Comex is a sacred grail to those who worship at the altar of flat fours and frog feet. When one ventures deep into the details of meters first, underline dials, and exclamation points, all roads lead to milsubs or this: Comex. The 1960s gave birth to a partnership between Rolex and the Compagnie maritime d’expertises (Comex). Comex was the name in professional deep sea diving and had a need for deep sea timekeeping. The partnership created watches whose service has blazed the trail for much of the modern Rolex catalogue, very literally watches which were used to test the extremes of what Rolex were capable of.
Comex was founded by Henri Germain Delauze, fond of saturation diving (for repair of offshore oil rigs initially), who invested heavily in related research. Part of that research involved pioneering durability testing of helium escape valves with Rolex, which were later patented by Rolex in the 1960s. The two brands worked together to develop the durability and nuances of HEV systems for decades. These are some of the most serious and highly collected dive watches to ever be produced, as each ‘issued’ Comex watch has very likely seen serious time somewhere very deep under the sea.
That history is told by a series of Submariners and Sea Dwellers stamped with Comex in varying ways. In Submariners, the first experimentation was a 5513 with HEV. Directly after that came this reference 5514, created for and sold to Comex. The earliest of these 5514 references did not have the block Comex stamp on dial that many collectors associate with the reference. This is one such example. The later two iterations of this reference included the dial stamp, making this first series something of an ultimate stealth Sub. Comex is engraved next to Rolex in straight lines across the case back.
This particular 5514 is offered to the market for the first time from its original owner who worked in the North Sea, South Africa, Spain, and Mexico. Included is a letter, six photos of his time with Comex, a cloth badge, dive logs, American Divers Oilfield and US Navy papers, and perhaps most amusing a sample of crude oil from his time in the fields. This level of provenance and direct traceability is quite rare, particularly for Subs. Collectors of Comex will be salivating as I write this, but surely even the rest of us can appreciate a watch with such a beautifully and tangibly elaborated story.
This example is well-used, but more beautiful for it. There are light scratches, light bashes, and moderate surface wear across all external surfaces. The lugs still display a definite chamfer, but I do suspect a light polish in these lug’s past. The dial is clear of degradation and displays a beautifully deep tritium tone. The all important engravings, ‘ROLEX’, coronet, and ‘COMEX’ are still deep and very well-defined. This is the first time this watch has been offered and comes to market by way of a well-regarded London retailer.
Find this Comex 5514 here from Subdial listed as POA.