The Rolex Submariner reference 16800 was produced between 1979 and 1988, superseding reference 1680. The newly released model featured a sapphire-crystal instead of the usual Plexiglas, a new movement (cal. 3035) as well as an increased depth rating of 300m. Furthermore, the bezel would now only rotate unidirectionally, ensuring the watch would be safer for divers to time their decompression. The reference 16800 was initially introduced with a matte dial bearing tritium indexes, before Rolex fitted the model with glossy dials featuring circled indexes in 1984.
The Legendary diving company, COMEX (‘Compagnie d’Expertise Maritime’, based in Marseille, France) tasked Rolex with crafting diving watches capable of sustaining extreme pressure conditions. The collaboration between the French commercial diving specialists and Rolex lasted from the early 1970s until at least 2007, pushing Rolex to always seek further improvements and develop the best diving watch there could be.
Rolex delivered approximately 300 Submariner reference 16800 to COMEX between 1982 and 1986. The present example was manufactured in 1984 and bears an early glossy dial featuring white gold index circling. The tritium indexes and hands have developed a matching patina, further enhancing the newer dial style which was fitted on this important watch. The well-preserved case features a unique back engraved with the internal COMEX reference 6151. As for most Rolex custom-issued watches, the inner-caseback bears the full case number, matching with the serial number between the lugs.
The watch is accompanied by a comprehensive suite of accessories, including a copy of the original COMEX invoice, confirming delivery of the watch to the COMEX employee on January 14, 1986 for a price of £270. This interesting document also confirms that COMEX Rolex pieces would only be sold to employees with over 10 years of service. The COMEX-issued Rolex watches have reached legendary status for their rarity and unique attributes, however collectors further appreciate the stories of these extraordinary pieces and of those who relied on them during perilous missions. The present lot is therefore a rare opportunity to add a historical piece to any serious collection.