The first ROLEX COMEX watches - Model reference 1665

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The development of the new Rolex Sea-Dweller and the Helium Gas Escape Valve (HEV) during the late 1960s is often mistakenly attributed to a collaboration between Rolex & COMEX.

Previous articles via the Vintage-DB Rolex Blog (A Pair of Patent Pendings & US Navy Issue)  confirm the testing was conducted in conjunction with leading military & commercial divers rather than divers who worked exclusively for COMEX.

The relationship or 'contractual agreement' between Rolex and COMEX did not actually commence until the early part of 1972 (after the testing hand been completed & the HEV patent approved), at which point prohibited the use of Rolex watches with any diver but COMEX.

The 2nd misconception is that the first Rolex COMEX watches were model reference 5513 Submariners.

Although this may have been true as part of the ongoing contractual agreement for COMEX divers to exclusively use Rolex watches that would last until 1997 and saw the introduction of the 5513 with HEV, COMEX specific reference 5514, the 1665, 1680, 16800, 16660, 168000 16610, 16600 and then resurface again in 2003 with the luminova swiss only 16610 and 16600. 

Until recently it has been difficult to asceratin the precise nature/specification of the first watches as none had publically appeared, although 2 were known privately. Due to the recent appearance of a 3rd watch, we can now summise that the first 10 watches delivered by Rolex to COMEX where in fact not the model reference 5513 Submariner but more fittingly the new model reference 1665 Sea-Dweller.

Whether these watches were purchased directly by or presented as a gift to COMEX by Rolex to commence the agreement/partneship and the launch of the new Sea-Dweller is unknown, However it is confirmed that these watches were personally presented by Henry Delauze (the president of COMEX) to those he considered 'divers of merit', whereas the early 5513s that followed where initially issued to the dive teams for us in the diving bell rather than individual divers. 

To date 3 watches are now known and studies of these show that the specification of the first 10 Rolex COMEX watches were as follows:-
  • Rolex model reference 1665 Sea-Dweller with Thin case & HEV
  • MK II Double Red Sea-Dweller Dial
  • PATETED case back engraved with the COMEX name & unique issue number
  • Matching case and inner caseback numbers
- The earliest watch know to have surfaced was issued to one of COMEXs most celebrated divers Christian Cornillaux.

- The 2nd which has a case back issue #6 was issued to COMEX diver Andre Martin.

- The 3rd watch which has a case back issue #10 is understood to currently reside in a private collection in Asia. Interesting to note that on this watch the dial was swapped post 1977 to a COMEX 600m (Some divers wanted the COMEX name on their watches and other preferred the original)

What has become significant from collated information is all watches form part of the same batch with serials 2,661,4xx. 

There is no questioning the importance the first batch of watches which commerorated the beginning of the relationship between Rolex and COMEX and would become so important to divers and collectors over the next 25 years. Nor the significance that the first watches were given to the divers that COMEX considered it most important. It would be 5 more years after the introduction of the Rolex/COMEX reference 5513 with HEV and then the COMEX specific reference 5514, before Rolex would supply COMEX with the 1665 again (possibly due to financial reasons as the Submariner was a less expensive watch). But the 1665 was the watch all divers wanted due to greater depth rating.

The chronology from the start of developement of the prototype Sea-Dweller to the launch of the launch of the production models & commencement of the 'contractual agreement' between Rolex and COMEX is as follows

1965 - Rolex commence development of the new Sea-Dweller with HEV. Testing it via 2 models the prototype 1665 Single Red with and without HEV via leading divers (Military & commercial) worldwide

1967 - 1969 - Rolex continue development of Sea-Dweller. Higher volume testing continuesesting it via the prototype 1665 Double Red MkO and Mk1 with and without HEV via leading divers (Military & commercial) worldwide vian loans of watches to the divers in return for regular reports

1971 - Rolex obtain Patent Approval for the HEV


1972 - Rolex reach an excluive supply agreement with COMEX which would continue for the next 25 years

1972 - Rolex advise divers involved in the testing that they can keep the protoype watches in appreciation for their feedback.

1972 - Rolex deliver the first Rolex/COMEX watches to COMEX. The Rolex model reference 1665 thin case. To be issued to divers of merit.

