Following its introduction in 1954, the Rolex Submariner went through a period of very fast development including various models such as the 6200, 6204, 6538, 6536, 5508 and 5510.
In 1959 the first model with crown guards was introduced in the form of the 5512. While that model would continue to be made in chronometer-rated form for some decades, it was the non-chronometer 5513 introduced in 1962 which became the staple Submariner for something like thirty years.
Even this single model, however, came in many different versions. For a few years it was sold with “gilt” dials (whose text was gold in colour), in both classic and “Explorer” (3-6-9) format. The the text changed to white ink, with the depth rating still shown in meters first, i.e. 200m = 660ft. There then followed a number of dial designs with flat-painted luminous indices and the depth reversed, so now 660ft = 200m.
In the 1970s this model was adopted in modified form as an official watch of the Royal Navy and similarly supplied to the specialist French diving company, COMEX S.A. Here we can see the model on a plastic credit-card size “aide memoire” used by Rolex main agents in-store [and not included with the watch !], which celebrates the RN connection :
While Sean Connery had worn an earlier version of the Submariner in his “James Bond” films (specifically a Big Crown 6538 belonging to Director Terence Young), 1970s Bond in the form of Roger Moore moved with the times and wore a 5513, most memorably seen in 1973’s “Live and Let Die.” It played a key part in scenes where it was snatched from Bond’s wrist (then inaccurately described as having a number on the case back) and used to cut a rope with its fast-spinning, razor-edged bezel. The watch used for that scene did not in fact have a working movement and the props department made the specially-adapted bezel rotate so quickly by blowing a jet of compressed air under it. Some years ago that piece was “restored” with a working movement and sold for a very considerable sum!
Around late 1984, dials in 5513s began to be supplied with white metal surrounds to the luminous markers, like this :
This was a trend which would apply to dials on most of the Professional series of Rolex watches.
The watch in discussion here appears to be one of the first and was bought by Miltons in January 2017 from a UK jeweller who did not specialise in vintage Rolex :
It is a model 5513
with 86735xx case number,
Its case-back is marked 5512, but this is very common on 5513s, as the cases and backs of both models are identical . It was only upon final assembly that a chronometer or non-chronometer movement would be fitted, the model determined and numbered on the main mid-case as a 5512 or 5513 accordingly. We were never supposed to see inside the case-back, so Rolex weren’t bothered if they were all pre-marked as 5512 !
We have a UK Rolex price list from February 1984 but interestingly the 5513 is featured neither in that list nor the catalogue accompanying same, perhaps while they were updating stock and promotional materials with the new style of dial. The more expensive steel Submariner 16800 with Date display is listed, though, at £790 in 1984 and we have a 1989 price list which shows the 5513 five years later at £710. If only we could go back in time and buy them all !
Collectors and dealers now often make a fuss about the luminous material of the hands matching that on the dial, but we note the following image with interest. It appears in the Rolex’s own 1989 UK catalogue and clearly shows how the whiter luminous material on the hands of even a new watch did not necessarily match the luminous markers on the dial :
Marks inside the case-back of our watch are consistent with service work having been carried out by Rolex UK :
LON.7.89.40809 would suggest service in July 1989…
…while LON 685219-2-96 would suggest another service in February 1996.
We took these internal photographs before sending the watch to Steven Hale Watch Restoration Limited , one of the few accredited Rolex watch-makers in the UK and indeed one with the greatest reputation for working on vintage Rolex, used by some Rolex main agents.
These are images of the 1520 calibre Rolex movement, but do please note that these were taken before the comprehensive service :
The watch enjoyed £1,500 worth of work by SHWR including a full service and the fitting of new tube gaskets, plexi glass, 4th wheel, auto-drive, rotor axle and black bezel insert (with what we believe to be a Luminova variant “pip”), while the luminous material on the hands was also restored. The hands now complement the dial very well under normal light…
…although ultra-violet highlights the difference :
SWISS – T < 25 at the foot of the dial denotes that the luminous material on the hour marks is tritium. Later dials would use SuperLuminova or other luminous material and were marked with SWISS or SWISS MADE
The Oyster Fliplock 93150 had solid links that were more substantial than those of earlier bracelets fitted to Submariners. This one has a clasp marked S X11, which indicates this is a service part manufactured in November 1999:
The rest of the bracelet with its 580 end-links is probably original and it shows moderate signs of wear, including around the lugs against which the links might have rubbed for over 30 years :
The watch comes with period-correct Rolex 67.00.08 box-set and 1987 English Submariner instruction booklet, themselves accessories of some value.
Miltons in Chester and Liverpool city centre are always looking to buy such interesting Rolex watches. Please contact us if you have piece that you think may be of interest , whether you would simply like to learn more about it or for us to make an offer, without commitment on your part.
© Haywood Milton, September 2023.