Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE Geneva Friday, May 12, 2017 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1959
    Reference No: 6538, inside caseback stamped IV.1958
    Movement No: N820193
    Case No: 426'430
    Model Name: Submariner
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1030, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex "Big Logo" Oyster bracelet, reference 7206, end links stamped 75, max. length 185mm.
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex "Big Logo" clasp stamped 1.59
    Dimensions: 37.5mm. Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed
    Accessories: Accompanied by Rolex fitted presentation box, outer packaging, original guarantee dated 2 September 1960, original rating certificate, product literature, sales tag, anchor and wallet.
    Literature: A similar example of a reference 6538 with "‘Big Crown" is illustrated in 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pages 206 and 207.

  • Catalogue Essay

    First launched in 1955, reference 6538 is incredibly desirable today due to its versatility, robust proportions and good looks. The model was in production for four short years, and is characterized by its black lacquer "Swiss"-signed dial, lack of crown guards and 8 millimeter crown, hence its name "Big Crown Submariner".

    Reference 6538 is forever immortalized onscreen, having accompanied Sean Connery’s James Bond on multiple secret missions. Bond’s gadget is most notably disguised as a "Big Crown" Submariner on films like Dr. No, From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. The agent's watch is fitted on different straps, and equipped with different spying abilities. Consequently, reference 6538 is today also known as the "James Bond Submariner" to Rolex collectors and scholars.

    This example, manufactured in approximately 1959, was produced towards the end of the the reference's production period. Known as a "Four Liner", the dial displays "Officially Certified Chronometer", comprising two lines of text underneath the depth rating. This designation denotes that the watch is fitted with a chronometer certified movement. "Four liner" dials are especially beloved by collectors, and considered rarer and more valuable than their "two-liner" counterparts.

    The dial is very attractive, having taken on a particularly "gilt" nature over time. The chapter ring remains vibrant, and the four lines display various shades of gold, giving the dial so much depth. The round luminous plots are intact and exhibit creamy orange patina. The dial features light "spiderwebbing", an effect resulting from interaction with the elements - especially fitting, since the watch was originally retailed in Hong Kong, a place in the "tropics". Even the gilt hands are original, the center seconds hands featuring a correct "large lollipop", its luminous material matching the numerals.

    Featuring its original "Big Crown", the case retains its bevels and robust proportions. Even the bezel remains original. Another element of delight is the "Big Logo" bracelet, stamped for the first quarter of 1959. These bracelets have become incredibly collectible in their own right, having been produced for a short period only.

    Yet, the most striking element is the presence of the original guarantee stating the watch was retailed at ArtLand Watch Co in Hong Kong, original rating certificate, wallet, anchor, sales tag, fitted presentation box and outer packaging.

    At the time of production, "tool watches" were usually bought for everyday wear. They were not considered high end collectible items. As a result, most original accompanying accessories were lost, or thrown away at some point in time. To find an example, still retaining its original accessories after 58 years, is a complete delight and anomaly in the world of Submariner "tool watches".

  • Artist Biography


    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Ref. 6538, inside caseback stamped IV.1958
A very rare and highly attractive stainless steel wristwatch with sweep center seconds, black lacquer "four liner" dial, big crown, bracelet, fitted presentation box, original guarantee, chronometer certificate and wallet

Circa 1959
37.5mm. Diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

CHF200,000 - 400,000 

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
+41 22 317 81 89

The Geneva Watch Auction: FIVE

Geneva Auctions 13 – 14 May 2017