In the very early years of underwater exploration, inner space as it came to be known, one of the most innovative companies called COMEX was the main player. From 1968 until the end of 1970, Omega supplied COMEX exclusively to develop the most highly engineered professional dive watches in existence at that time.
A book on the Ploprof models, the relationship to COMEY and its place in history of professional diving is in the making.
Petros Protopapas the esteemed head of Omega Heritage has done a wonderful job of collating the Ploprofs and the Comex story, which will be published in due course, in which the Ploprofs will be more properly understood in the context of divers watches and their history.
Omega watches were extensively used and tested during COMEX diving and exploration missions taking place between 1968 – 1970.
Physalie I – 05 March 1968
In 1964, Comex put together a team of specialists and invented the first hyperbaric chamber which was capable to simulate the pressure of underwater diving in a controlled area in the company’s own research laboratory. COMEX founder Henri Germain Delauze and Dr. Ralph Werner Brauer descended to the equivalent pressure of 1100 ft/335 m below sea level in a pressure chamber at the Comex Hyperbaric Center in Marseille.
Physalie II & III – 11 June 1968 & 27 June 1968
Following up the major achievements of the Physalie I experiment, Comex conducted the Physaline II & III close after another. Both experimental dives were conducted by Dr. Ralph Werner Brauer and Comex diver and engineer René Veyrunes
During Physalie II, a total of 2 hours of compression time was required to reach the maximum depth of 1180 ft/360 m. Brauer and Veyrunes spent 77 minutes below the level of 990 ft/300m which resulted in a total duration of decompression of 116 hours, equaling 5 days before pressurising to sea level again and being able to leave the hyperbaric chamber again.
Janus I – 17 October 1968
Operation Janus I marks a cornerstone of commercial diving history since Comex sent 4 divers specialised and trained for underwater engineering tasks to live in a deep sea habitat, performing underwater repair and maintenance tasks on a wellhead in a depth of 500 ft/152 m.
The divers spent a total of five days in their offshore habitat in a storage depth of 290 ft/ 88 m and had to carry out multiple tasks at a working level of 500 ft/152 m und constant and full saturation of their bodies.
Hydra I – 28 October 1968
After successfully conducting a row of Physalie experiments, Dr. Ralph Werner Brauer wanted to apply his experience from hyperbolic chamber dives to deep sea diving in the open water. Operation Hydra was a joint venture of Comex and the Wrightsville laboratory with the primary objective to explore the use of hydrogen in the divers breathing gas to overcome oxygen toxicity and nitrogen narcosis in a depth of 1000 ft/300 m.
Janus II – 16 September 1970
Following up the great success of Operation Janus I in late 1968, Comex decided to follow up with an additional dive of the Janus program, descending Patrick Cadiou, Christian Cornillaux and Michel Liogier even deeper down the open water to a maximum depth of 840 ft/256 m.
The team spent a total of nine days in their offshore habitat in a storage depth of 656 ft/ 200 m and had to carry out multiple tasks at a working level of 840 ft/256 m und constant and full saturation of their bodies.
Physalie IV & V – 24 September 1968 & 19 November 1970
During the past years, Comex was constantly pushing the boundaries of deep sea exploration and research to emerge as the leading force in commercial saturation diving.
Physalie IV took place in late 1968, taking the divers to a maximum depth pressure equivalent of 990 ft/ 300 m and could not catch up with the depths achieved in the earlier Physalie operations. The team spent 10 minutes at the maximum pressure level before starting a total of 106 hours of decompression.
Physalie V, conducted in late 1970 on the other hand was a great success, establishing yet another depth record as the two divers reached a pressure equivalent of 1706 ft/520 m below sea level.