A very fine, rare, and interesting stainless steel diver’s wristwatch with glossy “four-liner” dial and oversized crown

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: 1957
    Reference No: 6538; inside caseback stamped III.57
    Movement No: N732’788
    Case No: 307’279
    Model Name: Submariner “Big Crown 4-Liner"
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1030, 25 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel
    Dimensions: 37.5mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, and movement 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

    For centuries, even before European explorers set foot on this land, the Great Lakes of North America have provided the inhabitants of their rocky shores with sustenance, trade, and transportation. For equally as long, the lakes have taken their fatal toll, with an estimated 8,000 shipwrecks throughout all five of the Great Lakes. Lake Erie, the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes, is reported to contain approximately 2,000 of those shipwrecks, many of which are undiscovered and unexplored. Despite cold temperatures and capricious weather, the shipwrecks of the Great Lakes offer great rewards to adventurous scuba divers. The fresh water, with its lack of salt and low temperature, has preserved many of these wrecks in eerily unspoiled condition. And the present watch appears to be a gift from the depths. One such diver, the father of the consignor, found more than what he had bargained for one day while diving in 10 feet of water in the Niagara River in the mid-1970s, which connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. This intrepid diver, assuming the watch to be fake, put the watch in a drawer where it remained until he passed away in the summer of 2018.

    First launched in 1955, reference 6538 is incredibly desirable today due to its rarity, robust proportions, and good looks. The model was in production for four short year, and is characterized by its black lacquer “Swiss”- signed dial, lack of crown guards and 8 millimeter crown, hence its name “Big Crown Submariner”. Reference 6538 is forever immortalized onscreen, having accompanied Sean Connery’s James Bond on multiple secret missions. Bond’s chosen watch was a “Big Crown” Submariner on the films Dr. No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. Consequently, reference 6538 is today also known as the “James Bond Submariner” to Rolex collectors and scholars. Furthermore, the reference 6538 was the first Submariner to be chronometer certified; hence, its coveted “four-liner” dial reflecting the designation. This example, manufactured in the third quarter of 1957, is presented “as found”, without its bezel, and in incredible condition considering its story.

  • 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. 6538; inside caseback stamped III.57
A very fine, rare, and interesting stainless steel diver’s wristwatch with glossy “four-liner” dial and oversized crown

1957
37.5mm Diameter
Case, dial, and movement signed.

Estimate
$80,000 - 160,000 
CHF79,600-159,000
€72,500-145,000
HK$626,000-1,250,000

sold for $100,000

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