A rare and attractive stainless steel diver's wristwatch with helium escape valve, bracelet, made for COMEX, with diving mask and literature about the original owner's career

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1970
    Reference No: 5513
    Case No: 2'837'921 inside caseback stamped IV. 70 and last 3 digits of serial number repeated (921), caseback further signed Rolex COMEX and B. Lilleland
    Model Name: Submariner
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1520, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet reference 93510, end links stamped 501B, with diver extension stamped "PATETED", max length 250mm.
    Clasp/Buckle: Folding deployant clasp
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed. Caseback further signed Rolex COMEX
    Accessories: Accompanied by owner's diving mask, documents retracing his diving career and a book on the history of diving in the North Sea

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rolex has been known as the maker of tool watches par excellence and the present reference 5513 made for COMEX is a perfect example of a piece from their regular collection, modified for the specific needs of deep water divers.

    A pioneer of deep sea exploration, COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises) first contacted Rolex in 1963. This resulted in a number of modified Submariner reference 5513, some of them featuring Helium Escape Valves. These first experiments would eventually lead to two different timepieces: the Sea-Dweller, featuring a thicker case for improved water resistance, which would eventually be released to the public in 1971, and the Submariner reference 5514, featuring the thinner case construction typical of the Submariner, but fitted with a Helium Escape Valve.

    The present early reference 5513 features not only a Helium Escape Valve but it is correctly engraved Rolex Comex on the caseback, the three last digits of the serial number are also repeated inside the caseback. B. Lilleland is hand engraved on the caseback, Bjorn Lilleland - the owner of the watch – was given this watch in 1971 when he joined COMEX. A pioneer diver for COMEX, he worked in incredible harsh conditions on the oil rigs in the North Sea where he wore this watch during his many dives, including a 180m dive underwater for 28 days!

    A diver of incredible focus and determination, Lilleland developed new diving techniques and security measures after having witnessed a fatal accident of a close friend in March 1971.

    With most examples issued to COMEX specialist divers with a COMEX dial and caseback with engraved issue numbers, the 5513 non-logo with helium escape valve, like the present model, is one of the rarest of all.

    The present lot comes accompanied with Mr. Lilleland’s diving mask, documents retracing his diving career and a book on the history of diving in the North Sea.

  • Maker Bio

    Rolex

    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Rolex

Ref. 5513
A rare and attractive stainless steel diver's wristwatch with helium escape valve, bracelet, made for COMEX, with diving mask and literature about the original owner's career

1970
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed. Caseback further signed Rolex COMEX

Estimate
CHF30,000 - 50,000 
€28,200-47,000
$30,900-51,500

sold for CHF40,000

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East

41 79 637 1724
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction: XI

Geneva Auction 27 - 28 June 2020