Friday, March 27, 2020

Bob Barth Belongs to the Ages

Update from Jake on April 2: I decided to try to reformat Bob Barth's story in chronological order. I am doing this as his story is such an important piece of Rolex history and I want to contextualize it as best as possible. Jose and I have some extremely impressive surprises coming up including a full length video interview.

Once I feel this story is complete I will remove this notice, but in the meantime enjoy...

Bob Barth


Belongs to the Ages

The U.S. Navy Aquanaut 

Who Developed the SEA-DWELLER with Rolex

Writing obituaries is never fun, especially when you have to write one about a friend of yours. The profound photo below of Bob Barth was the last known image taken of him and it was taken by Tara Wells. For some reason it reminds me of they saying that "Old soldiers never die, they just fade away."

I was introduced to legendary U.S. Navy SEALAB saturation diving legend & Chief Warrant Officer, Bob Barth by NASA Astronaut and SEALAB Aquanaut, Scott Carpenter back in 2008. At that time the general consensus was that the French diving company COMEX had developed the helium gas escape valve featured on the Rolex SEA-DWELLER with Rolex. I busted this falsely perpetuated myth and discovered the truth was that U.S. Navy Aquanaut Bob Barth developed it with Rolex.

Bob Barth is pictured above in 2017 in an interview he did with Jose which we plan to publish soon. Jose is the Horological Forensics Expert for Jake's Rolex World and he took the photo above of Bob Barth. Jose publishes the AMAZING I introduced Jose to Bob Barth several years ago and Jose visited Bob Barth in Panama City, Florida and interviewed him and took the photo above of Bob Barth still wearing his namesake Rolex SEA-DWELLER after all these years. This means Bob Barth wore Rolex diving watches for at least 55 years to keep the time of his life! In the photo below we see Bob Barth standing on deck in front of the SEALAB I habitat.

As I mentioned, Scott Carpenter introduced me to Bob Barth back in 2008. I interviewed both of them extensively along with Deep Sea Diver and Rolex U.S.A. executive, T. Walker Lloyd, as well as U.S. Navy Walt Mazzone and COMEX founder, Henri-Germain Delauze, who collectively gave me a complete understanding of how the U.S. Navy SEALAB developed the SEA-DWELLER helium release valve with Rolex. 

I recorded detailed interviews with all five of the above mentioned men, but to date have only published my interview with Scott Carpenter as a podcast. In the future, as time permits I plan to publish all of the recordings.

Bob Barth published a book in 2000 named Sea Dwellers which is pictured below:

In Search Of

Bob Barth

Robert "Bob" Barth was born on August 28, 1930 and spent most of his childhood in the Philippines and later moved to South Africa before coming back to the United States to join the U.S. Navy. In the final couple years of his life Bob suffered from several health issues. Bob was a complicated man, and despite having spent countless hours interviewing him over the past dozen years it was not always easy. As you will see in the upcoming video interview, Bob could be a gentleman but also at time had a sailors mouth and his personality was often times gruff, condescending and difficult. Over time I grew used to and expected this from him. I think I can speak for Jose as we both fount his sailor-like communications to be entertaining. Bob Barth is pictured below aboard the SEALAB habitat. 

Can a man be a watch? If so, Bob Barth was the living personification of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER. The Rolex magazine ad below from 1966 features a sailor who symbolized the ethos of the Rolex Oyster wrist chronometer, and in my estimate Bob Barth is the closest I have every come to meeting a many who is the living manifestation of the Rolex SEA-DWLLER. Bob Barth was as real as the real-deal gets. 

The photo below of André-Jean Heiniger was taken just after he took over as the official Managing Director of Rolex in 1963 when he was 42 years old. André Heiniger along with Rolex Marketing Director, Rene-Paul Jeanneret were focused on taking Rolex Professional sport watch models to the next level.

If we go back a year to 1964, we begin to understand mans fascination with the life aquatic, which happened to be the same time Flipper debuted on TV. At the time, many people, including André Heiniger who was Rolex's CEO believed humans would soon be building cities under the sea, as this 1964 Rolex ad discusses at the end of Number 4:

The dream of having cities in the sea did not seem that far fetched at the time, although it would never become reality. Below is an early conceptual artists concept for the U.S. Navy SEALAB program.

