Saturday, March 30, 2019

Talking Watches 2 With John Mayer

Update #3: March 31, 2019. I just updated this story again to try to add more relevant context to this story so readers can easily understand the ROLEX/COMEX Connection.

Clearing Up

John Mayer's

COMEX Confusion

Separating Fact From Fiction

Update #1: I originally published this story day-before-yesterday, but I am bringing it up as the top story since I think it is important to make this Rolex History clarification. I am a big fan of Hodinkee and Benjamin Clymer in many respects. I am also a big fan of John Mayer’s guitar playing, singing, songwriting, intellect, sense-of-humor and watch knowledge, thus I feel compelled to offer my purely constructive criticism by pointing out a serious misstatement of fact John Mayer makes in the video regarding the history of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER and the development of Rolex's Helium Escape Valve:

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this video as I normally do with Hodinkee and John Mayer, but I noticed something very peculiar John Mayer said about his Rolex COMEX Submariner Reference 5514 (pictured below), and I could not get it out of my mind!?!!

Jose, who is the Horological Forensics Investigator for Jake’s Rolex World mentioned after he watched the video, he noticed the same major Rolex SEA-DWELLER historical inaccuracy.  The inaccurate detail/confusion in controversy occurs at 12:52 in the conversation when John Mayer said:

Benjamin Clymer: “So let’s finish off the Rolex’s. We have a Sub, a few Subs actually!”

John Mayer: “Yes. I am a big collector of COMEX Submariner & SEA-DWELLERS.”

Benjamin Clymer: “In the last video you showed a 1680 COMEX.”

John Mayer: “Yes. Which I still love. Has a great story behind it. Well, the original COMEX is what’s called a 5514 Reference, and that would be a prototype to the SEA-DWELLER, and that would be a Submariner with a helium gas escape valve. Why do I love that so much? Cause it would be really hard to fake it. It would be really hard to take a 5513, install your own helium escape valve—you know those garage helium escape valve jobs—and stamp it COMEX on the back. And so, that is the perfect example of a COMEX, which is COMEX, a French diving team, needs a watch that can saturation dive deeper than a Submariner, and so this is Rolex’s initial answer which is: ‘Well here is a Submariner that we think solves the problem.” 

Jose put together the following response:

After all the research and work Jake and I have put into separating fact-from-fiction when it comes to the history and genesis of the Rolex Sea-Dweller, it is truly painful to watch this episode of Hodinkee's Talking Watches with John Mayer. Mayer tells us he is a big collector of COMEX Submariners and Sea-Dwellers. He goes on to say: "The original Comex is what's called a 5514 reference and that would be the prototype to the Sea-Dweller... and that would be a Submariner with a helium gas escape valve." This is, of course, is far from the truth, and I am surprised Ben Clymer could sit still next to Mayer without saying anything? Clymer knows very well what Mayer said is nonsense as I called Hodinkee out on several occasions for spreading this kind of misinformation. True collectors know the Sea-Dweller was developed & patented by Rolex in 1967. 

1967 Helium Release Valve

The three pages below are a copy of Rolex's Patent Application for the Helium Release Valve. Notice it was originally filed on November 6, 1967.

The attached Rolex patent application (seen above) clearly states Rolex first filed for the Helium Release Valve patent on November 6, 1967! The earliest Sea-Dweller case numbers are in the 1,6 million range. The earliest 5513 with helium valve, which was SPECIFICALLY made for Comex have 2,8 million serial numbers. This is equivalent of a production date in 1971 and as a matter of fact, Comex and Rolex started their partnership in late 1971. The earliest known 5514 with a helium release valve has a 3,8 million serial from 1974/1975. How could a 5514 possibly be a prototype for the 1967 Rolex SEA-DWELLER?

Why did Rolex make a Submariner with gas escape valve instead on the Sea-Dweller you ask? Very simple, to save money! The SEA-DWELLER would have been financial overkill for COMEX at the time. Comex was a commercial diving company and most of their divers worked on day-to-day jobs on oil rigs at between 50 and 120 metres of depth. The 660ft/200m depth rating of the Rolex Submariner was more than sufficient for most operations. The important thing was to have a watch that would be adequate for saturation diving, ergo the valve..

