Wednesday, March 22, 2017


The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER
Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean

  Basel World 2017 - All New Model  

The Return Of The 


50th Anniversary Model

What!?!! OMG!!!! I can't believe what I am seeing!?!! I was hoping for the 50th Anniversary of the SEA-DWELLER, Rolex would do something special, but this is over-the-top cool!!! Finally!?!! The long-ovedue return of The Single RED SEA-DWELLER!!!! and 43MM, with a relatively flat back, superb proportions, wider hands, and skinny case!!!!! with the new caliber 3235 movement!!!!! All my prayers have finally been answered!!!!

A Touch Of Red

So what is the big deal with this watch? Why am I so excited about it? For many reasons! First, is the fact the dial now has a touch of red, which breaks up the monotony of the black, white and silver color combination. Red is such a great color, and I would argue many things in life can benefit from a touch of red. On the color spectrum red, is located exactly in the middle between black and white. Also, the first SEA-DWELLER prototypes models, known as Single Red SEA-DWELLER watches had a red SEA-DWELLER dial designation. Notice in the image below how the perfectly scaled-up Single RED SEA-DWELLER has a completely different vibe than the standard boring SEA-DWELLER!?!! The red SEA-DWELLER designation really pops, and the larger size gives the watch more presence and a more masculine charismatic vibe.

The very first Rolex SEA-DWELLER models, which are extremely rare are referred to as a 'Single Red SEA-DWELLER' and have a Rolex Reference Number of 1665. These watches are typically worth upwards of a half a million dollars. The photo below shows a very early Single RED Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototype, which is so much cooler and cleaner-looking than the Double Red SEA-DWELLER models. So the brand new for 2017 Rolex SEA-DWELLER looks very reminiscent of the original Single RED SEA-DWELLER prototype, as pictured below.

Perfect Design Balance

I put together the illustration below to make a few design language points. The Single Red SEA-DWELLER prototype pictured above came out at the same time as the Rolex 40MM Submariner Reference 1680, which was the first Rolex Submariner to have a DATE complication added. In other words, all Rolex Submariner models, prior to 1967 had NO DATE. Rolex also made the SUBMARINER designation in red on this model, which gave it that magnificent touch of red look, I spoke about earlier. The first watch below on the left is a Reference 1680 Single Red Submariner Date model, which is one of my favorite vintage Rolex sport models.

The watch on the far right is a standard 40MM Double Red SEA-DWELLER Reference 1665, also from the late 1960s. In the middle of the illustration above we see the the new for 2017 43MM Rolex SEA-DWELLER. The reason I put this scaled photo comparison together is to point out the fact the new 2017 SEA-DWELLER looks much, much more like the 1680 Single Red Submariner Date model than the 1665 Double RED SEA-DWELLER, which is one of the reasons I probably love it so much. In other words, I was never a big fan of the Double Red SEA-DWELLER as the two red lines of text contained too much red, and kind of canceled each other out elementally—not to mention having a total of five lines of text is way too busy, and the fact the second red line says Submariner 2000 is goofy and unnecessarily complex.

An obvious question is: "Why did Rolex make the very first Rolex SEA-DWELLER with a Single RED SEA-DWELLER designation, then switch to making all future SEA-DWELLER models with either a Double RED, or All WHITE dial designation?" In other words, why didn't Rolex keep making a Single RED SEA-DWELLER just like the first prototypes? This is speculation, but it may have been to offer a visual point of differentiation between the Reference 1680 Submariner and Reference 1665 SEA-DWELLER so people could easily tell the difference from any kind of distance. 

Also, notice the new 2017 SEA-DWELLER looks much, much more like the 1680 Single RED Submariner since it has a cyclops DATE magnifier, and the SEA-DWELLER up until the introduction of the 2017 NEVER had Rolex Cyclops Date Magnifier Window. In the final analysis, the design language of the 2017 SEA-DWELLER looks much more like the Single Red Submariner than the Double Red SEA-DWELLER, which in my opinion is a very, very good thing.

Single Red Submariner

The Single Red Submariner [Reference 1680] was made from 1967 to 1976, and it replaced the Rolex Submariner Reference 5512. Ironically, Rolex also offered the Reference 1680 in both Single Red, and all white options, and today the Single Red models are more sought after by collectors for obvious reasons. The Rolex Submariner Ad below is for a Single Red Submariner, and this is one of my favorite vintage Rolex Submariner ads.

Robert Redford

Just for point of reference, I am including a photo of Robert Redford rockin' his Single Red Submariner [Reference 1680] which he wore in the 1972 movie, named "The Candidate."

Perfect Proportions

Also when Rolex introduced the Rolex DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER (DSSD) in 2008, I did not like it, since I thought it was WAY too thick. It looked too affected and you could not wear it very well with a cuffed dress shirt. Rolex seemed to agree and later introduced an all new 40MM SEA-DWELLER, but it was too small in diameter and lacked the super-cool, retro Single RED SEA-DWELLER dial designation. The new 2017 SEA-DWELLER is 43MM, which is the perfect size and has perfect proportions as seen in the side profile view below. I wish it has less of a bubble back, but its not that bad. Also, the side profile of the case is awesome.

I think Rolex should also make a 43 or 44MM Submariner model, as human beings have grown considerably in height and width since 1953. In other words, I am much bigger than my father and both grandfathers were in the mid 1950s. Also the new model offers the Rolex Glidelock clasp system that allows the wearer to easily adjust the clasp without having to use any tools. 

There are also other proportional improvements Rolex made with the 50th Anniversary SEA-DWELLER when compared to the Rolex DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER (typically referred to as the DSSD) which is pictured in the infographic below on the far right. The scaling on the DSSD was weird and in my opinion, disproportionate. Obviously with a case thickness of almost 18MM is was way too thick. Also the DSSD has an addition of a ring lock that runs around the outside of the dial like a life saver, and makes the dial look disproportionately small when compared to the rest of the watch. In addition, Rolex put an Oyster Bracelet on the case that was the same width at the solid end links as the 40MM SEA-DWELLER, which made no sense at all. In other words it looked like Schwarzenegger back in the day, with skinny little women's legs, or like my pal Amit said : "The DSSD looks like Mr. Potato Head" :-) 

On the all-new 50th Anniversary Single Red SEA-DWELLER, Rolex proportionately scaled-up the width of the bracelet at the solid end links to make it wider and tapered it less, thus giving the watch a much more streamlined, masculine look. Rolex also widened the hour and minute hand, to give it fatter hands, which makes it look bolder and more macho.

It is also worth noting the all new 43MM SEA-DWELLER now has ultra-precise newer 3235 Caliber Movement that Rolex recently introduced. The 3235 is so precise, it supposedly keeps time as accurately as a very precise quartz movement. Also, this new model comes standard with Rolex's 5 year warranty!!!

I have some good news and bad news about this watch. The GREAT NEWS is that this watch is magnificent and shows Rolex moving full-speed ahead in design. The bad news is I'm afraid there are going to be very long iPhone-like lines for this the TESLA Model 3, or even worse, the 2005 Rolex Daytona 4 to 5 year wait lists...This Rolex is going to be all the rage, and then some!!!



50th Anniversary 

Jubilee Celebration

The Rolex SEA-DWELLER is the stuff of legend. The story of man and the sea, as well as the story of man and machine, have captivated and fascinated the human imagination since the beginning of recorded time. This story of the exploration of inner space tells how the science fiction of one century became the reality of the next century, and how Rolex played a critical role in the history of The Right Stuff. It tells the history of man returning to live and work underwater in the DEEP-SEA, as depicted in 1871 illustration seen below from Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The SEA. It's Captain Nemo and the Nautilus come to life...

Have you ever wondered where the name Rolex "SEA-DWELLER" came from? In other words, what is the genesis of the term "SEA-DWLLER", and why did Rolex choose this nomenclature for one of its most iconic tool watches? This story will answer that question in detail...The photo below is of the very first Rolex "Single Red" SEA-DWELLER prototype, and as we see from the dial designation it began its life as a Submariner variant...You can kind of think of the SEA-DWELLER as the Submariner's bigger, little brother :-)

I remember the first time I ever saw a Rolex Submariner. It was featured in a Rolex Submariner advertisement in National Geographic. I was 14 years old at the time.

I remember the first time I saw and held a Rolex SEA-DWELLER in my hand. I was 15, and it was at a Rolex Authorized dealer in Mill Valley, California. I was checking out the Submariner, which I was madly in love with, and I saw the SEA-DWELLER sitting next to it. I curiously asked the salesman about the SEA-DWELLER model. He pulled it out and handed it to me. I noticed it was noticeably thicker than the Submariner, and it has a weird circular disk shape on the left side of it's case.

