The IFREMER Submariner 16610

IFREMER and a Rolex Submariner  

by Ed Delgado

IFREMER (Institut Français de Recherche pour l’exploitation de la Mer, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France) is a French company that similar to COMEX which is involved with deep sea exploration and research.  The company (http://www.ifremer.fr/anglais/) was formed in 1984 after the merger of another dive company called CNEXO (Centre National pour l’exploitation des Océans, Paris, France). IFREMER has a special relationship with the French government as it receives support from the government but its allowed to serve pursue the interest of deep sea exploration and generate a for profit business.

The company has several deep sea vehicles (DSV) but the best known is the submersible “Nautile” capable of reaching 6000 meters or 19,685 feet in depth. But the king for DSV is COMEX with over 20 DSVs.

While IFREMER has many missions and accolades, one of the most memorable was their involvement as part of the team that discovered the wreckage of the RMS Titanic in 1985. The team was lead by Dr Robert Ballard and included members of IFREMER, US Navy, National Geographic and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. IFREMER was also involved in raising part of the wreckage in later missions in 1987, 1993, 1994, and 1996.

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Photo of the RMS TITANIC Discovery Team: Left to right Jean-Louis Michel (IFREMER), Lt. George Ray (US Navy), Jean Jerry (IFREMER), Bob Ballard and Bernard Pillaud (IFREMER). (©Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


Recently in 2003, the submersible Nautile was used at the request of the Spanish authorities in the support of the wreckage of the Spanish ship “Prestige”

As many other diving companies, they assigned equipment to their divers/researchers and some were assigned with Rolex Submariners for their diving/research instruments.

This watch was assigned to a researcher and has the number XX inscribed in the caseback.  Its not known how many watches were delivered to IFREMER but some experts believe that the numbers are small and less than 25. 

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Unlike other watches assigned to COMEX, the watches from IFREMER are clearly regular submariners without any modifications other than an issue number in the caseback possibly made by the company at the time of issue.

The documentation shows the papers are punched with the serial no and a special code of 119 reserved only for French special deliveries and no names on the paperwork. Service papers from Rolex France a few years ago are also included. 

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Other documentations come from the researcher with exchanges of emails and logs as well as deep sea research information that the diver was associated with as well as a photograph of the researcher wearing the watch in front of a research vessel.

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