As Comex pushed the envelope and started breaking one dive record after another, the Rolex Sea-Dweller became the standard equipment for those particular divers who would go beyond 660ft/200m.

Furthermore, the Sea-Dweller’s helium release valve was developed with the U.S. Navy’s SEALAB Aquanaut, Bob Barth, along with legendary Deep-Sea diver and Rolex U.S.A. Executive, T. Walker Lloyd. This is a fact. Jake conducted 9 hours of podcast interviews with T. Walker Lloyd, back in 2008, and this 1974 Rolex SEA-DWELLER Ad puts things in perspective.

Jake interviewed COMEX founder, Henri-Germain Delauze back in 2008, for a story and Henri-Germain confirmed to Jake that COMEX had NOTHING to do with the development of the SEA-DWELLER or with the helium release valve. Jake let me listen to the podcast interview he conducted with Delauze back in 2008, and hopefully he will release it sometime in the future so people can hear this for themselves. COMEX founder Henri-Germain Delauze took these exclusive photos (seen below) just for Jake's Rolex World as Jake mentioned to Henri that despite the fact COMEX and ROLEX were so close, there was no known photo of Henri wearing a COMEX Rolex where you could see the COMEX logo!

By the way, this is NOT the first time I have had to correct Hodinkee on the REAL History of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER as seen below on Instagram on 28 April 2017:

Jose's Rolex timeline seen below pretty much says it all...

Where did the Rolex SEA-DWELLER get its name from? The photo below, taken in 1968 shows U.S. NAVY Doctor George Bond being interviewed with his close associate, Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Dr. Bond basically invented saturation diving for the U.S. Navy, and developed and ran its SEALAB program. Jacques-Yves Cousteau actually had Aquanauts living in "Dwellings" in the "SEA" before SEALAB did, but his experiments were largely based upon the U.S. Navy developments in DEEP-SEA Diving technology.

U.S. Navy


The Photo below shows the U.S. Naval School of DEEP-SEA DIVERS who also wore Rolex Submariner watches. The man standing third from the left is pioneering saturation diver Bob Barth who went on to  participate in SEALAB I, II & III. Bob Barth worked diligently with Rolex to develop the helium release valve on the SEA-DWELLER...

Want to see what real SEA-DWELLERS look like? The photo below shows NASA Astronaut and SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter in front of the SEALAB II Habitat. Scott is in the first row, second from the left.

"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

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]

Below we see a 1967 Rolex Submariner magazine ad which was published during the U.S. Navy SEALAB program. This is the closest vintage magazine ad I am aware of Rolex advertising the Submariner in relation to a Submarine Captain. Notice the text in the ad reads:

"You're looking at the Rolex Submariner. For many years, it's been standard gear for SUBMARINERS, frogmen and all who make their living on the seas."


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. Jean-Michel Cousteau who is Jacques-Yves son mentioned he was close friends with Jacques Piccard.

Jacques-Yves 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 seen above on the deck of the Calypso.

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 as part of Operation Conshelf. 

In the photo above we see Jacques Cousteau visiting with Falco and Wesly inside the Conshelf I habitat. When I interviewed Jacques-Yves Cousteau's son, Jean-Michel Cousteau recently, he mentioned he also visited Falco and Wesly. I think it is likely Jean-Michel took the photo above.

The 1965 letter below is from Jacques-Yves Cousteau to William Culpepper regarding the design of the SEALAB II habitat with recommendations from J.Y.C.

Operation Tektite

As the U.S. Navy had begun winding down Operation SEALAB in 1969, 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.

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus' garden in the shade

I'd ask my friends to come and see
An octopus' garden with me
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade.

