Comex 16800 Rolex Submariner
There aren’t a huge number of Submariners post-white gold surrounds that possess the quality we vintage lovers so carelessly label as soul, but this certainly is one. In fact, it’s probably the most characterful Sub that’s still tough as nails. This is a ref. 16800, a sweet spot for many that saw the transition to both sapphire crystal and white gold surrounds, but introduced a quick-set date and maintained tritium in what is a recipe equal parts charming and invincible. And we know this one is invincible for certain, because that’s really what that big white stamp down at 6 signifies.
Many of you will be aware, but Comex Submariners are the tip of the spear. Rolex formed a long running partnership with Comex (Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises) was a commercial diving company who conquered the depths of professional diving. Their employees worked oil platforms, lived on the sea bed, and saturation dived for days on end. In the 70s thousands of off-shore oil platforms were built and Comex as almost the only company who could work to repair or update them, employing 800 professional divers. Rolex decided early on to use this as an R&D opportunity, and created watches to be used by Comex and tested. Interestingly, these watches were all owned by Comex and never commercially for sale. Those that come to market do so from divers who had them as part of their kit, as is the case here.
This example is documented to the depths and back. It hails from John R. Martin, an emeritus diver working the ‘Uncle John’ North Sea platform. And it comes with dive logs, detailed operational writeups, and a photo of him working next to Comex diver Maurice Ward. Interestingly, Ward’s 16800 sold at Phillips Hong Kong XIII for 121K USD. Historically, these have hammered right between 90-140K USD for the last few years, from results in the 60s around 2015. The condition here is just absurd, which is the reason for the premium, a pumpkin tritium and absolutely no wear. It’s a Rolex collector’s dream. Is it worth double? Depends how strongly you value condition, but I’m glad time capsules like this can still be found.
This one that, should it have appeared at Phillips, should’ve been one for Rolex’s own historical collection. On par with the Milgauss they bought, as Comex goes. There’s not much else to say on condition, extremely well documented and the sort of Sub we dream about. It comes from a well-regarded Italian retailer.