Time For Something Special

Sheffield Auction Gallery’s forthcoming ‘Evening Auction of Jewellery and Watches’ is to be held on Thursday 20th September and included within the Wristwatch section is a rare Rolex Submariner 5514 Automatic Wristwatch made for COMEX, the French commercial diving Company “Compagnie Maritime D’Expertise” which was formed in 1961 and specialised in deep sea exploration.

Rolex realised the need to create something even more sophisticated than the standard Submariner during the 1960’s when COMEX reported a technical problem its divers faced with the model 5513 Rolex Submariner, and later the Rolex Comex Submariner 5514.

5513 Rolex Submariner, for COMEX
5513 Rolex Submariner, for COMEX

The watches literally exploded from the case in the de-compression chambers when the divers were returning after long periods of extreme pressure at great depths. Helium particles would penetrate the watch’s crystal and seal but were unable to escape in the decompression chambers.

Rolex fitted a one-way gas escape valve (HEV) on one side of the case, positioned opposite the winding crown in the special Submariner 5513 models. As these were specially issued to the COMEX divers, some of these models even bore the “COMEX” logo. The problem with this was that after every six months, the watches needed to be sent in for maintenance.

Later in 1967, Rolex produced another model, with the unique reference number 5514 the Rolex COMEX prototype which were also specially fitted Submariners, but this time they bore the “COMEX” logo on the dial and also the COMEX identification numbers on the back; to meet the growing demands of professional divers and the spectacular development of underwater exploration.

The 5514 models were a batch of watches that were specially made for COMEX and its divers and never sold by retailers. Although produced in higher numbers than the 5513, the 5514 is still a very prominent watch for collectors and enthusiasts because of the unique COMEX reference number.

The example being offered in September by Sheffield Auction Gallery has a signed black dial with COMEX logo and “660ft = 200m”, within a stainless steel case with helium escape valve. The reverse of the case is marked “ROLEX COMEX” and has unique number “733” in large numerals.

Previous examples of this watch have been known to go through auction in varying conditions at tens of thousands of pounds. This is a fine example and the auctioneers are confident of considerable interest from collectors.

For information on this or any of the items to be included within this specialist Auction and to consign items please contact Specialist Valuer Sarah Clark on 0114 281 6161.