We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves
Resting our head on the sea bed
In an octopus' garden near a cave

We would sing and dance around
Because we know we can't be found
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade

We would shout and swim about
The coral that lies beneath the waves
(Lies beneath the ocean waves)
Oh what joy for every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy and they're safe
(Happy and they're safe)

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden with you

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. 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. To date, none of of the Single Red SEA-DWELLER prototypes from Tektite have appeared with helium release valves, which is strange for a few reasons. It might have something to do with the fact that the Tektite Habitat was in fairly shallow water, so maybe Rolex felt they did not need SEA-DWELLER models with the HRV. I believe there is one known example of the Single Red SEA-DWELLER that does have a helium release valve, but I don't know if it was from Operation Tektite.

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 Omega French Connection

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 OMEGA SEAMASTER models. The Omega magazine ad below announced the relationship between Omega and Comex.

COMEX wore and tested OMEGA "Ploprof" models [Reference 3350: Caliber 1002]. The photo below shows a really cool 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.

Inner Space Race

The photo below shows a really cool prototype Titanium OMEGA SEAMASTER 1000 Polprof that was tested by COMEX in 1971, just before they switched over to Rolex. The OMEGA Polprof worked in the opposite way of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER in the sense that instead of having a helium release valve, it was so sealed up that it would not allow helium to enter the case to begin with. Also, if you look closely at the OMEGA polprof, it kind of looks like a vintage Panerai case with the half-crescent crown protection system.

It is worth noting that Omega filed a patent for the SEAMASTER Polprof in 1967, which was the same year Rolex filed it's patent for the Helium Release Valve. The Polprof featured an interesting feature that locked the bezel and stopped it from being able to spin, unless you pressed on the orange button, thus requiring two hands to operate, whereas the Rolex Submariner and SEA-MASTER only rotated counter-clockwise, so you could not add time by mistake.

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 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! 


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.

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.

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.

The 1975 Rolex Ad below features Peter Benchley in a Rolex Submariner ad. Peter Benchley was good friends with T. Walker Lloyd.

1976 Rolex Submariner Ad


The image below from our Instagram Page, is meant to be lighthearted and hopefully will make you laugh when you see it :-) The reality is despite John Mayer being a self professed "Big collector of COMEX Submariner and SEA-DWELLERS" he somehow misstated the Rolex historical facts. This could be because the person who sold him his 5514 Comex was equally ill-informed about the real and true history of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. So John, now you know the real history of the helium release valve and SEA-DWELLER as well as the Rolex Reference 5514 Submariner ;-)

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Baselworld 2019: All-New Rolex Model Rolesor SEA-DWELLER

Baselworld 2019 

60th Anniversary Model



43mm Yellow Gold & Stainless Steel

In 1933 Rolex registered the term "Rolesor" to describe its watch models that combined steel and gold, and has made countless Rolesor models ever since. These models are most commonly referred to as being "Two-Tone." Eighty-six years after first using Rolesor, Rolex launched this all-new Rolex 43mm SEA-DWELLER at Baselworld 2019 last week. Many people have attempted to condescendingly discount this model as well as other Baselworld models. I am NOT a Rolex apologist, but I will say I believe there are many people who "DON'T GET" this watch, and in this article I will put into perspective why I believe this to be the case.

I have heard people say things like "The new two-tone SEA-DWELLER is just a big two-tone Submariner," and that is partially true. The SEA-DWELLER began its life as, and remains a Submariner variant. Historically Rolex introduced new Submariner models first in yellow gold, then in two-tone, then in stainless steel. Thus, some people have pointed out with the advent of this two-tone Rolesor SEA-DWELLER, Rolex has done the opposite. What they don't understand is Rolex—from what I understand—does not intend to launch an all-yellow gold SEA-DWELLER in the future, although releasing a limited edition all-gold model next year at Baselworld 2020 for the 60th anniversary would be a really cool surprise and perfectly on-point. 

Jake's Rolex World Managing Editor, Captain Danny Crivello was wearing the Single Gold SEA-DWELLER within the first several hours Baselworld 2019 got underway last week and showcased the following preview images:

60th Anniversary Single Gold

The all-new Single Gold SEA-DWELLER as I am calling it is unique as it has a gold dial designation for the word "SEA-DWELLER," which not only looks awesome, but also differentiates it from any previous two-tone Rolex sports model, including the Submariner, GMT-Master and Daytona. In other words, it is the first modern Rolex Professional watch made that I am aware of with a yellow-gold model designation on the dial. Just like with the Single Red SEA-DWELLER with its slight splash of red, it's amazing how that extra touch of gold improves this model!

