In 1953, Rolex introduced one of the world’s first wrist watches geared specifically towards divers: the Submariner. Rolex had to confront a number of challenges when designing its first dive watch. The watch obviously had to withstand significant amounts of pressure and had to accurately measure time spent underwater, which the first Submariner achieved by featuring a 330ft/100m depth rating and a rotating diving bezel. It also had to be easily legible in conditions of reduced visibility yet aesthetically pleasing. Hence, the Sub’s iconic large white tritium hour markers and Mercedes hands set against a contrasting black dial.
The Submariner is the most iconic and desirable luxury watch of all time and has been adopted by luminaries such as Jacques Cousteau, Che Guevara, and none other than James Bond. Our favorite Bond, Sean Connery, wore a big crown Sub in the 1962 classic ‘Dr. No’. The watch was also featured in ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Thunderball’.
The 5513 is the longest-running Submariner reference, having been in production for a whopping 27 years (from 1962-1989). The rare pointed crown guards made their first appearance with this model and were later replaced by the rounded crown guards. The 5513 uses the calibre 1530 movement, which is not chronometer certified, and therefore has a dial that bears 2 lines of text (as opposed to the 4-line chronometer dials on the ref. 5512). Early executions of the 5513 featured the rare ‘meters first dial,’ because the depth rating in meters was printed before the rating in feet (“200m = 660ft). Around 1969, Rolex switched to printing the feet before the meters to satisfy the growing American customer base.
Gilt & meters first
From 1962 until around 1964/65/66 we find gilt dials with the word ‘SWISS’ written at 6 o’clock, followed by matte dials with the new wording ‘SWISS-T<25’.
Until 1968 (1970 for the ref. 1680), Submariners sported dials that referred to the depth rating in metres before feet (so called ‘metres first dials’). This subtle difference is quite rare and therefore desirable for collectors.