The exclusive photo below shows one of Bob Barth's Rolex Submariner models he wore during the SEALAB program. This is a Reference 5512 with a magnificent gilt dial that developed a beautiful and unusual purple patina.

In the photo below we see a vintage Rolex Submariner at from 1965 which features a Reference 5513, which was similar to Bob's 5512.

They say you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps, so before we get underway with exploring Bob Barth, let's take a look at some of the key characters in this story just to add valuable context.

Scott Carpenter

Scott Carpenter was one of Bob Barth's closest friends and they stayed in constant touch until Scott Carpenter passed away. Scott Carpenter was one of the Aquanauts involved in the SEALAB 2 Mission, and in the photo below we see Scott in 1970 wearing his Rolex SEA-DWELLER. If you look closely you will notice Scott wore his Submariner and SEA-DWELLER on a black diving strap which included compass, as was customary for many of the SEALAB divers.

Scott Carpenter (pictured above) was a U.S. Navy Test Pilot, one of the Original 7 NASA Mercury Astronauts as well as a U.S. Navy SEA-LAB diver. In the photo below we see Scott Carpenter pictured front and center wearing a suit.

Scott Carpenter is pictured below aboard the SEALAB 2 habitat, literally dwelling in the sea.

In the photo below we see Scott Carpenter with his wife Rene just after he returned topside from the SEALAB 2 Habitat.

 "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

The photo below of the SEALAB team posing with a 'Tiltin Hilton' sign. Scott Carpenter is pictured in the center of the photo with fellow SEALAB divers, and they are all wearing Rolex dive watches.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The First Rolex Submariner

I need to make a confession. My impetus—to a large extent—for putting together this epic story on the life and times of Bob Barth is it reminds me of a conversation I had with Celine Cousteau who is Jacques-Yves Cousteau's granddaughter. Last year I was interviewing Celine Cousteau and I kept referring to many different stories I had written that included  her beloved grandfather, Jacques. Then I realized all my previous stories on Jacques-Yves Cousteau were really a hodge-podge of disjoined stories, so I promised her I would write a single comprehensive story about him, which I tied in with her history. This all culminated in my story named "Three Generations of Cousteau's..."

So basically, I am now doing the same thing with taking all my disparate Bob Barth information including photos and videos and putting them together in this story. Why? Because I believe in doing so the the REAL HISTORY of the Rolex SEA-DWELLER will be told for the first time in a cohesive and comprehensive way.

Legendary explorer, Jacque-Yves Cousteau played a major role in the life and times of Bob Barth.

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

Jacques-Yves Cousteau is pictured above and below in 1953 while filming his seminal underwater documentary titled "The Silent World", which won him the Academy Award that year for best documentary. 

Dr. George F. Bond

"Papa Topside"

U.S. Navy Doctor, George Bond is perhaps THE central figure in telling Bob Barth's fascinating story.  Bob Barth is pictured below with U.S. Navy SEALAB Director, Dr. George Bond.

The SEALAB program was the brainchild of Dr. George Bond who began his career in medicine as a backwoods Doctor in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.

In the photo below Dr. Bond is with Walt Mazzone who was his right hand man during the U.S. Navy Project Genesis and Project SEALAB. Back on January 13, 2010 I interviewed Walt Mazzone for a podcast interview I have never published. Walt was 93 years old at the time. We ended up becoming friends and he shared a tremendous amount of SEALAB history with me. When I get a chance I plan to go through my archives and find and publish that interview.

T. Walker Lloyd

Henri Germain Delauze

Founder of COMEX


Founder Of COMEX, Henri Germain Delauze [1970]

The French COMEX/Cousteau Connection

Just to give you a frame of reference, I included this profound photo of Hernri-Germain Dealuze 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 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

Henri-Germain Delauze pictured above in 2009 wearing his trademark Rolex COMEX SEA-DWELLER

Project Genesis

History doesn't seem like history when you're living through it...

Where did the name "DEEP-SEA" Special come from? And for that matter where did the name "SEA-DWELLER" come from? Let's start with the photo below of the U.S. Naval School Of DEEP-SEA Divers. The pioneering U.S. Navy Officer, Bob Barth who developed the Rolex SEA-DWELLER with Rolex is in the photo below pictured standing up third from the left.


