An extremely rare, well preserved, and highly attractive stainless steel wristwatch with black lacquer “four liner" dial, big crown, bracelet, fitted presentation box, original guarantee, and chronometer certificate

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1957
    Reference No: 6538
    Movement No: N'726'204
    Case No: 307’234, inside case back stamped III.57
    Model Name: Submariner, "Big Crown"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1030, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet, max overall length 215mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped 7-70
    Dimensions: 37.5mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and clasp signed.
    Accessories: Accompanied by fitted Rolex presentation box, original guarantee card, and original chronometer certificate dated August 12th, 1957.
    Literature: For a similar example of a reference 6538 "‘Big Crown" model see 100 Superlative Rolex Watches by John Goldberger, pp. 206 and 207.

  • Catalogue Essay

    One look at this fresh-to-the-market Rolex Submariner reference 6538 made in 1957, and several words will come to mind, including breathtaking, spectacular, and fascinating. Quite simply, it’s amongst the most impressive and best preserved “Big Crown” Submariner wristwatches to appear publicly in recent years – and a dream watch for collectors in terms of its condition, originality, and completeness.

    First launched in 1955, reference 6538 is incredibly desirable today due to its rarity, 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 chosen watch was a "Big Crown" Submariner on the films Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. Consequently, reference 6538 is today also known as the "James Bond Submariner" to Rolex collectors and scholars.

    This example, manufactured in 1957, is an early example produced towards the beginning of the reference's production period. Featuring its original “Big Crown”, the condition of the case is extraordinary, with its totally unpolished and hardly worn state of preservation, sharp crisp lines, and factory original bevels - making it one of the finest examples to ever appear at auction. Once the watch is turned over, collectors will notice a unique hand engraved inscription reading “GES 362-24-6858”, certainly not the usual military markings one finds for example on a reference 5513 “MilSub” [see lot 28]. It is believed through research the watch was originally owned by a George E. Stoddard born in 1924 and died 1997. It is possible he inscribed his initials and social security number on the timepiece in case his watch was ever lost – particularly relevant if he served in the military.

    Another exciting detail found on the case is the presence of a hardly ever seen transitional bezel with red triangle at the 12 o’clock position, and no minute subdivisions. Compared with earlier models, which featured silver triangles, and slightly later models with red triangle and minute sub-divisions until the 15 minute mark, the present bezel is exceptionally rare.

    Fitted with the original curved crystal as delivered by the factory over 60 years ago, beneath it lies the stunning, original lacquer dial. Beautifully preserved with attractive signs of aging, its surface remains highly glossy and vivid, with its gilt lettering and minute chapter ring remaining especially vibrant. The luminous hour markers remain perfectly intact and have aged to a warm beige color. 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 than their "two-liner" counterparts.

    Together, these attributes make the watch exceptional, but one more detail propels it to the next level: the presence of its original box, guarantee, and chronometer rating certificate – especially fitting considering the chronometer designation found on the dial. To find an example, still retaining its original accessories after 61 years, is a truly rare opportunity and anomaly in the world of Submariner "tool watches". A rare treasure that would certainly be the crown jewel of a Rolex sports watch collection.

  • Maker Bio

    Rolex

    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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Rolex

Ref. 6538
An extremely rare, well preserved, and highly attractive stainless steel wristwatch with black lacquer “four liner" dial, big crown, bracelet, fitted presentation box, original guarantee, and chronometer certificate

1957
37.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and clasp signed.

Estimate
$300,000 - 600,000 
CHF299,000-598,000
€261,000-521,000
HK$2,350,000-4,710,000

sold for $567,000

Contact Specialist
Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas
+1 212 940 1293
pboutros@phillips.com

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