50th Anniversary SINGLE-RED

In 2017 at Baselworld, Rolex introduced the all-new 43mm 50th-Anniversary SINGLE RED SEA-DWELLER that the new 2019 SINGLE GOLD SEA-DWELLER is based upon. I wrote a six-part story on the advent of this watch AMAZING Rolex named "The Return Of The Single RED SEA-DWELLER 50th Anniversary Model". This story is Chapter 19 of 20 Chapters in my series named: "The Complete History Of The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean."

60th Anniversary Model

The Rolesor SEA-DWELLER is an homage to the original Rolex DEEP-SEA SPECIAL models Number 1 and Number 3, which set all-time depth records respectively while attached to the outside of the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1953 when she dove to 10,350 feet (3,150 meters), as well as when the U.S. Navy took her 7 miles down to 35,815 feet (10,916 meters) in 1960 to set an all-time depth record, which remains unbroken to this day. Notice both the Number 1 and Number 3 DEEP-SEA SPECIAL Prototype models that were attached to the outside of Piccard's Bathyscaphe were both two-tone Rolesor. In other words, Rolex has not come out and said it, but I will: This all-new Rolesor SEA-DWELLER is a 60th anniversary model that pays homage to the deepest dives in history. The deepest dive took place 59 years ago, in 1960, and we will soon be celebrating the 60th anniversary of this amazing human accomplishment.

Jose and I worked together on the timeline poster seen below titled, "HISTORY OF THE ROLEX SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean." You can download a high-resolution version of this poster for your desktop wallpaper or purchase a large poster version of this magnificent poster on

Rolex DEEP-SEA Special 

1953 Prototype

The photo below shows Jacques Piccard in 1953 in Trieste, Italy, holding and examining a Rolex DEEP-SEA prototype while standing in front of his Bathyscaphe Trieste. Bathyscaphe is a greek word for "DEEP BOAT." When broken down in Greek bathos means deep, and scaphos means ship. It is important to note the Bathyscaphe was a Submersible not a Submarine, thus it was able to dive 30 times deeper than a Submarine.

The Bathyscaph Trieste was designed by Augusté Piccard who was a famous Swiss scientist. Piccard's Bathyscaph was financed by the Italian government and was built in Italy. The upper section of the Bathyscaph was made in Trieste Italy, and the lower sphere was built in near Naples. The photo below shows the Trieste off the coast of the Island of Ponza off the west coast of Italy between Rome and Naples.

The photo below shows the Bathyscaph Trieste in front of Ponza, Island in Italy where it set the all-time depth record in 1953.

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 September of 1953, when the navigated the Bathyscaphe Trieste Submersible down to 3150 meters, which is 10,350 feet. 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 stand testament to the notion that talent does what it can, and genius does what it must! It took two hours and 15 minutes in total for the record to be set in the Bathyscaphe. The photo below was taken right after the Piccards set the depth record in 1953. Notice Piccard's Bathyscaphe is flying both the Italian and Swiss flags as the Italian government had provided the funding to build the Trieste.

The photo below is of the actual 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Prototype that was attached to the observation chamber of the Bathyscaphe Trieste which is pictured above. This first super-high resolution version of the 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special appears courtesy of Christies Auction House, who auctioned it in 2005 for around a quarter of a million dollars.

The 1953 Rolex DEEP-SEA Special is a two-tone stainless steel with 9kt yellow gold waterproof Rolex prototype named the Deep Sea Special. It measures 42x62mm. It has a highly domed crystal and screw back with a special screw winding crown. It is a 10.5 ligne movement with a Caliber 1000 movement, which was the newest generation movement at the time. Contrast this with the first Rolex Submariner models that had reference numbers of 6204 and 6200, which had the A260 and A296 Caliber movements respectively. The 6200 Caliber movement found in the Rolex Submariner reference 6200 was a better movement than the A260 found in the Reference 6204. The 1000 Series Caliber movement found in the 1953 DEEP-SEA Special was already COSC certified.

