With Rolex contemporary fitted green presentation box and outer packaging.
The present watch is an exceptionally rare variant of the celebrated reference 5514 made for COMEX, featuring the abbreviation "A.R.A" for "Armada de la República Argentina" (Navy of the Argentine Republic) on the dial and ARA military issue number 68507-Ci engraved on the case back. Until today unknown to the market and to literature, it is believed to be the only reference 5514 with these characteristics to appear at auction.
Reference 5514 is amongst the rarest of all Submariner models, according to literature around 150 examples were made and sold exclusively to COMEX. The model was never available to the public and differs from the regular Submariner by a variety of features, most notably the helium escape valve on the right side of the case and the serial number repeated inside the case back, a characteristic reserved to COMEX and to military watches.
According to research, collaboration between COMEX and ARA dates back to the mid 1970s when Argentina's state-owned oil company Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales or YPF started the exploration of offshore oil fields.
Prior to the purchase of a semi-submersible platform essential for such project, YPF was looking for scuba divers able to operate in depths of 180 meters. Simultaneously the Argentine Navy was also investigating the possibility of forming divers for deep-sea dives and dives with different gas mixtures, leading to an arrangement with YPF who took a group of Navy divers under contract. Research revealed that between 17 and 30 October 1977, year of manufacture of the present watch, 16 Argentine divers were trained at COMEX Hyperbaric Experimental Centre in Marseille for saturation dives to a depth of 200 meters, using Heliox gas.
It can safely be assumed that COMEX commissioned Rolex with the supply of their reference 5514 watches for the Argentine divers, requesting the inscription "A.R.A" above the depth indication on the dial instead of the commonly found "COMEX". A wristwatch built to withstand water pressure, in the present case to a depth of 200 meters (660 feet), is a vital accessory for a deep sea diver and essential for calculating the time of dive and controlling the rate of ascent and descent.
The Argentine military issue numbers were most likely engraved to the case backs upon the return of the divers to their home country.
Formerly the property of the son of one of these divers, the present watch stands out by its unmolested, original overall condition, including the contemporary Rolex Oyster bracelet reference 93150, the correct version for reference 5514.
The model is illustrated and described in 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pp. 222 & 223, in Rolex Submariner by Guido Mondani - Lele Ravagnani, pp. 158-161, and in Rolex Submariner Story by France e Guido Mondani, Lele Ravagnani, Guido Mondani Editore, p. 69, as well as on the cover of the latter.
For a COMEX Sea-Dweller reference 1665 see the following lot in this auction.