In 2011 we were fortunate to be able to acquire Rolex COMEX #5 which is the earliest known Rolex COMEX watch issued from Chriatian Cornillaux, along with a CNEXO / COMEX Omega SeaMaster, extensive documentation / images and a letter of cofirmation from Rolex to substantiate the deliver, all of which we would like to share below :-

1969 - Christian Cornillaux joins COMEX

1970 - Forms part of the COMEX/CNEXO Janus II diving team with Patrick Cadiou & Michel Ligier setting a world record for underwater exploration at a depth of 255 meters in the Ajaccio Gulf, France

1970 - Presented with Omega ref ST 166.032 / 168.023 by Yves Laprairie (President Directeur Generale of CNEXO) in Recognition of the Janus II dive and world record

1971 - Awarded the 'Chevalier de la legion d'honneur' by the french President George Pompidou

1972 - Presented the Rolex 1665 SEA-DWELLER serial 2,661,4xx with COMEX case back engraving & unique issue number. Personally presented to Cornillaux by Henri Delauze (President COMEX)

1971 - JANUS II - Logier, Cadiou & Cornillaux

For detailed information on JANUS II

1971 - Christan Cornillaux receiving Chevalier de la Legion d'honneur from George Pompidou

1972 - Christan Cornillaux diving in the Congo

1973 - Christan Cornillaux on Le Vulcan

Christian's watch is presented in its original configuration. Its importance is without question which is enhanced further by extensive provence & exceptional condition given that it accompanied him on numerous dives around the world for the next 20 years. Unfortunately we have been unable to truly capture in our images the tropical colour of the MK II double red dial & original insert.

Please enjoy the images.

Christian Cornillaux's Rolex 1665 SEA-DWELLER Serial 2,661,4xx with COMEX caseback #5


An Evening with Rolex

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I recently enjoyed a private dinner with Rolex & around 12 other guests at their new 32 St James building in London, truly beautiful premises which they have sympathetically refurbished to provide a perfect setting for small informal client & collector events.

The dinner was followed by a private viewing of the new Rolex DEEPSEA SEA-DWELLER CHALLENGER and one of the original vintage Rolex DEEPSEA SPECIALS. I won't go into too much detail as there are always more questions than answers, but will share a few images of the evening just to put you in the mood.

The original Rolex DEEPSEA SEA-DWELLER CHALLENGER 39370FT / 12000M

Image of the Rolex DEEPSEA SPECIAL presented above the actual watch in the Display
Another Image of the Rolex DEEPSEA SPECIAL presented above the actual watch in the Display
actual Vintage Rolex DEEPSEA SPECIAL
The Case & Lugs are of interest
actual Vintage Rolex DEEPSEA SPECIAL
Interesting to note that the fact the actual watch on display did not have an underline was lost on our hosts

Goyard Watch Boxes

Monday, February 18, 2013

Although the trip to Paris was nothing short of a disaster due to the theft of 4 vintage Rolex. I did manage to collect my latest order of Goyard watches boxes.
For anyone not familiar with Goyard (  they were established in 1792, and are the oldest Parisian trunk maker's still in business. The company has been passed down from generation to generation under the successive names of Martin, Morel and finally Goyard.
As any watch collector will know, finding the perfect watch box to store your prized possessions is not any easy task. Goyard in my opinion offer the best solution of any luxury trunk maker. Combing style and heritage with perfect dimensions and sufficiently secure casing for most storage & travel requirements, There are just enough design/colour combinations to keep each box interesting. Available in 4 different sizes containing either 4,6,8 and 12 watch rolls.
Anyone wishing to order one (delivery is circa 3 months) should contact the delightful Joseph Albanese at Goyard 233, rue Saint HonorĂ© 75001 Paris T +33 1 42 60 57 04 

Vintage Rolex Stolen in Paris

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Unfortunately at 19.00 on Saturday 16th February, 4 vintage Rolex watches were stolen from me at Gare de Lyon station in Paris.

If anyone has any information or is offered the watches, please contact me

via telephone on +44 7977 469 568 or +41 799 642 379 or email

A reward is offered for their safe return.

Model references & serials as follow
  • Rolex 6263 Daytona with 2 colour White Paul Newman Dial. Serial 3,645,876 
  • Rolex 6536-1 Submariner with 4 Line Gilt Dial & Red Triangle Bezel. Serial 399,718 
  • Rolex 16610 Submariner with Tiffany & Co Dial. Serial X456,213 
  • Rolex 5512 Submariner 2 Line Gilt Outer Track. Serial 764,291

Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700/1 Oman

Monday, June 18, 2012

The recent Geneva Auctions included the following Lot (315) from Christies

The watch attracted much interest and was finally acquired by Vintage-DB for 81k CHF, 30k above the original estimate, not particularly surprising if you consider the Lot Notes advised that "In depth research results in the discovery that this reference 3700/1 is the only known example of a stainless steel Nautilus model made to the special order for the Royal Household of the Sultanate of Oman." This statement is actually not quite correct, as we were aware of another other example, although this made the lot more interesting.

