The model 5513 was for nearly thirty years the “classic” Rolex Submariner, following its launch in 1962. However, in those decades its dial above all else went through many iterations. Even small differences or unusual features now excite the collector.
At first glance this one looks like most others :
The earliest watches had dials with gold-coloured or “gilt” text, so unless one has a watch with a service or replacement dial the white text seen here will indicate a watch no older than perhaps the mid/late 1960s.
The first white-text dials bore the depth rating expressed in metres first, i.e. “200m = 660ft“.
After a few years, Rolex reversed the depth rating so it was expressed as “660ft = 200m“. It is reasonable to surmise that this was because showing the greater figure first looked more impressive.
In the mid-1970s Rolex was manufacturing small batches of Rolex Submariners for the UK military, including Royal Navy Clearance Divers and others. These watches had to meet a very exacting specification but one notable feature of some later military issue Submariners was their “maxi dial” – a variant where the luminous dots indicating the hours were notably larger than normal.
Miltons’ collection of military issue Submariners is rather special. Here is one of those featuring a “maxi dial,” specifically a 5517 reference :
Now, the watch we introduced at the outset was not a military issue watch, but it is from 1978 and a high 5-million case number, which means it was made only shortly after the last military ones. It is interesting, then, that this watch also bears a “maxi dial.”
The military “maxi dial” watches bore a prominent, circled “T” to denote the luminous material tritium on the dial :
…but the “civilian” maxi dial here exhibits another, less obvious difference. Look again at the depth rating on our subject watch :
You will notice that the depth rating is shown below the word SUBMARINER. This is quite unusual. In most examples, including the military issue watches, the depth is shown above the word SUBMARINER.
The phenomenon of such “reverse” dials is interesting and includes some particularly desirable watches like the Comex 16800 “reverse.”
Shown below is the text at the foot of our watch’s dial. Note the very slight loss of black paint at the dial edge, probably negligible without a jeweller’s loupe but always a concern with these forty year old dials, especially whenever such a watch goes for a service and the paint may be further disturbed.
I bought this particular 1520-calibre watch from another dealer, around the millennium, for little over a thousand pounds. It then went to my best man, who wears it to this day – and often when we race a stunning 1922 sailing boat together. Its value has multiplied in that time, as an ever-larger audience comes to appreciate the dial variations, collectibility and indeed now the rarity of 5513 Submariners.
Here at Miltons we are always looking to add more great vintage Rolex pieces to our collection, so if you have a professional model from the 1950s or later why not get in touch through our “Contact Us” page, above? Our managing director Haywood Milton would be delighted to discuss your watch, without obligation.