A Rolex Submariner 5513 from a Former COMEX Diver

One of the reasons why we love vintage watches is because each one has its own unique history and no two are exactly alike. We buy all of our watches directly from the public, which means that sometimes we get rare vintage models directly from their original owners, and sometimes these watches come with truly […] The post A Rolex Submariner 5513 from a Former COMEX Diver appeared first on Bob's Watches.

A Rolex Submariner 5513 from a Former COMEX Diver

One of the reasons why we love vintage watches is because each one has its own unique history and no two are exactly alike. We buy all of our watches directly from the public, which means that sometimes we get rare vintage models directly from their original owners, and sometimes these watches come with truly incredible backstories.

We recently received a very special Rolex 5513 that previously belonged to a former commercial diver that used to work for COMEX. For those of you familiar with vintage Submariner watches, you already know that something like this does not come along all that often. And whenever one of these rare Rolex COMEX dive watches does manage to surface, you can almost guarantee that it will have an amazing story behind it.

Rolex Submariner 5513 Key Features:

Production Years: 1962 – 1989

Case Diameter: 40mm

Materials: Stainless Steel

Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds

Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers (Gilt, Matte, or Gloss w/ Applied Markers)

Bezel: Bidirectional, Black Aluminum Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale

Movement: Caliber

Crystal: Acrylic (Domed)

Water Resistance: 200 Meters / 660 Feet

Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet

Click here for our ultimate buying guide on the Rolex Submariner.

What Is COMEX?

Best known for its pioneering technologies regarding underwater exploration at great depths, Compagnie Maritime d’Expertises – better known as COMEX – is a French deep-sea diving company founded by Henri Germain Delauze in 1961. The brand first emerged right around the time that scuba diving was really starting to take hold and establish itself in the world, and COMEX is responsible for pioneering work in the field of saturation diving.

Instead of catering to the growing recreational scuba diving crowd, COMEX primarily focused on commercial diving and deep-sea exploration. An industry leader in underwater operations, COMEX is credited for numerous advancements regarding hyperbaric testing facilities and the use of different gas mixtures, all in the pursuit of allowing humans to dive deeper and stay down longer.

With that in mind, COMEX also works closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) and its astronaut training program. Along with developing advanced space habitat life support systems for the ESA’s various missions and operations, COMEX also designs hyperbaric oxygen therapy facilities and even develops robotic systems both for use in outer space and deep below the surface of the ocean.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner COMEX Engraving Dive Watch

About Saturation Diving

By the mid-1960s, the practical applications of saturation diving were becoming apparent, and Rolex had even gone so far as to create the Sea-Dweller in 1967 as an updated version of the Submariner that was able to contend with the complex conditions of saturation diving. In addition to offering a greater depth rating than the Submariner, the key feature that defines the Rolex Sea-Dweller is its helium gas escape valve – just like the one featured on this prototype Rolex 5513 Submariner.

With that in mind, the helium escape valve is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the watch industry. While it exclusively pertains to deep-sea diving, it actually has nothing to do with water resistance. When diving at extremely deep depths or for long amounts of time, the nitrogen in the regular air we breathe becomes toxic to humans, and so it is necessary to replace the nitrogen with a different gas – one that is entirely inert in this unique scenario, and helium makes an excellent substitute.

During saturation diving operations, divers breathe special gas mixtures and live in dry pressurized chambers that get lowered down to great depths below the surface of the ocean. This allows the divers to not only work at depths otherwise unreachable by regular scuba diving, but also to stay at depth and not need to go through an incredibly lengthy decompression stage after each individual dive.

When saturation diving, the divers only need to go through decompression once – at the very end of their assignment before resurfacing (assuming they work at relatively the same depth the entire time). This decompression process can sometimes take multiple days and with this method, the divers are able to decompress in the dry chamber once all of their underwater work has been completed.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner No-Date COMEX Dive Watch

The Purpose of a Helium Escape Valve

Now, here is where the helium escape valve comes into play. Because helium molecules are incredibly small, the high pressures present inside the dive bell force the tiny helium molecules past the gaskets of a watch and they get trapped inside the case. Additionally, in the event that the watch needs to be wound or adjusted, manipulating the crown will also result in helium molecules entering the case.

