Rolex - The Geneva Watch Auction: XVIII Geneva Friday, November 3, 2023 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1955
    Reference No: 6536/6538, inside case back 6538 and struck through by Rolex
    Case No: 89'348
    Model Name: Submariner
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, 1030, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet, 175 mm. maximum length, end links stamped 65
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex folding deployant clasp stamped 3.54
    Dimensions: 37.5mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Reference 6536 is amongst the rarest and earliest of all Submariners. Produced for one year only in 1955, it most notably features no crown guards, a ‘small crown’, rotating bezel and gilt black lacquer ‘Swiss’ dial.

    This watch is a double reference 6536/6538, which is clearly a transitional example, as the case back displays the number 6536, along with 6538 crossed out by Rolex.

    This watch displays all the original characteristics of a reference 6536/6538. The dial is, of course, the most splendid aspect of the watch. Still retaining its black lacquer finish with grainy patina, the radium plots have aged with warm orange patina, which match the gilt hands and seconds lollipop wonderfully. The ‘Swiss’ dial furthermore features a gilt chapter ring, which is correct for the reference. The radium index at 6 o’clock is brighter in tone, which is also correct.

    While these attributes are very rare, one more detail propels this watch to the next level: the red depth rating. Only the very earliest examples carried a red depth rating above 6 o’clock as Rolex tested some watches during the period with a red ‘100/330’ designation. Approximately 10 examples with these particular characteristics have appeared on the market today.

    The watch features a really crisp case, which still displays bevels and boasts a robust 37.5 mm. case diameter. The bezel insert is correct, and the bracelet is original, stamped for the third quarter of 1954.

  • 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. 6536/6538, inside case back 6538 and struck through by Rolex
An extremely rare and early stainless steel wristwatch with sweep center seconds, black lacquer dial, red depth rating and bracelet

Circa 1955
37.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and bracelet signed

CHF80,000 - 160,000 

Sold for CHF76,200

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Deputy Chairman, Watches, Head of Watches, Europe, and Middle East

+41 79 637 17 24

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva

+41 79 460 55 88


The Geneva Watch Auction: XVIII

Geneva Auction 3 - 4 November 2023