Vintage 1972 Rolex Double Red SEA-DWELLER 

The salesman explained the SEA-DWELLER was a tool watch for DEEP-SEA saturation divers, and he said it had a helium release valve in case you dove down hundreds of feet into the ocean to do some saturation diving, the watch would release helium. I tried on the SEA-DWELLER and immediately dismissed it as being a stupid bloated watch. I remember it had an old-fashioned huge bubble-back that made it sit up really high on the wrist, which I did not like. The Submariner by contrast sat relatively low and flat on my wrist, which gave it a streamlined clean-cut modern look. The Rolex Submariner was the watch for me, and the SEA-DWELLER was an inferior cur dog that was unnecessarily complicated and bloated.

A decade ago, when I first started publishing Jake's Rolex World, I started seeing all kinds of interesting Rolex SEA-DWELLER models I had never seen before—especially the Single & Double Red SEA-DWELLER models, and I started to wonder about the name on a SEA-DWELLER dial. I new what Submariner meant, as well as why a Rolex Day-Date was called a Day-Date. I also knew why a Rolex Daytona Chronograph was named a Daytona, and why a Datejust was called a Datejust, but I had no idea why a SEA-DWELLER was named a SEA-DWELLER. I remember thinking to myself: "What the hell is a SEA-DWELLER!?!!"

In 2008 I set out on a fascinating journey to answer that question, and as a result I wrote what has now become a 19 Chapter Online Series named, "The Complete History Of The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean." I followed one lead after another, and literally stumbled into the untold history of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER that even Rolex had largely forgotten about.

I want to make a point about this bold declarative statement I just made about Rolex forgetting about some of its history. How could a company, like Rolex which is so meticulous and detail oriented forget about it's own history? 

The answer is simple, and counter-intuitive at the same time. Rolex's founder, Hans Wilsdorf likely never forgot anything about Rolex history, because it was his company, but when he passed away, Rolex was not run by his family. Instead it was run by some very fine and talented people, but they had different priorities. They had their career at Rolex, raised families and eventually retired, and moved on—thus much of Rolex history was simply forgotten. Basically, history doesn't seem like history when you are living through it. When I began researching and chronicling Rolex History ten years ago, I became completely obsessed. I left, or at least tried to leave no stone unturned, and as you will discover, I wandered into a bunch of lost Rolex history that nobody ever chronicled.



On The 50th Anniversary of the SEA-DWELLER I will attempt to share all the insight I have gained into the real history of this iconic tool watch. This story is based upon many, many interviews I have conducted over the past decade with key players including U.S. NAVY SEALAB Aquanauts, as well as the founder of the French diving company, COMEX, Henri-Germain Delauze. Since I interviewed most of these old boys, many of them have unfortunately passed away, but this article is based upon the insight they personally shared with me.

The 1922 Rolex Submarine

Let's get in the Rolex Time Machine and go back to the beginning, before Rolex even invented the world famous iconic Rolex Oyster. Wrist watches really only started being worn during World War I, around 1915. Rolex's founder, Hans Wilsdorf strongly believe wrist watches were not a passing fad, and worked hard to promote his Rolex wrist watches. Prior to 1915 more than 99+% of watches were pocket watches, as they were kept in a vest pocket, which protected them from dust and perspiration. Wrist watches were much more exposed to the elements, thus it was an early engineering objective to try to make them waterproof—just like with the iPhone of today. The photos below show an early yellow gold Rolex 'hermetic' waterproof watch model named the Rolex Submarine.

Notice the watch pictured above and below is NOT named Rolex Submariner, but Rolex Submarine. This watch pre-dated the Rolex Oyster which was successfully patented by Rolex in 1926. The Rolex Submarine was a 'hermetically sealed" watch, meaning you had to unscrew its top bezel, which screwed on using threads, like a jar lid. This "jar lid" bezel included the glass crystal, and had a fluted bezel which made it easier to grip with fingers. On a side note, this is where the fluted bezel on the Rolex Datejust and Day-Date came from.

The Rolex Submarine was Rolex's first attempt at making a waterproof watch. Several years later, Rolex finally broke the code, and in 1926 introduced and patented the Rolex Oyster, which was the first truly waterproof watch.

Mercedes Glietz
A Real Rolex Mermaid

Ironically, Rolex really put the Oyster on the map, by using a woman to promote the watch. Her name was Mercedes Glietz, and she wore a Rolex Oyster when she became the first woman to swim the english channel.

To my way of thinking, Hans Wilsdorf was the epitome of an ultra-succesful entrepreneur, and innovator. Not to mention, his marketing skills were second to none. Hans Wilsdorf was actually the first to incorporate using brand ambassadors for celebrity endorsements with Mercedes Glietze, when she swam the English channel in 1926 while wearing a Rolex Oyster.

Mercedes Glietz's famous Rolex Oyster is pictured below.

1927 Rolex Oyster Introduction Advertorial

Hans Wilsdorf had a brilliant marketing mind, and he successfully capitalized on the public relations exposure generated by Mercedes Gleitze's vindication swim. Hans Wilsdorf finally found his real Mermaid to showcase his Oyster.

The following Rolex advertorial ran on the cover of the London Daily Mail Newspaper on November 24, 1927, and it showcased the Rolex Oyster along with Mercedes Gleitze.

1927 Rolex Oyster Introduction Brochure

The next two photos are from a Rolex Oyster brochure, and the first image depicts Hans Wilsdorf observing the Rolex advertorial (pictured above) which he placed in the London Daily Mail on November 24th, 1927.

This next illustration depicts Mercedes Gleitze as she emerges from the English channel. In the past, I wrote a detailed article about Merceds Glietze swimming the English Channel.

The French Rolex Oyster ad seen below was originally published in the late 1920s, and featured a woman swimming...

Early Rolex Oyster ads typically incorporated an aquatic them, that set them apart from all other brands.

1926 French Rolex Mermaid Oyster Poster

At the same time, as seen in the Rolex illustration below, Hans Wilsdorf came up with a brilliant idea to have authorized Rolex dealers display the waterproof Rolex Oysters watches, in fish-tanks, in their windows–with real fish swimming around the watch!!! This of course gained the attention and fascination of many passer-bys.

Rolex even published the photo below of a famous British actress wearing her Rolex Oyster while submerging it into a fishbowl. At the time, this was as dramatic as doing the same thing with an iPhone several years ago, before they were waterproof.

The original Rolex Oyster had an art-deco cushion case as seen below, and in 1935 Guido Panerai's Italian company purchased a special oversized version of this model known as the elusive Reference 2533, which appears below as a digital visualization.

Digital Visualization of 1935 Rolex Reference 2533 by 

The real receipt for this now mythical oversized Rolex Oyster that was sold to Panerai is pictured below. Chances are you are seeing this for the first time as it has never been displayed publicly until now. It comes courtesy of Jose @, who is one of the top vintage Panerai historians today. 

The result of the metamorphosis from a Rolex Oyster pocket watch to a Panerai wristwatch is seen below in the form of a Rolex made Panerai 3646 with what is now typically referred to as a "California Dial. I discovered and published my findings many years ago, about how a great deal of design language from this watch was later incorporated into the Rolex Submariner and SEA-DWELLER. Specifically the larger, oversized case with the dial design, where they both have upside down triangle markers at 12, as well as rectangular markers at 3, 6, and 9.

Jose created the image below that compares the patented art-deco Rolex California dial from 1944 to the 1953 Rolex SUB-AQUA dial, and in this side-by-side comparison you really see the similarities.

Jose also created and just published a Panerai timeline timeline that beautifully illustrates the evolution of the Panerai, from the Rolex Reference 2533 into the world first Diving watch, which you an click on below to enlarge for much better detail:

This timeline builds upon the previous illustration work I published years ago on Jake's Rolex World in this story titled, "The Complete History Of The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean", which appeared in Chapter 3 of my 18 Chapter Story, and was titled, "Panerai & The Italian Royal Navy (The First Rolex Diving Watch)." I was so moved by writing that story, I ended up starting Jake's Panerai World Magazine. To sum up Panerai in a nutshell would be to say basically the vast majority of Panerai watches made from 1935 to 1954, were made by Rolex for Panerai, and they were the first real diving/tool watches. In 1953 when Rolex introduced the Rolex Submariner at Basel Fair in Switzerland, that all changed. The Rolex Submariner became the first commercial  dive watch available for purchase by the public.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau
The First Rolex Submariner

Jacques Yves-Cousteau is considered to be the father of Scuba Diving and modern underwater exploration, and he worked with Rolex in the early 1950s to develop the Rolex Submariner as seen on his wrist below in 1953.

The document below, from the Institute Of Submarine Research is dated October 26, 1953, and documents how Rolex Submariner prototypes were tested by Jacques-Yves Cousteau's right-hand-man in the Mediterranean, D. Rebicoff, who was also the Vice President of The Institute Of Submariner Research. The Rolex Submariner watches were worn and tested by Captain Cousteau's diving team. This historically significant document illustrates the fact Submariner prototypes performed flawlessly in 132 test dives around the Mediterranean Sea.