We previously presented via the Vintage-DB Blog, information on the special order vintage Rolex watches issued by Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id to the British Military (Rolex ref. 1665 Oman Khanjar & Qaboos Sea-Dwellers) in the 1970s, of particular interest in this instance are the Rolex Red 'Oman Khanjar & Qaboos Sea-Dwellers which are found in a consecutive numbered batch of 80-90 watches. This is unusual as most serials are issued in a random order & not assigned to a specific model,  indicating a dedicated special order to Qaboos.

We can now be quite sure that not only did Qaboos commission a special order Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700/1 with Oman Khanjar dial, but as with the Red 'Oman Khanjar & Qaboos' Sea-Dwellers, the discovery of a 2nd Patek Philippe 3700/1 with Oman Khanjar dial (pictured below) indicates that the watch sold by Christies forms part of what is also a small consecutive serial batch of the iconic Genta designed Patek Philippe Nautilus 3700/1. Incredibly the 2 watches that have surfaced have consecutive serial numbers 536.200 and 536.201 (536.201 is the Christies watch), movement numbers are just 1 digit apart 1.304.952 and 1.304.954 and the Patek Philippe Archive Extracts advises that both watches were sold  on 31st July 1978.

PATEK PHILIPPE - NAUTILUS - 3700/1 - OMAN KHANJAR - Serial. 536.200 - Movement 1.304.952
PATEK PHILIPPE - NAUTILUS - 3700/1 - OMAN KHANJAR - Serial. 536.200 - Movement 1.304.952
PATEK PHILIPPE - NAUTILUS - 3700/1 - OMAN KHANJAR - Serial. 536.201 - Movement 1.304.954
PATEK PHILIPPE - NAUTILUS - 3700/1 - OMAN KHANJAR - Serial. 536.201 - Movement 1.304.954

PATEK PHILIPPE - NAUTILUS - 3700/1 - OMAN KHANJAR - Serial. 536.200 & 536.201
Further research indicates the possible existence of a 3rd + 4th watch with serial numbers which enables us to estimate a consecutive numbered batch of approximately 20 examples.

Given the interest, demand and ever increasing values of the genuine Oman issued Rolex watches, a special order Patek Philippe with the Oman Khanjar dial crest is important to both vintage Rolex & Patek Philippe collectors and increases the interest, understanding and significance of the 1970s Qaboos era watches.

If you are an original owner of a vintage Rolex, Patek Philippe or Panerai watch, and are looking to sell, value or just share your story, please contact Daniel Bourn at or via  +44 7977 469 568 (London) or +41 799 642 379 (Geneva) or via email at

© Copyright  Daniel Bourn


Saturday, May 12, 2012

This weekend sees the first of the 2012 'Important Watch' auctions held bi-annually in Geneva, Switzerland (May & November).

More than 1250 lots will be auctioned over 3 days with public viewings held from Friday to Sunday, & the auction schedule as follows :-
  • Antiquorum - May 13, 2012 at the Grand Hotel Kempinski
  • Christies - May 14, 2012 at the 4 Seasons, Hotel Des Bergues
  • Sothebys - May 15, 2012 at 13 Quai Du Mont Blanc
The November 2011 Geneva auctions saw a record of $50 million achieved by the 3 auction houses over 3 days, with an incredible $29 million coming on the final day in a 9 hour stint by Aurel Bacs of Christies who advised ‘they had never seen such intense buying activity’. 

Highlights of the November 2011 auctions included:-

Vintage Rolex ref.8382 in 18k Yellow fold with Cloisonne Dial feat. Neptune - REALISED 609,000 CHF

Vintage Patek Philippe ref. 3448 in 18k Rose Gold - REALISED 2,099,000CHF

Vintage Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 from the 007 Movie Live & Let Die - REALISED 219,000 CHF

Whether the total sales record will be surpassed again this time remains to be seen, as despite the number of lots available, there is not quite the same apparent quality in volume of available this time in my opinion. Not particularly surprising given that the demand for investment grade vintage watches from established & new collectors in the last year (especially vintage Patek Philippe & Rolex) has been quite exceptional & is maybe now creating a shortage of vintage watches at the higher end.

From the viewings made to date, here are a few of my personal favourites, all again from Christies who are currently leading the way in terms of quality.

Vintage Rolex ref. 8171 Padellone in Steel

Vintage Rolex ref. 971 Prince in Platinum

Vintage Patek Philippe ref. 3448/6 in 18k White Gold

The weekend also provides a great opportunity to catch up with collectors & dealers from around the world & view some of the rarest watches that are held in private collections.

Stayed tuned for further updates on the Vintage-DB blog over the next few days, and results of the important lots starting with Antiquorum on Sunday via!/VintageDB