None of this is a problem as long as the watch remains under pressure. Consequently, a diver’s watch will work properly the entire time (provided that it has enough water resistance in the first place). However, during the decompression stage, when the pressure inside the diving bell slowly decreases, the trapped helium models inside the watch expand (according to Boyle’s law), and this creates positive pressure inside the case, which can force the crystal to pop off of the case of the watch.

To contend with this unique obstacle, Rolex patented a one-way valve that automatically actuates once the pressure inside the watch reaches a certain level. This allows the trapped helium molecules to safely be purged from the case before the level of internal pressure reaches the point where it will cause structural failure. It is important to remember that this only occurs during the decompression stage and that takes place inside the dry dive bell. Therefore, the helium escape valve really has more to do with the watch’s ability to adjust to decreases in pressure rather than anything to do with its ability to withstand external pressures.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner COMEX Dive Watch Prototype Helium Escape Valve

The Rolex and COMEX Partnership

As the company that invented one of the world’s very first dive watches, Rolex shared a common goal with COMEX, as both brands were interested in reaching greater depths and progressing mankind’s ability to explore the underwater world. Although Rolex’s first watch equipped with a helium escape valve first appeared in 1967, it was still a very new technology at the time. To refine and improve upon this new technology, Rolex partnered with COMEX in 1970 as a way to get additional real-world testing data on their various dive watch designs.

As part of the strategic partnership, Rolex provided COMEX with Submariner and Sea-Dweller watches at zero cost and in exchange, COMEX would provide Rolex with detailed notes and analysis on the timepieces’ performance. These Rolex watches destined for COMEX saw rigorous professional use in extreme conditions that only a small handful of individuals will ever experience, and many of these watches were damaged or destroyed over the years.

One of the most interesting things about the Submariner watches that Rolex issued to COMEX is that despite the fact that the Sea-Dweller had been created just a few years earlier, many of the Submariner watches sent to COMEX also had helium escape valves fitted to them. Later into the partnership, Rolex began fitting the COMEX Submariner and Sea-Dweller watches with dials that featured the COMEX logo, and the brand even created the reference 5514, which is a model that is specific to COMEX, and which is essentially a no-date Submariner fitted with a helium escape valve – just like this one.

However, this Submariner is not a reference 5514. Instead, it is a standard reference 5513 that has been modified by Rolex with what could be considered a prototype helium escape valve that was used for development and testing purposes.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner Stainless Steel COMEX Dive Watch

A Prototype Rolex Submariner

This particular watch is a vintage Rolex Submariner reference 5513 with a ‘feet first’ matte dial and a fat-font bezel insert. It’s fitted with a folded-link Oyster bracelet that has a decent amount of stretch and appears to likely be original to the watch. There’s a beautiful matching patina on the tritium dial and hands, but the real party-piece of this ref. 5513 is the helium escape valve on the side of its case and the COMEX engraving on its case-back.

The watch has a 2.8-million serial number engraving, which gives it an estimated production date of 1971. This makes it an early example of the various COMEX-issued Submariner watches, and this is further supported by the fact that it is a reference 5513 rather than a reference 5514 or a later-era Submariner model fitted with a COMEX-branded dial.

It’s also worth noting that this particular watch isn’t what collectors call a “Pre-COMEX” Submariner either. The dials that received the COMEX branding on them have slight variations in regards to their printing that separate them from the other non-COMEX Submariner dials of the era. Consequently, the dials that possess these traits but don’t have the COMEX logo on them are often called Pre-COMEX Submariner watches, but the dial on this particular reference 5513 is not one of those.

The fact that this watch is more-or-less a standard matte dial reference 5513 Submariner that Rolex retrofitted with a prototype helium escape valve suggests that it was one of the early Submariner watches issued to COMEX. Additionally, the watch’s 1971 production date helps confirm this, as this would have been just one year after the partnership between Rolex and COMEX had started.