The watch below is very similar to the watch Jacques-Yves Cousteau is wearing in the photos above.

My pal Auro who is one of the leading vintage Rolex collectors from Italy wrote-in and shared the photo below of his 1953 Rolex Submariner and said:

"This very early Rolex Submariner [Reference 6404] has the serial number of 949,140, which is even earlier than the 1953 Rolex Submariner you showed in the photo at the top of this story. Rolex does not have early watches in their museum, the real Rolex museum is in the safes of collectors!"

Notice the very unusual "Submariner Perpetual" dial designation on this watch...I am including this watch to illustrate how much Rolex experimented with their watch models in general, the result of which, is there are typically many early variants of Rolex models.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his Calypso team tested prototype Rolex Submariner watches while they filmed their Academy Award winning documentary named "The Silent World", which the poster below is from.

The color photo above shows Jacques Cousteau testing a Rolex Submariner in the early 1950s, and the 1957 magazine ad pictured below shows how Rolex advertised the early Submariner models. The Rolex ad below is from 1957, but I have seem very similar versions of the same ad from 1955.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau is pictured below with National Geographic Photographer, Luis Marden in 1956, who is wearing an early Rolex Submariner.

The National Geographic photo below is from 1959 and shows Luis Marden wearing his Rolex Submariner on a photography shoot. He is wearing a steel glove to he does not burn his finger when he changes the light bulb used for underwater photography.

The Luis Marden Rolex ad below was originally published in 1976 and features a Single Red Submariner Reference 1680.

The 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special Prototype

The photo below shows Jacques Piccard with his father and fellow legendary explorer, Auguste Piccard after they successfully set the all-time depth record in 1953. Auguste Piccard is in the center of the photo and he is wearing his trademark Beret, and his son Jacques Piccard is standing behind him, holding his arm. It is fascinating to note that Auguste Piccard was 70 years old when this photo was taken in 1953.

Auguste Piccard's scientific and technological prowess and determination stands testament to the notion that talent does what it can, and genius does what it must!

The 1953 Rolex advertisement pictured below tells the story about how in 1953, Jacques Piccard took navigated his Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible down to a record setting depth of 10,350 feet to set an all-new depth record, with the Rolex DEEP-SEA Prototype attached to the outside of the Trieste. 

The following ad from Rolex shows the early prototype of the Rolex DEEP-SEA Special that set an earlier record in 1953 on the Bathyscaph Trieste when it set a record of 10,350 feet. This watch differs from the one version that was attached to the Bathyscaph Trieste in 1960 in that it has what appears to be a spinning bezel. This 1953 Rolex ad is a bit of a mystery, as there is not one known example on earth of this special 1953 DEEP-SEA Submariner. Notice on the illustration that the watch has what appears to be a spinning bezel with graduated time markers like you would find on a modern Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

Mankind's Conquest Of Inner-Space

U.S. Navy Bathyscaph Trieste DEEP-SEA Submersible

Next we take a look at another one of Mankind's greatest achievements in human exploration, when U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh (Pilot) and Swiss Explorer Jacques Piccard (Co-Pilot) set the worlds all-time depth record, 50 years ago today, on January 23, 1963 when they dove the Bathyscaph Trieste DEEP-SEA Submersible down into the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench off Guam, down 35,800 feet–a mind-boggling record which stands to this day. 

Attached to outside of the magnificently engineered Swiss Bathyscaph Trieste Submersible was another masterpiece of fine Swiss engineering that would set an all-time world record that same day–a Rolex DEEP-SEA Special prototype dive watch. As they say, both took a licking and came up ticking!!!

The photo below shows an original Rolex DEEP-SEA Special prototype, which featured a standard Rolex movement inside.

In the photo below we see Andreas Rechnitzer Ph.D., on the left, who was the civilian head of Project Nekton, and standing next to him on the deck of the Bathyscaph Trieste is Swiss Oceanographer and Professor Jacques Piccard.


The U.S. Navy mission patch below for Operation Tekton says "Pensate Profunde" which, when translated from latin means "Think Deeply." It also has the Navy dolphin and Bathyscaphe Triest logo.

The illustration below shows the exact location of where the Bathyscaph Trieste set the all-time world depth record in the Challenger Deep section of the Mariana Trench. The Trieste during the time of Operation Tekton was located at the U.S. Naval Station at Apra Harbor, Guam, which is approximately 200 miles north-east of the Challenger Deep.

The Challenger Deep

The following diagram gives a fascinating perspective on the Mariana Trench and the Challenger Deep. It is profound to note that the Challenger Deep at more than 35,000 feet is deeper than the highest point on earth which is Mt. Everest at just over 29,000 feet.

Pictured below, we see a diagram that illustrates just how deep the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench is at 36,070 feet. Notice the Challenger Deep is significantly deeper than Mount Everest is tall. This excellent illustration really puts things in an accurate and easily understandable perspective.

Into The Mystic

The photo below was taken during the descent when Captain Walsh and Oceanographer, Jacques Piccard were close to reaching the bottom of the Challenger Deep. In an recent interview, I asked Captain Don Walsh if he was ever scared or nervous on the descent, and he said he never was. This came as a bit of a surprise, since during their early descent, at 9000 feet one of the outside plexiglass windows cracked and made a huge noise, shaking the Trieste.

The DEEPEST Dive In History

In the late 1950s, the U.S. Navy purchased the Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible from the Piccard's, and hired Jacques Piccard to continue overseeing its testing. 

The U.S. Navy and Piccard were extremely ambitious and after significantly reinforcing the Bathyscaphe Trieste attempted to take it down to the deepest known point in the earths ocean, which was a place named The Challeger Deep, located near Guam in the South Pacific, in the Marianas Trench. Once again, the Trieste was equipped with another Rolex DEEP-SEA Prototype attached to the outside, and of course it came back-up unscathed.

In the photo below we see Professor Jacques Piccard on-board the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960, and notice he is wearing his Rolex GMT-Master sport watch, which was taken only 5 years after the GMT-Master was first made available for the public to purchase.  

All Time DEEP-SEA Depth Record 
Trieste Descends To 36,070 Feet
January 23, 1960

The photo below shows the Bathyscaphe Trieste out in the Pacific Ocean as she prepares to set the all-time depth record of 36,070 Feet on January 23, 1960.

The Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible took 4 hours and 48 minutes to descended to the ocean floor.

Inner-Space Conquered

This next photo was taken of the Bathyscaph Trieste gondola during the 20 minute stay on the ocean floor in the Challenger Deep. U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh is holding the American flag and both Piccard and Walsh have put on sweaters since the temperature has dropped significantly from the balmy tropical seas of Gaum down to a cool 7°C (45°F).

It is profound to consider, at the moment this photos was taken, there was a Rolex DEEP-SEA Special attached to the outside of the Bathyscaph Trieste and it was holding its own, against the more than 16,000 pounds of pressure per cubic inch!!!

Just before they landed on the sea-floor Piccard and Walsh were shocked that as they reached the Challenger Deep sea-floor they were seeing animals swimming around. It was previously believed that no form of vertebrae life could exist under that kind of water pressure.

The ascent back up to the surface took 3 hours and 15 minutes. 

This next photo of then U.S. Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh, and Professor, Jacques Piccard was taken after they had surfaced from their record setting dive, along with the Rolex DEEP-SEA Special, all of which were in perfect working condition.

After they returned from their record-shattering dive, Jacques Piccard sent Rolex of Geneva a historic telegram that simply said:

"Happy to announce that your watch works as well at 11,000 meters as it does on the surface." –Jacques Piccard

This next ad is from early 1961 and Rolex shares its stunning story of accomplishment. It is fascinating to note that Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex was born on March 22, 1881 and passed away on July 6, 1960 in Geneva, just 6 months after the Rolex DEEP-SEA Special prototype had set the world depth record. 

Han's Wilsdorf's Oyster Perpetual had successfully conquered the top of the world and the bottom of the ocean–his work was done and he must have passed away one satisfied man.

The 1960 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special Prototype

The following Rolex Magazine appeared in the international version of Life Magazine on October 24, 1960, and it perfectly contextualizes the way Rolex saw this achievement at the time. You can click on the image to make it easier to read the text.

1964 Rolex Cities Under The Sea

In the mid-to-late 1960s it was apparent to everybody, including Rolex, that Rolex owned the world of Aquatic Watches. Rolex was eager to share this rich heritage with the world as we see in the 1964 ad. It is also worth nothing that this ad serves as serious clue in the puzzle of the SEA-DWELLER. 

