Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XIV Geneva Friday, November 5, 2021 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1958
    Reference No: 6538
    Movement No: N675538
    Case No: 426’387
    Model Name: Submariner "James Bond" "Big Crown" "Coroncione"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1030, 25 jewels, "butterfly" rotor
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster riveted bracelet stamped "80" to the endlinks, max length 195mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped "2.61"
    Dimensions: 37.5mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    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.

    First launched in 1955, reference 6538 is incredibly desirable today due to its versatility, robust proportions and attractive appearance. 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 belonging to the category of "Big Crown Submariner”, or “Coroncione” as they are known in Italy, a literal translation of Big Crown.

    Given the original vocation of the model as "tool watch" - not only for Mr. Bond, but also for scores of professional and amateur divers of the time - many 6538s did not survive the test of time unscathed: it was very common until surprisingly recently to change worn-out parts (crown, dials, bezel...) with service replacement, thus ensuring the perfect efficiency of the timepiece. This practice, combined with the restricted production timeframe of the piece, results today in an extremely restricted number of pieces available in fully original and well preserved condition. The present one, however, fully belongs to this rarified category.

    The quality of the dial of this timepiece cannot be overstated. Absolutely unrestored, it maintains the original glossy finish (which often clouds with age) as well as the original luminous material, now a charming camel hue. The sign of the passage of time can be found when looking at the dial under the specific light incidence which discloses how the zapon finish has cracked over time to a "spiderweb" affect. Not only this is typical of unrestored dials, but it furthermore is this instance very subtle, thus further confirming the originality of the dial without compromising in any way its looks. The correct "red triangle" bezel as well is in outstanding condition, with only minor losses of paint to the edges (as expected, as the edge is the part of the bezel most often manipulated).

  • 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
A very early, well-preserved and highly collectible stainless steel automatic diver's wristwatch with center seconds, revolving bezel, "big crown" and bracelet

Circa 1958
37.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

CHF100,000 - 200,000 

Sold for CHF163,800

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East Director

The Geneva Watch Auction: XIV

Geneva Auction 5 & 7 November 2021