An extremely rare and well-preserved stainless steel military wristwatch with revolving bezel, fixed bar lugs and military engravings made for the British Royal Navy, accompanied with original owners Royal Navy Divers log and knife

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1972
    Reference No: 5513/5517
    Case No: 3’926’768, repeated inside the case back, further stamped 1.72, case back exterior stamped with military issued numbers 0552/923-7697 and unit number 688/77, underside of bottom left lug stamped 5517
    Model Name: Military Submariner “Double Reference”
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1520, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: NATO strap
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, and movement signed.
    Accessories: Accompanied by original owners Royal Navy Divers log, dive knife, and Rolex International Service Guarantee dated October 11, 2013.

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rolex’s Submariner wristwatch has become one of the most iconic timepieces since it was first introduced in 1954. Given its durability, reliability, and marketing as a professional “tool” timepiece, it is understandable that the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) to use the Rolex Submariner as standard issue equipment.

    The MOD decided to approached the brand with specifications for a watch that met their requirements, which included fixed bar lugs for safety reasons, a nylon strap, larger bezel for easier grip, large sword hands, and a luminous dial. The MOD, out of safety concerns, required that dials be marked with an encircled “T” indicating the use of radioactive tritium. Additionally, the case backs were engraved with “0552”, the code for the British Royal Navy, and “923-7697”, the NATO code, followed by the issue number - in this instance, “688” and the year of issue “77”. Following decommissioning, these military wristwatches often were purchased by civilians or dealers and most were transformed by removing the military features and changing the watch to a more “civilian” timepiece.

    As a result, fully original “MilSubs” are very rare and highly collectible, given the past history with later owners reconfiguring their Submariner. The present lot is a delightful find because it is surprisingly complete and in original condition. Previously offered at auction by the original owner, the current owner, an internationally known Rolex collector, saw the appeal of the watch and upon purchase, sought to find a period correct 60-minute rotating bezel insert, replacing the service insert installed during a Rolex servicing in 2013. The watch is further remarkable for its very rare double reference, with the 5513 displayed between the lugs and the number 5517 on the underside of the bottom left lug. The caseback was hand-engraved “Wisemen” by the original owner - matching the name of the diver’s log used by Lt. Wiseman while deployed on the HMS Heron.

    Possibly unpolished with crisp reference numbers between the lugs and the underside, as well as the military markings, this reference 5513/5517 is an exceptional timepiece. Furthermore, complete with the original owners’ diver’s log – a true rarity for any military–issued watch - it is a superb example of a “full spec” Military Submariner for the connoisseur.

  • 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. 5513/5517
An extremely rare and well-preserved stainless steel military wristwatch with revolving bezel, fixed bar lugs and military engravings made for the British Royal Navy, accompanied with original owners Royal Navy Divers log and knife

1972
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, and movement signed.

Estimate
$100,000 - 200,000 
CHF99,600-199,000
€90,700-181,000
HK$783,000-1,570,000

sold for $218,750

Contact Specialist
Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas & International Strategy Advisor
Senior Vice President
+1 212 940 1293
pboutros@phillips.com

GAME CHANGERS

New York Auction 10 December 2019