If we carefully read the conclusion above it number 4, it says "A Rolex takes a long, hard time to create...but it will still serve your son as he keeps appointments in cities under the sea." BINGO!!!! You see, back in 1964 the world was a lot bigger and slower. There was no internet or cable TV. People back then were easily fascinated with non-sensical aquatic science-fiction, like The Creature From The Black Lagoon, or The Man From Atlantis, or Aquaman, or even The Bermuda Triangle. The movie Jaws and Star Wars was still more than a decade away. The idea that man might build and occupy underwater colonies seemed very real, and with underwater habitat programs like Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Operation Conshelf, or the U.S. Navy SEALAB, it all seem real. Even Rolex bought into it, and that is where the name "SEA-DWELLER" comes from, and means.

Presiden Eisenhower is pictured above congratulating Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh at the White House in Washington D.C. As we see in the picture below, President Eisenhower as the first U.S. President to wear a Rolex.

The press release below tells the story of the actual Rolex DEEP-SEA Special Prototype watch, and how it ended up in the Smithsonian Institute.

1966 Rolex Submariner
Seahorse Brochure

[Reference 5513]

1967 U.S. Navy Submariner

Rolex's relationship with the U.S. Navy would deepen significantly when Rolex co-developed the original SEA-DWELLER with the U.S. Navy SEALAB diver, Bob Barth. Rolex seems to have understood, in many ways that exploring the magnificent world of the ocean in some way held the key to mankind's understanding of land.

These next Rolex Submariner magazine ads are from 1968. Notice none of the Submariner models in the photos have the date on them, just like the one in the photo above. That's because all these ads feature the Rolex Submariner Reference 5513, which would soon be replaced by the Reference 1680 that had a date. 


When I began Jake's Rolex World a decade ago, there was a myth that was perpetuated that said that Rolex co-developed the Rolex SEA-DWELLER watch the French Deep-Sea diving company. It turned out this was NOT true, and I discover the true story of how and why Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER. I literally stumbled in to the true story of the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER and it all begins with this man, Scott Carpenter.

 "The Rolex Submariner & Rolex SEA-DWELLER have a cachet that is unmatched by any other watch. The Rolex brand is the most highly respected in my book. The Rolex Submariner was the preferred diving watch for U.S. NAVY SEALAB Divers." –Scott Carpenter

Conquering Outer Space

On September 12, 1962 at Rice University, in Houston, Texas, President Kennedy gave his second famous Moon Speech which is amazingly inspirational and equally insightful which you can view below. In this speech JFK expressed his ambition to see the Untied State put a man on the moon, and return him safely to earth.

I conducted a podcast interview with Scott Carpenter, and he shared stories about his career achievements that gave me some deep clues as to the real story. Scott Carpenter was the first NASA Astronaut in history to become an Aquanaut. 

The Original 7
NASA Mercury Astronaut Team
March 1, 1960 

From Conquering Outer Space 
To Conquering Inner Space

After he flew his project Mercury mission, he told his commander at the U.S. Navy that he wanted to work with Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the Calypso, with Project Conshelf. The Navy granted him permission to do so, and he flew to meet with Jacques Cousteau and told him he wanted to join the Operation Conshelf team. Jacques Cousteau told him that he would love to have him be part of his team, but the challenge was that very few of the men on Cousteau's Calypso ship spoke English, and since Scott didn't speak French, it would be a challenge. 

Then Jacques Cousteau said to Scott Carpenter. I have a better idea for you. Why don't you join the U.S. Navy SEALAB program as an aquanaut. 

Scott had not heard about  the SEALAB program, but immediately flew back to the United States and joined SEALAB.

U.S. Navy SEA-LAB Aquanauts: Bob Barth, Wilbur Eaton & Scott Carpenter
Team 1 Preparing To Dive Down To SEA-LAB 2 Habitat [August 28, 1965]

Scott told me the Navy issued all the divers who were part of the SEALAB project Rolex Submariners during SEALAB 1, and 2 and Rolex SEA-DWELLER watches during SEALAB 3.

Scott Carpenter was an avid watch collector and clearly suffered from WISitus. He took the photo below for me of his Patent Pending Rolex Submariner Reference 1665. 


Scott Carpenter introduced me to a number of key players who were involved in the the SEALAB program with him, which included Rolex USA Executive, T. Walker Lloyd; SEALAB Co-Director, Walter Mazzone, and SEALAB 3 Team Leader, Bob Barth, as well as numerous other men involved in the mission. I conducted detailed interviews with each of them, and I will offer a topographical overview of the key players.

T. Walker Lloyd

I spent more than 9 hours interviewing T. Walker Lloyd who is pictured below in his U.S. Marines photo. You can listen to my podcast and learn much more in my story named, "The Right Stuff, The Complete History Of The Rolex SEA-DWELLER: Rolex X Files with T. Walker Lloyd."

T. Walker Lloyd is picture and featured below in the 1974 Rolex SEA-DWELLER ad.

Bob Barth

T. Walker Lloyd told me a story about how he was at a Scuba Diving convention in New York, when he met a U.S. Navy SEALAB Mission Diver named Robert "Bob" Barth, who is pictured below wearing a Rolex Tudor Submariner, during Operation Genesis in August of 1963, just before he joined the Operation SEALAB team.

I spent countless hours interviewing Bob Barth for a podcast, which I still have not published. Hopefully in the future I will find the time to edit and publish my interviews with him. It turns out that he and fellow SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter ended up becoming best friends for life until Scott passed away several years ago. 

The photo below shows SEALAB as she is headed out for open sea as she passes under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The photo below shows Bob Barth's Rolex Submariner [Reference 5512] that he personally wore during SEALAB 1 & 2.  It has a serial number around 1,100,000 with a beautiful gilt dial, with a wicked purple patina. So essentially this watch was worn by the man who came up with the idea for the helium release valve for the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. Rolex deliver the first Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototypes to SEALAB in January of 1969.

U.S. Naval School Of DEEP-SEA Divers

So what do Bob Barth and T. Walker Lloyd have to do with the development of the Rolex SEA-DWLLER? Everything. Basically, they developed the SEA-DWELLER with Rolex. Bob Barth is pictured below, in the back row, third from the left. Speaking of the SEA-DWELLER, where did the name DEEP-SEA come from? Look at the sign that reads, "U.S. Navy School Deep Sea Divers"

After T. Walker Lloyd and Bob Barth met, they developed a close friendship as both of them were DEEP-SEA Divers. One day, Bob Barth was complaining about how the crystals kept popping off the SEALAB divers Submariner watches during the decompression portion of their saturation diving experiments. T. Walker Lloyd asked Bob why this was occurring, and Bob Barth told him it had to do with helium building up in the Rolex Submariner and not being able to escape. T. Walker asked Bob Barth to put together a detailed analysis on paper, and mentioned he would deliver it to the CEO of Rolex at the time. 

André Heiniger

T. Walker Lloyd told me he was shocked when Bob Barth delivered the phone book sized analysis. T. Walker said, he had no idea that Bob Barth was so scientifically adept. T. Walker also told me he thought the document was too complicated for a non DEEP-SEA diver to understand, so he simplified it and presented it to then Rolex CEO, André Heiniger who is pictured below in a photo from 1963, just after he became CEO of Rolex.

André Hiniger was so blown away with T. Walker's synopsis of Bob Barth's documentation, he called the President of Rolex USA, Rene Denton an told him to find T. Walker Lloyd and hire him immediately as an Oceanographic Consultant for Rolex, which he did. Rolex worked with T. Walker Lloyd and Bob Barth to furnish the SEALAB team with watches with the Helium Release valve Bob Barth proposed. As a result, the SEA-DWLLER was born, and the U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanauts were the first to test these prototype SEA-DWELLER watches. The photo shows one of the first Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototypes. This model is known as a Single Red SEA-DWELLER [Reference 1665], and they are super rare, and worth more than a half a million dollars today. 

This ultra-rare early Rolex SEA-DWLLER has a bunch of unique features including the fact that under the Rolex logo on the dial it says "OYSTER PERPETUAL DATE". In other words, the word "DATE" has font that is larger. Also, notice that under the red "SEA-DWELLER" dial designation, it says "SUBMARINER 500 -1650FT". This designation make it very unusual. Special thanks to my good pal, Eric Ku from 10PastTen for sharing this very rare photo.


The U.S. SEALAB program was the brainchild of Dr. Bond who is pictured below wearing a bathrobe, standing next to his right hand man, Captain Walter 'Walt" Mazzone. I spent many hours interviewing Walt Mazzone, who before had been a submarine Captain during World War II. I became close with Walt and we spend many hours talking about SEALAB, Rolex and life in general. I recorded my conversations with him, and perhaps one day I will publish them as a podcast. 