While this vintage Rolex Submariner 5513 all by itself is both incredibly rare and special, the fact that it came to us directly from the original owner means that we get to hear the story behind it first-hand and share it with you today.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner COMEX Prototype Divers Watch

A Letter From The Original Owner Owner

Included with the watch are both photos of the original owner from his days working with COMEX, along with a letter of provenance that details his experiences as a commercial diver and how this unusual Rolex Submariner came into his life. An excerpt of the letter is included below:

My Diving Days

I joined the British Royal Navy in 1962 at the ripe old age of 15, leaving in 1973, having traveled the world and many countries, loving the sea and its creatures. 

I wanted to become a commercial diver and joined COMEX Diving from France and was trained in many aspects of diving using diving bells and mixed gas. My watch was given to me by COMEX and reported on it to Rolex and sent back to them for updates and cleaning, etc.

My watch has been with me all these years, it has seen 600-pound groupers, hammerhead sharks, sea snakes, and to look at it gave me great assurances we have traveled to places no one will ever see and traveled to many depths and situations. 

I hope this little narrative gives you some idea of where she has been. I have lots of stories and as I said earlier this is bringing back memories of lost friends. We are known as “Pioneer Divers” throughout the world. 


Stuart L.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner COMEX Dive Watch Letter of Provenance Photos from Original Owner

A Piece of Rolex Dive Watch History

What makes this watch so special is that the reference 5513 Submariner was never supposed to have a helium escape valve, and this configuration was never made available to the public. This Submariner is essentially a prototype that Rolex produced for testing and research purposes, and since the vast majority of these watches were used for serious professional diving applications, many were lost, damaged, or destroyed over the years, and only a

A relative handful of these COMEX Submariner watches were originally produced and only a fraction of that original number have managed to survive to this day – let alone still with their original tritium dials and hands. Not only is this prototype reference 5513 an incredibly rare and important watch that is emblematic of a defining time in Rolex’s history, but it also has a great backstory to go with it. And now we, along with this watch’s next owner, get to become part of this Submariner’s remarkable story.

Vintage Rolex 5513 Submariner COMEX Dive Watch

The post A Rolex Submariner 5513 from a Former COMEX Diver appeared first on Bob's Watches.

Source : Bob's Watches More   

What's Your Reaction?


Next Article

The Best Omega Speedmaster Watches to Buy as Investments

The Omega Speedmaster is one of the undisputed icons of horology and a watch that truly needs no introduction. Holding claim to a number of illustrious titles such as the official flight-certified watch of NASA and the first watch worn on the moon, the credentials of the Speedmaster are beyond reproach and it is often […] The post The Best Omega Speedmaster Watches to Buy as Investments appeared first on Bob's Watches.

The Best Omega Speedmaster Watches to Buy as Investments

The Omega Speedmaster is one of the undisputed icons of horology and a watch that truly needs no introduction. Holding claim to a number of illustrious titles such as the official flight-certified watch of NASA and the first watch worn on the moon, the credentials of the Speedmaster are beyond reproach and it is often said that every serious watch collector should own an Omega Speedmaster – even if it ultimately does not become a part of their permanent collections.

For well over half a century, the Omega Speedmaster has inspired the imaginations of both watch collectors and space enthusiasts alike. The model has been a fixture of manned space exploration since the 1960s and it is easily the most famous and collectible Omega watch in existence today and one that is studied and pursued by a dedicated following of highly passionate enthusiasts. Prices for vintage Omega Speedmaster models continue to rise year after year, but a more recent development is the significant appreciation that can be observed among a number of fairly-modern references. So, what are the best Omega Speedmaster watches to buy as investments?

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

Omega Speedmaster Fact Facts:

– First introduced in 1957.

– Originally created for the automobile racing market.

– Mechanical 12-hour chronograph (manual-wind).

– The first watch to feature an external tachymeter bezel.

