the brave men of COMEX or officials who made the COMEX dream possible.
This is the beauty of vintage, and if you are looking for value and a sound investment look no further.