Walt and I planned to get together in person for me to interview him in front of the camera but time ran out. He was 95 years old, and a few months before I was supposed to interview him, the old boy passed away, which shocked me!!! I am so bummed out that I did not get a chance to interview him on camera, but at least I got to enjoy the the pleasure of his stories. He was an extremely smart, wise man with an extremely kind soul to match. He even offered to give me his single red Rolex as a gift, which I refused to accept, as all I wanted from him was his friendship.

"What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what's going on." –Jacques-Yves Cousteau 

The photo below was taken in 1968, and it shows U.S. Navy Doctor George Bond being interviewed with his close associate, Captain Jacques-Yves Coustea, who is the greatest explorer in history. In the interview they were discussing U.S. Navy SEALAB III.

Dr. George Bond first met Jacques Cousteau in the mid 1950s at the Boston SEA-ROVERS, and told him about how he had an idea to build underwater habitats for men to dwell in on the ocean floor. Cousteau told Bond it was a brilliant idea. Then Bond told Cousteau he tried to get the U.S. Congress to fund his SEALAB idea, but they thought it would be a wast of money. Then Bond told Cousteau, that he thought he should do the same thing. Jacques responded by saying, I don't have the kind of money to build underwater habitats and man them. Bond told Cousteau he should try to raise the money to do so, and after Cousteau thought about it he agreed. He ended up raising the money from the French government and other parties and began Project Conshelf.

Dr. Bond was a U.S. Navy scientist who, in the 1950s came up with the concept of saturation diving as a way to increase the duration of untethered deep sea dives. Dr. Bond was responsible for the discovering that after 24 hours the human body would get saturated with atmospheric gases, thus no additional time to decompress would be necessary. This allowed saturation divers work and live underwater for a sustained period of time that last for days, weeks or even months. This could be done with having to make single dives that lasted for a short duration. 

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Project Conshelf
From Submariner to SEA-DWELLER

In September 1962, Jacques Cousteau immersed his Calypso crew into their most ambitious adventure to date known as the Conshelf Project. The Conshelf project was the brainchild of a U.S. Navy Medical Corps., Captain named Dr. George Bond. Dr. Bond conceived a new method of diving known as the "saturation method" which became know as "saturation diving."

Saturation diving created an underwater habitat where the divers could live in an underwater house/structure/habitat so they could work on the sea floor, without having to decompress by coming up to the ocean's surface after each dive.

Dr. Bond submitted his plan to build this underwater habitat for saturated divers to the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Navy initially rejected the idea–so Dr. Bond submitted his idea to Jacques Cousteau and his Calypso diving team–and after careful evaluation Cousteau decided to undertake the project.

Conshelf I

Conshelf I [September 1962] Location: Frioul Island, Marseille, France

Conshelf I got underway in September of 1962, and according to Jacques Cousteau, the objective was "Two men living for one week in a small building at a depth of 37 feet and working several hours a day at 65 feet." The Conshelf I structure was essentially a huge drum about the size of an industrial shipping container that was ballasted with an open hatch for the divers to enter and exit the underwater house.

In the photo below we see Conshelf I's barrel shaped habitat being tested for leakage before being submerged for the experiment. I may be wrong, but I think I recognize fellow DEEP-SEA Submariner, Jacques Piccard up on the top deck, leaning back, in the white shirt with dark slacks filming with a camera in his hand. 

Jacques Coustea previously worked with Jacques Piccard on the Bathyscaphe Project, and would work with Piccard again in 1964 on a new floating laboratory nicknamed "Mysterious Island" and again in 1965 from April 13 to May 10 on a geophysical and acoustical mission along the south coast of France. 

It is kind of shocking we have never seen a photo of the two Jacques together, but this may be the first one. Cousteau, of course, is located in the bottom right hand corner of the photo on the deck of the Calypso.

The First SEA-DWELLER's In History

Albert Falco and Claude Wesly of the Calypso diving team (pictured below wearing red caps) swam into history when they became the first "Oceanauts [French]" or "Aquanauts [American]" or "SEA-DWELLERS [ROLEX]" to live or "DWELL" under the sea. Also in the photo below we see Jacques Cousteau visiting with Falco and Wesly inside the Conshelf I habitat.

As I mentioned earlier, Albert Falco was Jacques Cousteau's lead diver and right-hand-man. The photo of Falco below was taken 7 years earlier on the deck of the Calypso in 1955 during the filming of The Silent World.

Conshelf II

The Conshelf I project was extremely successful and Cousteau went directly on to the much more ambitious Conshelf II Project. Conshelf II explored the effects of a much longer duration stay living under the sea–for a month. Conshelf II also explored the effects of a week-long stay at 82 feet in a habitat filled with an oxygen-helium mixture with the inhabitant divers leaving the habitat to do daily work below 160 feet. 

Conshelf II [June 1963] Location: Shab Rumi, Sudan, Red Sea

The photo below is of "The Starfish House" floating in the water on the right side of the photo, which was the primary structure of Conshelf II complex. The big circular structure on the left is the garage for the diving saucer which is being assembled for submersion. (Notice in the water color illustration above that the diving saucer located in the bottom right hand side of the image has left the garage and is headed for much deeper water). The Calypso diving team that lived aboard Conshelf II really were dwelling in the sea or SEA-DWELLERS.

Shab Rumi, located in the Red Sea, off the coast of Sudan was intentionally chosen since it was so far away from the location of Conshelf I. This was proof of concept that a huge industrial undertaking like this could be executed in a far-away, remote area.

In the photo below, a Calypso Cousteau diver looks in a window on the Conshelf II Starfish house.

In the photo below, two of the Cousteau Conshelf II divers relax over a game of chess in the Starfish house and enjoy a cigarette.

Conshelf III

In 1965 Calypso undertook its most ambitious and last Conshelf project named Conshelf III which was a spherical structure designed to house six Cousteau team divers including Jacques Cousteau's son Philippe.

Conshelf III [1965] Location: Cape Ferrat, Off the coast of Villefranche

The photo below is of three of Cousteau's Conshelf III divers checking in their equipment after a daily work dive at close to 400 feet.

The SEALAB Story

The SEALAB story is a very deep story (pun intended :-) In the photo below we see SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter wearing his prototype Rolex SEA-DWELLER, as he is interview with his beautiful wife, Rene Carpenter.

Philippe Cousteau was Jacques-Yves Cousteau's son, and in the photo below we see Philippe suiting up for a dive during SEALAB III. It is important to note that Philippe Cousteau and his father, Jacques Cousteau were always in close contact with the members of SEALAB, as Operation Conshelf and SEALAB ran concurrently. 

Philippe-Piere Couteau is pictured below with his legendary father Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and Jacques seems to be admiring his sons Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

Philippe Cousteau's Double Red Patent-Pending SEA-DWELLER is pictured below in a recent photo from an Antiquorum Auction. The caseback on this watch has an interior date stamp from the fourth quarter of 1967 that reads IV.67, with the serial number of 1,602,920.

In the recent photo below, we see Philippe Cousteau Jr., wearing his Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

The video below features The Undersea World Of Jacques Cousteau Conshelf Adventure documentary:

Below is a list that shows the dates, and depths of the Conshelf, SEALAB and Tektite campaigns:

  • Conshelf I: 1962 [September off of coast on Frioul Island, Marseille, France]
  • Conshelf II:1963 [June of coast in Shab Rumi, Suday, in the Red Sea]
  • SEALAB I: 1964 [192 Feet Deep off the Coast Of Bermuda]
  • Conshelf III: 1965
  • SEALAB II: 1965 [August 28, Of Coast of La Jolla, California Depth of 205 Feet/62 Meters]
  • SEALAB III: 1969 [February 15. Off San Clemente Island in California. Depth of 610 Feet/185 Meters]
  • Tektite I: 1969 [February 15, Off Great Lameshur Bay, in U.S. Virgin Islands]
  • Tektite II: 1970

If you really want to learn more about this amazing story, I highly recommend reading my 18 Chapter Series titled "The Complete History Of The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean.

If you want a simple overview, hop in the Rolex Time Machine by checking out the official SEALAB videos below:

I would like to offer special thanks to Ben Hellwarth who it the author of the book SEALAB, which I highly recommend reading if you want to learn more about the U.S. Navy SEALAB Program. 

Operation Tektite

As the U.S. Navy had begun winding down Operation SEALAB, Rolex continued to test SEA-DWELLER Prototypes with The U.S. Navy Office of Naval Research Operation Tektite, which had an underwater habitat in Great Lameshur Bay, in The Saint John, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Tektite habitat was built by the Space Division at General Electric at the Valley Forge Space Technology Center located in King Of Prussia, in Pennsylvania. Tektite I was a mission with four aquanauts, and it began on February 15, 1969 and ran until April 15, 1969.