Bob Barth is seen below diving in front of the SEALAB 1 Habitat.

Next we see the cover of the Saturday Evening Post Magazine from September 5, 1964 which features a story about the U.S. Navy SEALAB program. U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanaut Bob Barth took the photo on the cover the magazine of U.S. Navy photographer Bernie Campoli from inside the SEALAB Habitat.

The photo below was taken in 1964 and shows SEA-LAB Aquanauts, Sanders Manning, Lester Anderson, Bob Barth and Robert Thompson.

Bob Barth is pictured below during a SEALAB press interview on Argus Island directly after SEALAB 1 wearing his Rolex Submariner pictured above or a SEA-DWELLER prototype.


Below we see a painting of the SEALAB 2 Habitat that Jose discovered in Bob Barth's home in Panama City when he visited him.

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."

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

The drawing below shows Jaques-Yves Cousteau's recommendation for the layout of the SEALAB II habitat. Special thanks to my right hand man, Jose from for providing these historically significant images which he got when he traveled to Panama City in Florida to the SEALAB Museum.


U.S. Navy SEA-LAB Interview

1968 Bob Barth Interview

San Francisco Navy Yard

Walter Cronkite is pictured in the next two photos interviewing the legendary U.S. Navy SEA-LAB diver, Bob Barth. Bob Barth was a the only diver who dove on all the SEALAB 1, 2, and 3 missions.  

In this next photo we see The U.S. Navy SEA-LAB 3 habitat as she heads out for open ocean by passing under the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge for her journey down to the Long Beach Naval Shipyard. Bob Barth was on-board the SEALAB 3 habitat in the photo below.

U.S. Navy SEA-LAB 3 In The Pacific Ocean off San Clemente Island, California 
[55 Nautical Miles (102 Kilometers) Off The Coast of California]

Below is a photo of the Westinghouse Deepstar 4000 taken off San Clemente Island in California in December of 1968. The Deepstar was send down to inspect the SEALAB III habitat.

Bob Barth is pictured in a classroom sitting behind fellow U.S. Navy SEA-LAB diver Barry Cannon. You can see Barry wearing his Rolex SEA-LAB Submariner on its Oyster bracelet.

In this next photo we see U.S. Navy SEA-LAB diver Barry Cannon again. This time he is surrounded with fellow SEA-LAB teammates. Barry Cannon was an electrical engineer in the civil corps with the Navy.

The photo below, is of Jacques-Yves Cousteau's son, Philippe Cousteau, and it was taken while he was preparing for a dive during SEALAB III. 

Notice the close up below shows the SEALAB III support assistant is wearing a Submariner.

This next set of images is really interesting to me. This footage shows Walt Mazzone welcoming the SEALAB 3 team members as they leave the decompression bell after the mission ended. 

I interviewed Walt Mazzone in 2010 and he mentioned he had a single red Rolex Submariner 1680, which this could be. If its not a Rolex Submariner Reference 1680 it would likely be a 5512 or 5513. I just went through my archives and found my interviews with Walt Mazzone which I plan to publish soon :-)

Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER with SEALAB Aquanaut Bob Barth who is pictured below at the first Aquanaut to come out of the decompression chamber.

The second Aquanaut who is behind Barth is also wearing a Rolex SEA-DWLLER from what I can see of the photo as it features all the tell-tale characteristics.

The third aquanaut to leave the chamber is Blackburn who also appears to be wearing a Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

The next image below was taken in the SEALAB 3 Habitat and shows Bob Barth on the right and Barry Cannon on the left checking his Rolex Submariner, or more presumably his prototype Rolex SEA-DWELLER. This image was taken hours before the accidental and terribly tragic death of Barry Cannon.

The image below is from the SEALAB Documentary and shows a SEALAB underwater photographer wearing a Submariner. There are no cyclops lenses on any of these watches as Rolex did not add the date to the Submariner until the Submariner Date was released in 1969.

The photo below is from Bob Barth's personal collection, and we see Bob located in the back row in the center, standing up with the tattoos on his arms. Notice Bob Barth and Barry Cannon (front row on far left) are wearing Rolex diving watches in the photo. Blackburn, Myers, Reaves and Heller are wearing Doxa Diver models.