– Officially flight-qualified by NASA for all manned space missions.

– The first watch worn on the moon.

– The only watch officially certified by NASA for EVA (spacewalks).

– Previously issued to members of the Peruvian Air Force.

– Still in-use today aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Omega Speedmaster.

Omega Speedmaster Caliber 321 Movement

Vintage Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch

It is no secret that vintage Omega Speedmaster watches with Caliber 321 movements are consistently among the most expensive Moonwatch references available today. Even the most plentiful examples are more expensive than a brand-new Speedmaster, and extremely rare iterations have been known to sell at auction for more than six-figures. However, since reviving the historic Cal. 321 in 2019, Omega now produces a stainless steel Speedmaster model that features the movement, and just like its vintage predecessors, this new Caliber 321 model now ranks among some of the best investment Speedmaster watches.

The true vintage Speedmaster references from the 1950s and 1960s that are powered by the original Cal. 321 movements will likely always reign supreme when it comes to value and collectibility. With that in mind, despite being back in production, Omega’s total output of the revived Caliber 321 is extremely limited since the assembly of each individual movement is carried out by a single watchmaker. Consequently, global supply for the stainless steel iteration of the Moonwatch 321 (ref. 311. is not able to keep up with demand at a retail level, and examples frequently trade hands on the open market for values significantly above their original retail prices.

‘Speedy Tuesday’ Limited Edition Models

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Speedy Tuesday Ultraman Limited Edition

The Omega Speedmaster collection has been home to countless limited-edition models over the years, almost to the point of drawing criticism from certain collectors who would rather see the brand’s iconic chronograph watch stick close to its original roots. Not all limited edition Omega Speedmaster watches are destined to become future collectibles, but the “Speedy Tuesday” models are fiercely pursued by collectors, selling out in minutes and then trading hands for well-above their original retail prices on the secondary market.

Created by Fratello Watches founder Robert-Jan Broer in 2012, the #SpeedyTuesday hashtag has become a weekly event on Instagram and the “Speedy Tuesday” watches celebrate the passionate enthusiast community that surrounds this iconic timepiece. At the time of writing, there have only been two Speedy Tuesday Speedmaster watches: the original “Reverse Panda” model and the “Ultraman ” – and both of these models are extremely popular among today’s collectors. A minimum investment of five-figures is now required to obtain either model, and these two Speedy Tuesday watches are a perfect example of the rapid appreciation that can occur with highly popular limited-edition references.

Previous Omega Moonwatch Generations

Omega Speedmaster Professional Moonwatch Caliber 1861 and 1863 Movements

One of the main reasons why the Omega Speedmaster occupies such a special place in the hearts of collectors is because its core design (both inside and out) has hardly changed in the last half-century. For most of the Speedmaster’s history, you have been able to purchase a watch that is nearly identical to the models first worn on the moon; however, the all-new generation of Speedmaster watches with the Caliber 3861 movement represents the biggest update to the collection to occur within the last fifty years.

At the present time, the recently discontinued Moonwatch models that are powered by the Caliber 1861 and Caliber 1863 movements are among the least expensive standard Speedmaster references available. Additionally, they now represent the last Moonwatches to feature movements without Co-Axial escapements, and this makes them an obvious choice for collectors looking for a Speedmaster that more closely adheres to the history of the model. Prices for Omega Speedmaster watches continue to increase from one year to the next, and now that the long-running Cal. 1861 generation is discontinued, it is likely that this trend will only continue, both for it and its Cal. 861 predecessors.

Silver Snoopy Speedmaster Limited Edition Watches

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Silver Snoopy Award

As previously mentioned, not all limited edition Omega Speedmaster watches become future collectibles, but there are certain models that could be considered some of the most fiercely pursued Omega watches in existence. Among those that are extremely hot targets for collectors are the various Silver Snoopy Speedmaster watches that pay tribute to Omega winning NASA’s Silver Snoopy Award for the crucial role that the Speedmaster played in the safe return of the Apollo 13 mission.