Operation Tektite I was an experiment between NASA psychologists and Office Of Naval Research psychologists to study the potential long-duration ramifications of spaceflight, thought studying saturation dives. The premise was simple. The notion was: “behavioral, habitability and crew effectiveness data obtained in observations of undersea teams could be used to predict and understand similar problems involving space teams.”

Ian Koblick was one of the aquanauts on Tektite I who wore a prototype Rolex Single Red SEA-DWELLER that was discovered by fellow Rolex fanatic, Philip Stahl who publishes The Rolex Passion Report. Ian Koblick is pictured above and below wearing his Rolex Single Red SEA-DWELLER prototype [Reference 1665].

Ian Koblick's prototype 1967 Rolex Single Red SEA-DWELLER that he wore during Project Tektite I is pictured below in a recent photo.

In the photo below we see Ian Koblick pictured on the left, talking with an agent from the United States Ministry Of Interior. Pictured on the right is Richard A. Waller who is wearing his prototype Single Red Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototype.

The First Female Aquanauts

Tektite II was a joint venture between The United States Department Of The Interior, and NASA which was an all-female mission that consisted of the five female aquanauts pictured below.

Rolex Ambassador and Tektite II Aquanaut Dr. Silvia Earle is pictured above on the far left, as well as being pictured below entering the Tektite habitat. Divers on Tektite I & II wore and tested prototype Rolex Single Red SEA-DWELLER watches.


Henri-Germain Delauze, the founder of the French diving company named COMEX is pictured below in 1970. COMEX is the acronym for Compagnie Maritine d'ExprtiseROLEX and COMEX formed a relationship in the early 1970s that has endured to this day. COMEX's role in this story is fascinating. In a nutshell, Comex was the ultimate beneficiary of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER watch as it allowed men to work underwater in the DEEP-SEA.

Founder Of COMEX, Henri Delauze [1970]

Mythbusting COMEX's SEA-DWELLER Development with Rolex 

Before we take a look at COMEX, I need to get one thing out of the way. There is a persistent myth that has been falsely perpetuated for a long time about COMEX's participation in the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER, and I want to bust that myth, and put forth the best evidence for why it is NOT TRUE. 

Let's begin with Rolex's patent application below for the Helium Release valve for the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. It specifically states the first usage occurred on the 6th of November, 1967. Rolex delivered the first SEA-DWELLER models to The U.S. Navy in January of 1969, and they were tested during SEALAB III, which occurred in February of 1969, as did the U.S. Navy Operation Tektite. Both SEALAB and Tektite received their SEA-DWELLER prototypes from T. Walker Lloyd of Rolex U.S.A.

Rolex officially launched the SEA-DWELLER [Reference 1665] to the public in 1971/1972. In a bizarre twist of fate, COMEX divers had been wearing and testing prototype SEA-MASTER OMEGA "Ploprof" models [Reference 3350: Caliber 1002]. The photo below shows an OMEGA SEA-MASTER Ploprof prototype that has COMEX and JANUS II engraved into the case. COMEX's JANUS II diving program began in 1970, thus COMEX could not have been working with Rolex on the development of the Helium Release Valve that was incorporated into the SEA-DWELLER prior to 1969.

Also, in an interview with COMEX's founder,  Henri-Germain Delauze back in 2009 he specifically told me COMEX had been testing watches for Omega, when Rolex CEO, André Heiniger came to visit him in 1971, and offered to equip his entire team of DEEP-SEA divers with ROLEX/COMEX watches. Henri said, once that happened, we were completely done with Omega. 

The Omega Magazine Advertisement below confirms this fact.

Henri-Germain also told me in an interview, COMEX never had any involvement in the development of the SEA-DWELLER or the Rolex Helium Release valve. An obvious question is why did Rolex offer to equip COMEX with Rolex watches? Was it because they thought they had lost to Omega in the field of outer space, so they wanted to make sure they dominated inner space? 

Or maybe it was because there was other real possibility to test dive watches under real life conditions? Also, it may have had to do with the fact that Rolex was worried Omega was going to try and dethrone them with the SEA-MASTER Polprof, so they stepped up their game!?!!

The following letter from the Director of Rolex in Geneva regarding Rolex Singapore is fascinating as it discusses the testing of a Rolex SEA-DWELLER Prototype, and how COMEX had recently taken over testing in early 1972.

The photo below is the first known photo of Henri-Germain Delauze wearing a Rolex Submariner and it was taken in 1972. Henri-Germain sent me this image with a hold bunch of  photos from his archive.

Another obvious question is if Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER in 1967, how is it that the U.S. Navy SEALAB and Tektite operations did not receive and start testing them until 1969? This is simple to answer when you do the math. The Rolex patent application stated the Rolex SEA-DWELLER was not first used until November 6, of 1967. SEALAB (and assumably Tektite] received their prototype Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototypes in January of 1969, which was fourteen months later. This was due to the fact Rolex had to wait until SEALAB 3 and Tektite I were launched, as nobody else was conducting such deep saturation dives that placed aquanauts in undersea dwellings under real life conditions.

So if the Rolex SEA-DWELLER was developed and tested by The U.S. Navy SEALAB and Operation Tektite, who ended up being the ultimate beneficiary of the SEA-DWELLER? A French company named COMEX. I interviewed COMEX's charismatic founder Henri-Germain Delauze back in 2009, just before he passed away. During our interviews I mentioned to him that it was ironic that the COMEX ROLEX Submariner and SEA-DWELLER watches were so popular among vintage Rolex collectors, and it was ironic there was not one photo of him wearing his trademark COMEX ROLEX, where you could see the COMEX logo on the watch. 

I asked Henri if he would pose for some exclusive photos for Jake's Rolex World, and he obliged as seen in the two photos below. Not to mention the last opportunity to test the Rolex SEA-DWELLER watches prior to SEALAB and Tektite would have been during Conshelf II, and SEALAB II, back in 1965. In other words, there would not have been any kind of meaningful opportunity to test the SEA-DWELLER in the DEEP-SEA prior to February of 1969.

The French COMEX/Cousteau Connection

I included this profound photo of Hernri-Germain Delauze that was taken in Southern France in Fontaine de Vaucluse in 1955 and it shows a young Jacques-Yves Cousteau at 45 years of age standing in front of a much younger Henri-Germain Delauze–at age 26–who would go on to found the revolutionary French diving company, COMEX. At the time Dalauze was a Cousteau team diver.

This image is so profound I decided to crop and zoom it in for you. What makes this image so profound? It is an image of two French diving revolutionaries. Two men who would forever change the world of diving. 

Jaques-Yves Cousteau co-invented the Aqua-lung which brought SCUBA Diving to life and Henri-Germain Delauze ended up being perhaps the greatest beneficiary of this technology. It is so profound to consider the man on the right in the picture below taken 59 years ago is the same man pictured at the top of this story!!!

French Diving Pioneers Jacques-Yves Cousteau & COMEX founder Henri-Germain Delauze in 1955

What Is A Rolex COMEX Watch?

Before we go in-depth on Henri-Delauze's amazing career achievements, let's explore what a Rolex COMEX watch is so we may understand the significance of the relationship between Rolex and COMEX. I will admit, that as a Rolex historian, the Rolex COMEX history or story has been, perhaps, the single most confusing and challenging stories for me to wrap my head around. Why? I don't know for sure! I think it is because COMEX is a French company, and what they do is so esoteric, that is was difficult for me to understand. DEEP-SEA diving in general, for the lay-man is almost arcane.

On a side-note, I always try to share Rolex history so it is not only fascinating and educational, but I always try to do it so a 3rd grader can understand it, and this story–as I just mentioned–has been very challenging to do so with, but I believe I have achieved doing so.

In the early 1970s, Rolex CEO Andre Heiniger became fascinated with Henri-Germain Delauze's amazing career achievements and in particular, Andre was fascinated with the future direction of COMEX's deep sea exploration.

Andre Heiniger reached out to Henri-Germain Delauze and formed a strategic partnership. The terms of the partnership was that Rolex would provide all COMEX divers with special Rolex Submariner and SEA-DWELLER watches at no cost, in exchange for COMEX providing Rolex with detailed performance analysis. 

In order to differentiate the COMEX Rolex Submariner and SEA-DWELLER models from standard versions, Rolex decided to created a special "COMEX" dial designation that placed the COMEX logo above the model name on the watches. In the next three photos that Ryan took of his Rolex COMEX Submariner, we see the COMEX designation. This first image shows the COMEX designation up close.

This next image shows the same dial as pictured above. The rarest Rolex COMEX models are Submariner models. The vast majority of Rolex COMEX models are Rolex COMEX SEA-DWELLER models, so the version below is very rare and valuable.

The vast majority of Rolex COMEX Submariner and SEA-DWELLER watches have a helium escape release valve as pictured below. All Rolex COMEX watches are extremely popular with collectors and have achieved almost a cult-like status. Having a COMEX model designation on the dial and case back often increase the value of the Rolex by more than 10 times. Typically COMEX Rolex watches are worth at least $50,000 or more!!!

