Rolex - The Hong Kong Watch Auction: NINE Hong Kong Monday, November 25, 2019 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1956
    Reference No: 6538
    Movement No: N'692'600
    Case No: 158'102
    Model Name: Submariner, “Big Crown”
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1030, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet, max overall length 180 mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp stamped 1-57
    Dimensions: 37.5 Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement, and clasp signed
    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

    The importance of the Rolex Submariner is well-known to collectors, and while it may be the reference 6200 that is viewed by many as the beginnings of the legendary professional dive watch, it is the reference 6538 that really established the formula for great manufacturer, especially regarding the dial design which is still retained in largely the same configuration today.
    Following on from the very frst watches with red depth rating, the second batch of 6538 production, which is most likely to have been manufactured in the third quarter of 1956, appears in an extremely concentrated case number range from around 158’100 through to approximately 158’400.

    On the surface, not much changed from its earlier ‘red depth’ brethren, with the same bezel insert and hands set, but as we look closer something significant has changed on the lower half of the dial. Gone is the ‘200/600’ in red and the ‘Submariner’ in gilt printing, a process that involves gold plating the polished brass dial blank, applying the required text and minute track in a soluble substance, then painting the entire plate black, which once dry, is then cleaned to remove the aforementioned substance to reveal the required dial elements before a final application of lacquer on top.
    In their place is gold-coloured printing on to the black paint of the dial for the depth rating, now refined to ‘200m = 660 f’, and the name ‘Submariner’.Watches that were destined for markets that preferred the chronometer certifcation, predominantly the United States based on the watches that have surfaced with these so called ‘4-liner’ dials, had three additional words printed, either above or below the depth rating and model designation: ‘Official Certified Chronometer’. As these elements were applied with the traditional cliché rather than the more invested ‘gilt’
    process described above, it allowed Rolex and their dial supplier to play around with the positioning, and it really feels like this batch of production was a test bed to confirm the preferred format for the text on the lower half of the dial.

    Given the professional tool nature of most dive watches, many suffered from watch ingress resulting in replaced dials and hands, or knocked to the case causing bezel inserts to reside at the bottom of the sea and a later design fitted. 158’102, the earliest case number to have surfaced from this batch, has suffered neither of these fates, still retaining its extremely well preserved dial and original “no hash”, silver triangle insert carried over from the reference 6200 earliest 6538 batch,as well as nicely patinated nickel plated brass bezel ring.

    The case still features its original brushed finish to the top, wide bevels to the edges and the pronounced foot to the base of the lugs, indicating the this watch is almost certainly not been near a polishing wheel since it left Bienne. The numbers between the lugs are still totally legible, having not suffered the common fate of it being worn away over time, and the bracelet with the watch is is with the correct and extremely rare 65 end links as well as a clasp dat coded for the frst quarter of 1957. The movement shows no signs of heavy handed servicing by an inexperience watchmaker,with bright plating and strong glit infll to the text on the rotor and bridge, indicating that the case has been well sealed over the intervening decades.

    It is an immense pleasure to offer one of the the most well-preserved reference 6538 Submariners to have ever emerged, from the naissance of the four line configuration that is so iconic today, and we have no doubt that any scholar lucky enough to handle the watch in person will be captivated by its condition, charm and character.

  • 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
An incredibly rare, well preserved, and highly attractive stainless steel wristwatch with black lacquer “four liner" dial, big crown, bracelet

Circa 1956
37.5 Diameter
Case, dial, movement, and clasp signed

HK$2,800,000 - 5,000,000 

Sold for HK$3,000,000

Contact Specialist

Thomas Perazzi
Head of Watches, Asia
+852 2318 2001

The Hong Kong Watch Auction: NINE

Hong Kong Auction 25-26 November 2019