At the time of writing, there have been a total of three different Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy models and all of them sell for significantly more than their original retail prices on the open market. The most affordable Silver Snoopy Speedmaster watches cost in excess of $20k and prices can exceed $50,000 for examples from the highly-coveted second generation. Despite not being vintage Omega watches, these Silver Snoopy models all offer significant returns for any collectors that are lucky enough to pick them up for their original retail prices, and they easily rank among the best investment Speedmaster watches available today.

First Omega in Space (Speedmaster FOiS)

Omega Speedmaster FOiS First Omega in Space

The Omega Speedmaster FOiS was first released in 2012 as a thoroughly vintage-inspired rendition of Omega’s iconic chronograph watch. Drawing its design cues from the very first Omega watch to ever reach outer space in 1962 (astronaut Wally Shirra’s personal Speedmaster), the FOiS immediately became a favorite among vintage enthusiasts and it represents the perfect option for those that love the aesthetic of vintage Speedmaster watches but who still want the care-free ownership experience of a modern timepiece.

While it was not limited to a specific number of units, the Omega Speedmaster FOiS is a numbered edition and one that is now officially discontinued. At the present time, the FOiS still remains active on Omega’s website, although it has been reported that retailers are no longer able to order the model and its availability is likely to be formally updated soon. It is also worth noting that the FOiS is now the very last Speedmaster model to be powered by the long-running Caliber 1861 movement and many collectors anticipate that secondary market prices for the Speedmaster FOiS will increase once it is no longer available at a retail level.

Discontinued “Hesalite Sandwich” References

Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch Hesalite Sandwich 3572.50 Caliber 1863

Since the early 2000s, Omega Speedmaster buyers have been forced to choose between either having a Hesalite crystal or a display case-back. Many collectors want their Speedmaster watches to have the classic Hesalite crystal since this was the style fitted to the original models worn on the moon. However, the only Speedmaster watches that feature Hesalite crystals also feature solid case-backs that do not allow users to view the intricacies of their manually-wound chronograph movements. If you want to be able to see your Moonwatch’s movement, your only option is one of the “Sapphire Sandwich” models that feature a sapphire crystal on both the front and back of the watch.

However, for a relatively short period of time between approximately 1987 and 2003, Omega offered versions of the classic Moonwatch that featured Hesalite crystals over the dial and sapphire display case-backs that allowed for an unobstructed view of their movements. Known as “Hesalite Sandwich” watches among collectors, both the ref. 3592.50 and ref. 3572.50 feature this unusual configuration that offers users the best of both worlds. Additionally, since their movements sit on full display, these watches actually feature different calibers with more elaborate finishing compared to their solid case-back siblings. At the present time, prices for these Hesalite Sandwich models are only slightly above their more-traditional counterparts, and many collectors expect this to change as an increasing number of people become aware of these discontinued Speedmaster models.

Omega Speedmaster Reduced

Omega Speedmaster Reduced Automatic Movement

While many of the best Omega Speedmaster watches to buy as investments are those that fall into the classic Moonwatch category, there are still other models outside of this sub-collection of the Speedmaster range that have experienced significant appreciation in value within the last several years. Among these are the discontinued automatic Speedmaster models that are frequently referred to as Omega Speedmaster Reduced watches in collecting circles.

Despite the widespread and enduring success of the classic Moonwatch, Omega does not really offer their iconic chronograph watch in a smaller size. However, between approximately 1988 and 2009, the brand did offer a reduced version that featured much of the same purpose-built styling but with a smaller case diameter and an automatic winding movement. To this day, these Speedmaster Reduced models remain the closest thing to a smaller Speedmaster that is available, and although prices are still quite affordable (at least for now), they have roughly doubled within the last several years. While prices will likely never reach the same sky-high values that can be seen among other collectible Speedmaster references, they will likely continue to stay strong as long as these models remain the closest thing to a classic Moonwatch with a smaller case.

The post The Best Omega Speedmaster Watches to Buy as Investments appeared first on Bob's Watches.

Source : Bob's Watches More   

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.