The COMEX Company

Henri-Germain Delauze founded COMEX in 1961. COMEX is the acronym for Compagnie Maritime d'Expertises, which translated from French to English means "Expert Maritime Company."

COMEX has always been headquartered in Marseilles, France, and you can see their facility pictured below. COMEX headquarters are equipped with hyperbaric testing facilities and a testing pool.

Henri-Germin Dealuze was an early pioneer in Saturation diving and specialized in engineering and building deep sea oil rigs out in the middle of the ocean. These offshore oil rigs were essentially like having a factory out in the middle of the ocean that produced oil.

COMEX divers also specialized in all kinds of underwater construction including underwater pipelines that concocted the world with all kinds of things like oil, fresh-water and telephone lines. 

COMEX also specialized in underwater treasure hunting as well as underwater reconnaissance, as we see in this piece of COMEX artwork. 


Rolex never sold Submariner or SEA-DWELLER models with the COMEX logo designation to the public, but they showcased their relationship with COMEX in magazine ads for the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. This first Rolex SEA-DWELLER ad is from 1975 and it features the amazing DOUBLE-RED SEA-DWELLER dial designation that is highly coveted by collectors.

Rolex continued development of the Submariner and SEA-DWELLER through the 1970s, and continued to support research programs that depended upon the Submariner, as seen below in this 1975 Rolex ad featuring Dr. Joe Macinnis.

1976 Rolex Submariner Ad

Alain Jourde and Claude Boardier are featured in the Rolex COMEX magazine above and in this photo from the COMEX archives we see them in the COMEX habitat both sporting their Rolex SEA-DWELLER models. Of course, 610 Meters is equal to 2000 feet. 51 Heures when 
translated from French to English means 51 hours.

Project Janus 4

COMEX Hydra 8

This 1991 Rolex COMEX magazine add for the Rolex SEA-DWELLER showcases some fascinating COMEX achievements from the COMEX Hydra 8 mission. The COMEX Hydra 8 set the all-time record for off-shore, DEEP-SEA diving-depth. COMEX was working on a Mediterranean pipe-line which was 1752 feet (534 Meters) deep.

The Legendary Rolex DEEPSEA
COMEX DEEPSEA Waterproofing Machine

COMEX has worked with Rolex since the early 1970s, and designed and custom-made this one-of-a-kind testing machine that is used just to test Rolex DEEPSEA SEA-DWELLER models for waterproofing. 

This thing looks like it is right out of a James Bond movie. Kind of like it was taken from the laser-cutting table in Goldfinger.

The formal name of this machine is The Rolex DEEPSEA TEST TANK, and it was designed specifically to test the Rolex Oyster Perpetual DEEPSEA, which is guaranteed waterproof to an extreme depth of 12,800 feet (3,900 Meters). 

As previously mentioned the hyperbaric tank was designed and built by COMEX engineers for Rolex, and Rolex tests 100% of its Rolex DEEPSEA watches at extreme pressure of 495 bars, which is equal to the pressure of a depth of 4,975 meters, which is 25% greater than the guaranteed rating.

If you want to learn much more about COMEX I highly recommend checking out my story named, "Henri-Germain Delauze & COMEX".

The Return Of 
The Rolex DEEP-SEA

Rolex did something really strange in 2008 at Basel World. They came out with an all new Rolex SEA-DWELLER model in named The DEEP-SEA, which is pictured below. Apparently it was an homage to the original Rolex DEEP-SEA Special Prototype that accompanied the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960 on the deepest dive in history.

In the photo below wee see legendary and pioneering DEEP-SEA photo journalist, David Doubilet in an ad for the new for 2008 Rolex DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER.

I have to admit that overall I did not like the Rolex DEEP-SEA when it came out. I thought it was ridiculously thick, and I thought the chapter ring that says "Original Gas Escape Valve: Ring Lock System" looked really stupid and unnecessary. 

I remember being so bummed on the DEEP-SEA because it has some really, really cool designs elements like the convex crystal, and the glidelock bracelet mechanism was super useful, but overall I could not relate to this watch.

The photos above and below show the DEEP-SEA next to a standard 40MM Rolex SEA-DWELLER. As you can see the DEEP-SEA is ridiculously thick, and even though it is rated down to 4000 feet, it makes no sense, because a human can descend that far and function.

As I mentioned earlier, my pal Amit refers to the DEEP-SEA as Mr. Potato Head, and I tend to agree. Some Rolex fans would intentionally mispronounce then name of the watch as "The Rolex Dipsy" That being said, it has a huge cult following and is really popular.

I had completed dismissed the DEEP-SEA, they the most interesting thing happened!"

"To Explore New Worlds, To Seek Out New Life
To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before."

Rolex & James Cameron
Rolex Travels Back To The Future
New Era Of Exploration

Legendary movie director James Cameron is best known for making epic blockbuster movies like Titanic, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, and his most recent mega-hit was Avatar. James Cameron is an amazing storyteller and director, which is clearly evident since Titanic and Avatar are the two highest grossing films of all time! James Cameron has been wearing a Rolex Submariner for over a quarter-century and is also a world-class scientist and DEEP-SEA Explorer. 

"Exploration is curiosity in action." –James Cameron

In 2012, James Cameron showcased his custom-built  DEEP-SEA Submersible, known as the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, which attempted to break the all-time depth record set in 1960 by Professor Jacques Piccard, and U.S. Captain Don Walsh.

Unbridled Passion
Spirit Of Enquiry and Exploration

James Cameron wrote the following regarding his inspiration for undertaking the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, in which he describes his Spirit Of Enquiry and Exploration:

“I’ve always dreamed of diving to the deepest place in the oceans. For me it went from a boyhood fantasy to a real quest, like climbing Everest, as I learned more about deep-ocean exploration and became an explorer myself in real life. This quest was not driven by the need to set records, but by the same force that drives all science and exploration … curiosity.

So little is known about these deep places that I knew I would see things no human has ever seen. There is currently no submersible on Earth capable of diving to the ‘full ocean depth’ of 36,000 feet. The only way to make my dream a reality was to build a new vehicle unlike any in current existence. Our success during seven prior expeditions building and operating our own deep-ocean vehicles, cameras, and lighting systems gave me confidence that such a vehicle could be built, and not just with the vast resources of government programs, but also with a small entrepreneurial team.

It took more than seven years to design and build the vehicle, and it is still a work in progress. Every dive teaches us more, and we are continuing to improve the sub and its systems daily, as we move through our sea trials.” —James Cameron

National Geographic was a cosponsor of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE with Rolex, and they summed up the experience by saying:

"More than 50 years ago, two men climbed into a massive, blimp-like submersible, descended about 35,800 feet (10,912 meters) to the deepest point in the ocean, and became the first people to observe the dark underworld of one of Earth’s most extreme environments. No one has been back since. But that’s about to change.

James Cameron, a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, plans to dive to this point, known as the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, in a custom-built submersible that he co-designed. Although best known for directing films such as Titanic and Avatar, Cameron is an avid explorer with 72 submersible dives to his credit—51 of which were in Russian Mir submersibles to depths of up to 16,000 feet (4,877 meters), including 33 to Titanic.

For this expedition, Cameron will squeeze into a pilot sphere so small he won’t be able to extend his arms. He will be the sole occupant in a complex, 24-foot-long (7.3-meter-long) craft made primarily of highly specialized glass foam. As he maneuvers on the ocean floor amid unexplored terrain and strange new animals, Cameron will be filming a feature-length documentary and collecting samples for historic research. Why? To promote exploration and scientific discovery.

The dive is part of the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition, a partnership with National Geographic that will take Cameron, along with fellow pilot Ron Allum and a team of engineers, scientists, educators, and journalists, to the greatest depths of the ocean—places where sunlight doesn’t penetrate and pressure can be a thousand times what we experience on land.

After years of preparation, the team will head to the Mariana Trench, a 1,500-mile-long (2,400-kilometer-long) scar at the bottom of the western Pacific Ocean. There, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) from Guam, Cameron will continue the work that Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard, the first men to dive the trench in the bathyscaphe Trieste, started in 1960.

While the Trieste was not equipped to take pictures or get samples, Cameron and his DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible will be armed with multiple cameras and a mechanical arm for scooping up rocks and animals. These samples could enable groundbreaking discoveries: Studying the forces that shape these trenches could help us to better understand the earthquakes that cause devastating tsunamis; studying the fauna that survives there could lead to breakthroughs in biotechnology and our understanding of how life began.

For Cameron, who explored the Titanic wreck during his production of the Academy Award-winning film, reaching the deepest point on Earth has been a long-term goal. “Imagination feeds exploration,” he says. “You have to imagine the possible before you can go and do it.”