In the photo below w

In the photo below we see Bob has two swallow tattoos on his chest which is standard for sailors that have sailed around the world. Bob's personality was that of a true rusty scupper and when I would call him on the phone I would say "Hi Bob, It's Jake from Jake's Rolex World and he would respond "Yes. Sir!" Then after he got warmed up he would use fascinating metaphors, like referring to animals as 'critters'.

Many years ago I busted the falsely perpetuated myth that suggested the French COMEX diving company had co-developed the Rolex SEA-DWELLER with Rolex. In that article I put forth the truth, which was that Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER with the U.S. Navy SEALAB Aquanauts, with Bob Barth being the lead developer. Over the years I revealed this story in my 20 Part Series named "The Complete History of The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest of The Ocean".

Bob Barth is pictured below on the right.

The image below is a painting of the U.S. Navy SEALAB that Jose took while in Panama City at the SEALAB Museum.

Jose is the Horological Forensics Expert for Jake's Rolex World and also publishes the AMAZING Jose visited Bob Barth and interviewed him a few years ago, and in the photo below you can see Bob Barth is still wearing his SEA-DWELLER.

Jose and I collaborated on putting together the timeline poster seen below titled "HISTORY OF THE ROLEX SEA-DWELLER: Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean." You can download a free high-resolution version of this poster by right mouse clicking on the poster below and saving it. You can also purchase a magnificent high-res poster on

The photo below shows Bob Barth hand-signing a special limited edition series of our HISTORY OF THE ROLEX SEA-DWELLER poster, and notice THE SEA-DWELLER is wearing his Rolex SEA-DWELLER watch.

Jose is pictured above on the right at the SEALAB Museum in Panama City, Florida below with Museum Director Jim McCarthy, who was part of the team on SEALAB 3.

In the photo below we see the U.S. Navy underwater habitat that was used during SEA-LAB I and SEA-LAB II. It was built in San Francisco at the Hunter's Point Naval Yard. 

The Cousteau Connection

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his son, Philippe Cousteau made a significant contribution to SEALAB, as well as Dr. Bond's contribution to CONSHELF. In this story I hope to clarify and put those final pieces of the SEALAB puzzle together. Ironically, it was Jacques-Yves Cousteau who first turned Scott Carpenter on to the U.S. Navy SEALAB program while Scott was still at NASA.

Let's take a look at the three high-res screen grabs below from the SEALAB documentary which show footage from Jacques-Yves Cousteau's 1966 Academy Award winning Documentary named "World Without Sun." The first thing we see is that Jacques-Yves is wearing what has all the telltale signs of being a Rolex Submariner 5512 or 5513 as seen in the three pictures below.

Cousteau wearing this Submariner is something I first documented a decade ago in 2009, but with these new images we can see more detail, which is great.

I would not call this evidence unequivocal, but I would say there is a 99%+ chance it is a 5512 or 5513.

It is an established fact Jacques-Yves Cousteau wore a prototype Rolex Submariner in 1953 which his Calypso team tested for Rolex and we see Commander Cousteau in the image below wearing his Submariner in 1953. This photo was taken 13 years before the photos above, so I doubt it is the same Submariner model.

The close up photo above of Jacques-Yves Cousteau shows him wearing an early Rolex Submariner with pencil hands that looks like the similar vintage model seen below.

The document below confirms Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his team were testing Rolex Submariner prototypes in early 1953.

In the next image below we again see Philippe wearing his Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

Notice the dive assistant pictured on the left is wearing a Rolex Submariner.

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. Philippe Cousteau's Rolex SEA-DWELLER sold on September 30, 2014 for $183,750 @ Antiquorum Auction House in New York. It is believed, based upon its serial number, this watch likely began its life as a Single Red-Sea-Dweller that ended up getting its dial replaced with a double red device dial.

In this next photo from the PBS Documentary we see another SEALAB Topside team and we see Morey wearing a Submariner.

The Special Thanks screenshot below is from the end of the SEALAB Documentary and you will notice my name on the list which is really cool as I shared everything I could with their production team.

The next two vintage Rolex ads are circa 1968, which shows how popular scuba diving became.

This next image is from 1969 and features Rolex ambassador, Joe MacInnis.

Above Image Courtesy of David Concannon Collection