A very rare and highly attractive stainless steel military diver’s wristwatch with rotating bezel, fixed bar lugs, and military engravings, made for the British Navy

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1974
    Reference No: 5513
    Case No: Case No: 3’926’998 repeated inside the case back. Case back exterior further stamped with military issued numbers 0552/923-7697 and unit number 504/76, case back interior further stamped 1.72
    Model Name: Submariner, “MilSub”
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1520, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nylon
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rolex’s Submariner is a tool watch, which from its original launch in 1954 has been perennial favorite amongst enthusiasts, so much so it has been part of the brand's product line ever since. The watch is a rugged masculine timepiece that is comfortable to wear, with a clean clutter free dial that is highly legible - a necessity when one is diving the ocean’s dark depths. It has evolved over the last 60 years from non-crown guard models with a depth rating of 100 meters, to models with crown guards, to today’s 300 meter depth rating found on modern Submariners.

    The present watch is a rare variant of the Submariner made for the British Royal Navy according to their specifications, and are known today by collectors as the “MilSub”. While the MilSub’s subtleties are aesthetically pleasing to collectors today, these nuances were designed for specific military purposes.

    Rather than design a new model, Rolex modified these timepieces from specifications provided by the British Ministry of Defense. “MilSubs” have wide sword-shaped hands for enhanced readability, an encircled “T” on the dial, indicating the use of luminescent tritium. Another feature was the 60-minute revolving bezel insert, instead of the civilian 15-minute calibrated bezel. The MOD also required a hack (stop seconds) feature and permanent, fixed spring bars welded to the lugs to prevent the fitting of a reflective bracelet. Another noticeable difference between the military and civilian models are their case back engravings – the present lot marked with the "0552" code for British Ministry of Defense, "923-7697", the NATO code, followed by the issue number. "504" and year of issue, "76".
    When decommissioned, they were sold by the MOD during the 1980s, and purchased by civilians and dealers who often replaced or removed the military-specific components - the encircled T dial, sword hands, 60’ bezel, engraved case back, and fixed spring bars - to transform them into more commercial, “civilianized” Submariners. Thus, very few MilSubs have survived with their “military-spec” configurations.

    The present example, issued in 1976, is in well-preserved condition considering it was likely worn during combat training or actual missions. Both the reference and serial numbers are finely engraved between the lugs are clearly legible and repeated on the inside the case back, as is expected with these military timepieces. One of the rarest Rolexes Submariner’s on the market, the “MilSub” is a defining watch both for its historical significance and overall design excellence, making it an extraordinary treasure for the most discerning collector.

  • 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. 5513
A very rare and highly attractive stainless steel military diver’s wristwatch with rotating bezel, fixed bar lugs, and military engravings, made for the British Navy

1974
39mm Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed

Estimate
$110,000 - 220,000 
CHF110,000-219,000
€95,500-191,000
HK$863,000-1,730,000

sold for $175,000

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

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