Return Of The DEEPSEA

The following videos give a super-insightful perspective into the details of James Cameron's return to the deepest part of the Deep-Sea, and offer fascinating insight into what makes him tick:


As previously mentioned, when U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh and Professor Jacques Piccard set the all time depth-record in 1960, they had a Rolex DEEPSEA Special prototype (pictured below) attached to the outside of the Bathyescaphe Trieste, which traveled down to ocean floor, and came back up to the surface in perfect working order.

Rolex DEEPSEA SPECIAL Prototype from 1960 Pictured above

When James Cameron returned to the deepest known part of the ocean to set an all time solo depth record, he returned with a trusted Rolex companion, which was attached to the outside of his DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Submersible, and this time he had a 51.4MM Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGER watch which Rolex made just for his dive, and it is pictured below.

All-New experimental Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE from 2012 Pictured above

Rolex spoke in detail about the objective behind creating the all-new Rolex DEEPSEA Challenge watch and said:

"A watch for the Deepest of the Deep. The Oyster Perpetual Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE is an experimental divers' watch guaranteed to a depth of 12,000 meters (39,370 feet), entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex to resist the extreme pressure present in the deepest reaches of the oceans. It is manufactured by an entirely integrated watchmaker with unparalleled design, development and production capacities.

A Symbol Of Supermacy. The ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE symbolizes the brand's supremacy in mastering waterproofness. Its spirit and the real-life circumstances for which it was developed echo the approach adopted for the Rolex experimental DEEP SEA SPECIAL model, which in 1960 accompanied the bathyscaphe Trieste on its record descent to a depth of 10,916 meters (35,815 feet) at the bottom of the Mariana Trench."

Perpetuating the pioneering spirit. The ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE embodies all the heritage and technical and watchmaking know-how of a pioneering brand of wristwatches. This status is demonstrated by Rolex's invention in 1926 of the OYSTER, the first waterproof wristwatch in history, as well as by all divers' watches, such as the SUBMARINER and the SEA-DWELLER, launched by the brand since the 1950s.

Human adventure and technological innovation. This watch bears witness in a spectacular way to the privileged ties that link Rolex to exploration in general and to the underwater world in particular. 

The ROLEX DEEPSEA CHALLENGE perpetuates a story combining human adventure and technology, innovation and the constant pursuit of excellence. An adventure punctuated with exceptional moments, some of which have entered the annals of history, when Rolex watches have proven their mettle under extreme conditions by accompanying men and women in their quest for the absolute."

The photo below shows James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Submersible as it is being lowered into the Pacific Ocean.

The next photo below compares the size of the U.S. Navy's Bathyscaphe Trieste to the size of James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER, which is a one man submersible, that was designed and custom-made to try and beat the record of the Trieste.

Back Into The Mystic

The photo below shows James Cameron's as he prepared to be bolted into his DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Submarine in the very early morning of March 26, 2012.

"I grew up on a steady diet of science fiction at a time when people where living a science fiction reality. People were going to the Moon, and Cousteau was exploring the ocean. And that's what I grew up with, what I valued from my childhood." 

–James Cameron

This next video and photo below shows James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER as it was lowered into the Pacific Ocean today around 2AM Mariana Trench time to begin it's record-breaking descent.

The photo below shows James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER parked on the ocean floor.

The photo below shows the Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE Watch which was attached to the robotic arm on the James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible.

The photo below shows James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER as it is surfaces, after it traveled down to the same place in the Mariana Trench as the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960. 

James Cameron came close to matching the depth, but came up 10 feet or so short. That being said, James Cameron shot a ton of remarkable 5K Super High Definition video using RED super-state-of-the-art cameras, which he is currently working on making into a feature film named DEEPSEA CHALLENGE.

"James Cameron's successful record-breaking dive today represents the ultimate test of a man and a machine."–Dr. Joe MacInnis

The raw video below from National Geographic details James Cameron successful return from his record-setting solo dive.

The photo below shows James Cameron just after he opened the highly pressurized hatch of his DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Submersible, and if you look closely you will notice that there is a specially designed  Rolex DEEP-SEA CHALLENGE watch attached to the robotic arm in the upper right-hand section of the photo. Rolex made this special model just for James Cameron's record setting dive attempt, and just like the original DEEP-SEA SPECIAL, it came up to the surface in perfect working condition.

In the close-up photo seen below, we witness James Cameron wearing a standard Rolex DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER on his wrist.

"The Rolex Deepsea Challenge was the reliable companion throughout the dive; it was on the sub's manipulator arm and working precisely at 10,898 meters down at the bottom of the Challenger Deep. It's a tremendous example of know-how, and an ideal match for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible." 

–James Cameron 

[National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence].

In the photo below we see James Cameron posing with the National Geographic Society flag, just after he surfaced. I think James Cameron is an amazing explorer, and I LOVE this photo, which has a definite  modern Jacques-Yves Cousteau vibe.

In the photo below we see James Cameron shaking hands with Captain Don Walsh, who successfully set the all-time depth record in 1960 while piloting the U.S. Navy Bathyscaphe Trieste in the same waters. 

Not only was retired U.S. Navy Captain Don Walsh on board, but as a Rolex ambassador, it was his idea to have Rolex collaborate with James Cameron to put a new Rolex DEEP-SEA to this test on this fantastic journey. 

Captain Walsh also served as an indispensable consultant to James Cameron on this epic project, and in the photos above and below we see them after the record dive and Captain Walsh is proudly posing with the original Rolex DEEP-SEA Special prototype that accompanied him on the outside of his Bathyscaphe Trieste, and James Cameron is also proudly posing with the Rolex DEEP-SEA CHALLENGE watch that accompanied him on the outside of his DEEPSEA CHALLENGER Submersible.

In the photo below we see James Cameron's DEEPSEA CHALLENGER on deck in the background, and we see Captain Walsh standing behind a scaled model of the original Bathyscaphe Trieste. It is amazing how cool and historical these images are. Talk about iconic worlds colliding. This photo really captures the core-essence of The Rolex Spirit of Enquiry and Exploration. This is as real as the real deal gets–the OG hanging-tough with the NG. 

I live-blogged James Cameron's conquest of the Deep-Sea on Jake's Rolex World with minute by minute updates as the whole thing unfolded live. It is fascinating to note that I am 50 years old at the time of this writing, and this is the only Rolex related event I have ever witnessed in my lifetime as an adult, and I hope to see many more! 

In this next photo we see three of the greatest explorers alive; Captain Don Walsh, Doctor Robert Ballard (who discovered the Titanic), and James Cameron.

In the photo below we see James Cameron on the cover of National Geographic, and we see the headline: "The New Explorers" on the cover. I sincerely hope Rolex does everything they can now and in the future to assist in supporting this new age of exploration that is upon us.

In the photo below we see a close-up of James Cameron's Rolex DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER.

In the photo below, we see a National Geographic video interview featuring James Cameron, that goes into great detail on his amazing scientific discoveries from his dive. When you listen to James Cameron speak, you can't help but be in awe of how intelligent he is.


Next up, we see another fascinating James Cameron interview, this time recorded at Rolex World Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland where he discusses his shared values with Rolex as well as how Rolex was able to build the Rolex DEEP-SEA CHALLENGE watch in ONLY 5-weeks!?!?! 

Just to be clear, retired U.S. Captain Don Walsh, who is a Rolex Ambassador, was consulting with James Cameron, and he said to James, "Why don't I reach out to Rolex and see if we can get them to build a new watch to take down on your attempt to break my record?" James agreed, and Captain Walsh contacted Rolex in Geneva to ask if they could meet this incredible challenge. Rolex immediately jumped into action and the video below tells this amazing story.

Historically, Rolex has been the true King Of The DEEP-SEA, which stems from their experience with their conquest of the ocean. 

The Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE watch looks like a Rolex DEEP-SEA SEA-DWELLER on steroids, but the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE is not available to the public for purchase. Instead it is an experimental watch.

The photos below shows and original Rolex DEEPSEA Special from 1960 next to its grandson, a Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE from 2012.

The photo below appears courtesy of OceanTime, and it shows a Rolex DEEPSEA SEA-DWELLER (44MM) next to its bigger brother, the Rolex DEEPSEA CHALLENGE.

Rolex's Ocean Conquest

The section above tells the story of Rolex's conquest of the ocean, which is just one small part of their amazing history of making tool watches that have deeply inspired and allowed many explorers to push the limits of what was previously thought to be possible.

This story I just shared about how Rolex conquered the Ocean and Deep Sea really speaks volumes about their technological and manufacturing prowess. There are many other amazing stories, and you can find them in the Library of, but I though I would share this one to offer broad context for the unparalleled heritage of Rolex.

The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER

Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean

Table Of Contents