The very first Rolex Submariner was launched in 1953. It went very quickly through a number of short-lived permutations and model references before settling down as what would become the classic 5512 and 5513, made from 1959 and 1962 respectively.
This rare example is one of the earlier models made for only a few years, as Rolex worked to perfect the format. The 6536-1 has a thinner case than other models of the period.
The seller (who had inherited it from a relative who liked to collect all sorts of weird and wonderful things) first brought it to us in May 2014. He chose not to accept our five-figure offer immediately, but tried to sell the watch for more at auction. When this proved unsuccessful he returned to us six months later, whereupon we were delighted to honour the price we had first proposed.
It has the 1030 calibre movement, this specific one being uniquely numbered N7xxxxx, within the range of others in the relevant batch of a thousand or so 6536-1s that were made at the same time.
If we remove the bracelet, we can see the rare model reference between the lugs at 12 o’clock :
It exhibits some features shared by a number of the early models: there are no crown guards either side of the winding crown, it has a bezel insert with no minute markers for the first 15 minutes (such as would be found on later models) and a gilt (gold coloured text) dial :
This is is the precious, original dial, whereas so many from the period deteriorated over the years and were replaced by service dials. As a model with a small crown, it is no surprise that its water-resistancy is rated at 100m. The following image beautifully captures the different colours of ink used for the separate elements printed on the dial below the centre post :
I regret to say that the dial is not as perfect as these images suggest, but it is a supermodel’s prerogative to ask that her better side be shown !
The unique case number is six digits, 306xxx :
This is consistent with the date code found inside the case-back, that denotes manufacture in the third quarter of 1957. In the same location can be found six service codes, detailing this watch’s visits to Rolex UK’s service facility throughout its life.
Usually the dial on such a watch is the greatest factor in the piece’s value (and indeed it is still a major factor here), but for once the bezel has an equivalent importance :
Many watches lost their original bezel inserts over the years. The bezel on a Submariner was, after all, an exposed part of a watch made for use in testing environments. The survival of this one with its striking red triangle is so unusual that it now comprises perhaps over a third of the value of the whole watch.
In the image above it can be seen how the edge of the bezel and the black insert itself have worn away over the years. Such wear is typically most evident at the top and bottom of the insert and can be found on contemporary models including the Milgauss 6541.
Note the large, white “lollipop” seconds hand :
These early, pre-crown guard Submarimers have proved to be of great interest to collectors in recent decades, their legend having grown in no small part after the director Terence Young lent his personal example to Sean Connery to wear in the early “James Bond” films. They sometimes played a conspicuous part : in “Dr. No” Connery tests a Geiger counter by passing it over his Submariner, while at the start of “Goldfinger” he holds up his lighter to see the seconds ticking away towards the detonation of a bomb he has planted :
I am always keen to buy nice examples of such early Rolex sports models like the GMT-Master, Submariner, Milgauss, Daytona and Explorer!
Haywood Milton, June 2016