This watch has a serial number 1, and is believed to be one of 7 prototypes made. The watch pictured above was a given as a personal gift from Rolex founder, Hans Wilsdorf to a friend. Rolex designed it to resist a minimum pressure of 600 atmospheres.

Today, this Rolex Deep Sea Special is in a private collection and the Smithsonian Institute has a different one in its permanent collection that was attached to the 1960 record setting Bathyscaphe Trieste.

The Rolex Deep Sea Special was constructed for testing to withstand great water pressure and was tested by Professor August Piccard's on his Bathyscaphe.  Just before the dive, a Rolex representative handed a Rolex DEEP-SEA Special to Professor Picard at Castellamare, Italy. 

On September 30, 1953 one of the Rolex Deep Sea Special watches attached to the exterior of the Trieste depth craft submarine, which reached a world-record depth of 3150 meters which is 10,245 Feet or 2 miles down. This was achieved off the coast of Ponza island. 

After surfacing the watch was carefully inspected and was intact and functioning properly.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. Piccard sent Rolex a telegram to their Geneva Office that simply said:

 "Watch Performed Perfectly Depth 3150 Metres Piccard."

The 1954 National Geographic magazine ad seen above is from Rolex and 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 version that was attached to the Bathyscaph Trieste in 1960 in that it has what appears to be a spinning bezel. Nobody knows for certain, but my best guess is Rolex modified the image of the prototype to make it look like it had a bezel, to make it look much more like the all-new 1953 Submariner. The Illustration below was published in 1954 in a magazine article and is remarkably similar to the watch in the photo with the Number 1 Serial Number. Notice it has no bezel, like in the 1954 Rolex Ad.

Two Jacques

There were two different men named Jacques who helped Rolex develop and test the Submariner and later the SEA-DWELLER. That would be Jacques Piccard and Jacques-Yves Cousteau. I discovered the  two photos below in the MIT Archives and they show Jacques Piccard in 1954 rockin' his Rolex Submariner prototype while working on his Bathescaphe which had just set the all-time depth record to date in 1953 when he dove it to 10,350 Feet (3,150 Meters). I am 98% certain Jacques Piccard is wearing a Rolex Submariner in this image. The only other watch it could be would be a prototype of a GMT-Master, which he also wore.

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 this next press image take in the second half of 1959 we see Jacques Piccard (right), with his father Augusté Piccard (center) along with Andy Richnitser (left) reviewing a then confidential U.S. Navy depth map of the Challenger Deep which was believed to be the deepest part of the ocean floor at 7 miles down. Notice Jacques Piccard is still wearing his Rolex with no crown guard.

In the photo below we see Professor Jacques Piccard on-board the Bathyscaphe Trieste in 1960, and notice he is wearing his Rolex.  

In this next photo we see U.S. Navy Don Walsh and Swiss Oceanographer and Explorer, Jacques Piccard on board the Bathyscaphe Trieste examining a part. Not so long after this photo was taken, these two men would earn their place in the history books.


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.

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

Below is a photo of the ACTUAL Rolex DEEP-SEA #3 prototype that was attached to the outside of the Bathyscaph Trieste when it set the all-time depth record in 1960 in the Challenger Deep...Jose from got this high-res photo of DEEP-SEA #3 from the Smithsonian Institute.

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.

Pictured below we see a Rolex DEEP-SEA magazine ad that was published in Japanese. Special thanks to my brilliant researcher Alan from Honk Kong who found this really cool vintage Rolex ad...

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.

If you speak French, you can check out the Jacques Piccard interview below: 


As is often the case with Rolex, the Single Gold Rolex SEA-DWELLER is not what it initially appeared to be, which is commonly the case with Rolex.

It's nice to see Rolex giving the nod (seen below) to the U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanauts and Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Conshelf Aquanauts who played a critical role in the development of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER in their "experimental underwater habitat programs."