A fine, important and very rare stainless steel automatic diver's wristwatch with center seconds, Helium Escape Valve, Maxi dial and bracelet, made for Comex

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1978
    Reference No: 5514, caseback stamped "5513" to the inside
    Case No: 5'647'522, Comex issue number: 734B
    Model Name: Submariner
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal.1520, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet stamped "93150", endlinks stamped "580", max length 195mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped "S P3" and "93150"
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed by maker; dial and case further signed by Comex
    Accessories: Accompanied by 2 Rolex letters confirming manufacturing of the present watch and numbered sale tag.

  • Catalogue Essay

    The second half of the past century is an extremely interesting period in the history of Rolex, characterized both by the introduction of some of the most beloved models in the history of the company and also by the development of “on-demand” timepieces for various institutions. Sometimes, such bespoke pieces were branded or slightly modified versions of existing models, but in two instances, a specific reference number was employed: reference 5517 identifying military Submariners made for the English Navy, and the present COMEX-reserved reference 5514.

    A pioneer of deep sea exploration, COMEX (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises) first contacted Rolex in 1963. This resulted in a number of modified Submariner ref 5513 - some of them featuring Helium Escape Valves - issued in the mid-to-late 1960s. 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. Reference 5514 has grown in the hearts of collectors and has today become one of the most sought-after Submariner models.

    The COMEX engraving to the caseback of these pieces is known in two different variations: early versions feature COMEX across the caseback, while later pieces such as the present one instead feature it around the back, close to the rim. Furthermore, three different sizes are known to have been used for the number font.

    The present example of reference 5514 is without a doubt one of the most unusual versions to appear at auction. As fully certified by original Rolex documents accompanying the watch, it was made in 1983 from scratch by the company as the previous 5514 of the owner of this piece had been lost in the mail. This is why the COMEX issue number engraved to the back is “734B”. The “B” means this is a substitute of the previous 734 COMEX piece.

    It appears that Rolex employed a case still present in their stock and bearing case no. 5’647’522, thus dating to circa 1978, but for the dial they used one from the standard 1983 production. Consequently, this watch features a “Mark IV” Maxi dial, characterized by very large hour markers. It is an extremely unusual - if not unique - occurrence to find a watch reuniting the highly sought-after case reference 5514 made for COMEX, and furthermore sporting a Maxi dial. Such an unusual configuration is furthermore backed by original Rolex papers, an equally rare instance which makes this wristwatch one of the most peculiar and collectible COMEX timepieces to appear at auction in recent times.

  • 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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179

Rolex

Ref. 5514, caseback stamped "5513" to the inside
A fine, important and very rare stainless steel automatic diver's wristwatch with center seconds, Helium Escape Valve, Maxi dial and bracelet, made for Comex

Circa 1978
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed by maker; dial and case further signed by Comex

Estimate
CHF60,000 - 120,000 
€52,800-106,000
$61,500-123,000

sold for CHF75,000

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Sale
+41 22 317 81 89
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction: EIGHT

Geneva Auction 10-11 November 2018