Rolex - Racing Pulse New York Saturday, December 12, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1977
    Reference No: 5517; inside caseback stamped 5513 and 5’339’610
    Case No: 5’339’610
    Model Name: Submariner “MilSub”
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 1520, 26 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Nylon NATO
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, and movement signed; further stamped on caseback W10/6645-99-9237697 – 918/79
    Accessories: Accompanied byletter from Rolex UK (Bexley) signed by Henry Hudson, Rolex International Guarantee, Rolex service estimate and service invoice letter.

  • Catalogue Essay

    The MOD approached Rolex with specifications for a watch that met their requirements, which included fixed spring bars welded to the lugs which prevented the fitting of a reflective bracelet, a nylon strap (by contract from the Phoenix company), a 60-minute bezel insert, large sword-shaped hands, and a luminous dial. In addition, the MOD required that dials be marked with an encircled “T” indicating the use of luminescent tritium. Additionally, the casebacks for watches issued to the British Army were engraved with “W10”, the code for the British Royal Army, and “6645-99-9237697”, the NATO codes, followed by the issue number - in this instance, “918” and the year of issue “79”. The resulting watch is now known to collectors as the "MilSub".

    Following decommissioning, these military wristwatches often were either destroyed by the MOD, or purchased by civilians or dealers, with most being transformed by removing the military features and changing the watch to a more “civilian” timepiece. As a result, the present example is an incredible find. It is complete and in exceptional, unrestored and fully original condition. Fresh-to-the-market, the watch is further remarkable for its very rare, 5517 reference, uniquely made for the MOD and without doubt the most prized and sought after of all Rolex Milsubs.

    Unpolished with crisp reference numbers between the lugs and on the caseback, as well as its military engravings, this reference 5517 is a truly exceptional timepiece and among the finest examples to ever be offered publicly. The original dial displays a stunning rich patina of the luminous markers and sword hands, and is the original “maxi-dial”, a term coined by Rolex collectors to refer to the comparably larger lume plots and bolder graphics.
    It is the first 5517 ever to be offered by Phillips, and comes fitted with an original vintage NATO strap and a coveted “Henry Hudson letter” from Rolex Bexley in the UK, confirming its issue to the British Army Air Corps in 1979 and specifically to the Army Depot location at Castle Donnington location in England.

  • 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. 5517; inside caseback stamped 5513 and 5’339’610
An extremely rare and historically important stainless steel diver’s wristwatch with fixed lugs and military engravings, accompanied by Henry Hudson letter

Circa 1977
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, and movement signed; further stamped on caseback W10/6645-99-9237697 – 918/79

$100,000 - 200,000 

Sold for $567,000

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas & International Strategy Advisor
Senior Vice President
+1 212 940 1293

Racing Pulse

New York Auction 12 December 2020