View full screen - View 1 of Lot 74. Reference 1665 'Comex' Sea-Dweller | A stainless steel wristwatch with date, gas escape valve and bracelet, Circa 1978.

Property from the Family of the Original Owner


Reference 1665 'Comex' Sea-Dweller | A stainless steel wristwatch with date, gas escape valve and bracelet, Circa 1978


100,000 - 200,000 USD

Lot Details


Reference 1665 'Comex' Sea-Dweller 

A stainless steel wristwatch with date, gas escape valve and bracelet, Circa 1978

Dial: black, Mark I

Caliber: cal. 1570 automatic, 26 jewels

Case: stainless steel, screw down case back

Case number: 5'586'518, Comex issue number 2103

Closure: stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet with folding clasp

Size: 40 mm diameter, bracelet circumference is approximately 165 mm

Signed: case, dial and movement

Box: no

Papers: no

Accessories: Signed testimonial from the family of the original owner dated April 18, 2023, Comex Marine Services Inc. business card of the original owner, framed Comex Services Special Meritorious Award for Engineering Innovation, Comex embroidered windbreaker, Comex hard hat, a segment of a Comex diving bell umbilical cord circa late 1970s, metal plaque commemorating Comex Operation Janus IV, Comex branded zippo ruler and lighter, original sketch and small canvas artwork by the original owner, equipment and service inquiry card, and six photographs from the family of the original owner 

Few pieces capture the attention of Rolex collectors quite so fiercely as those created in collaboration with specialist institutions such as COMEX. The present lot represents an incredible example from the Comex pantheon. The earliest of the Rolex Comex models were special Ref. 5513, later renamed the Ref. 5514 – Submariners fitted with the gas escape valve. The Rolex Sea-Dweller Ref. 1665 was first released in 1967 and became the first serially produced dive watch with an advanced helium gas escape valve designed in collaboration with COMEX. Its function was to release the gas pressure to prevent the risk of damage to the watch during the divers’ resurfacing and decompression. The Ref. 1665 was a triumph, boasting the first-ever inclusion of a date function and an innovative valve that enhanced the watch's depth rating.

The present ref 1665 Comex is elevated further by its COMEX-signed case back stamped 2103, and its original mark 1 dial, easily recognized by its rail dial configuration and 600m depth rating. These watches were only produced for a short period of time with 300 watches delivered, and were numbered from 2000 to 2300. 

The original owner, Mr. Jesse Sanders, was gifted his 1665 Sea-Dweller by Henri Delauze while at Comex in Marseille, France. Delauze saw fit to award Sanders the watch in recognition of his efforts during the testing of their hyperbaric chamber. An accomplished engineer, Sanders held multiple patents in the field of saturation diving. His career at COMEX was his lifeblood and loved every moment of his time with the company. According to his wife Judy, Jesse wore the watch every day and it was his most prized possession. He even went as far as to ask for a second Rolex from Comex so he would have something to wear while his beloved Sea-Dweller was being serviced (see lot 117, from the same collection).

Sotheby’s is pleased to offer the present lot, fresh to the market from the family of the original owner. The lot is accompanied by an incredible suite of effects that merit their own value. Jesse Sander’s Comex business card, a framed Comex Services Special Meritorious Award for Engineering Innovation, Sander’s original Comex windbreaker and hard hat, just to name a few.

A whimsical accolade elevates this watch and confirms Jesse Sanders as a true renaissance man. An original pencil drawing and small canvas painting by Sanders was so beloved by Comex executives, they used it for official publications. Within the plethora of accessories, you will find these original artworks, as well as a copy of the official Comex Equipment and Service Inquiry card sent for members to order goods.

Comex (Compagnie Maritime d'Expertise) was founded in 1961, in Marseille, at a time when industrial deep-sea diving did not yet exist. Very soon, however, Comex promoted new technology and became a pioneer in deep sea diving operations for the offshore oil industry. At the end of the 1960s, Comex asked Rolex to create a watch that could sustain high pressure in deep waters as the compressed and saturated air began causing a built-up of pressure in the standard Submariner cases destroying its mechanism. Today, Rolex’s call for innovation has become a venerable icon.