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Rolex first debuted the Submariner at the 1954 Basel Spring Fair. It shared the stage with already-established offerings: the Explorer, the Turn-O-Graph, and a ladies' Perpetual with a chronometer certification. Compared to these other watches, the Submariner - with its oversized case (then, 40mm was considered large) - looked slightly out-of-place, and yet would become one of Rolex's most enduring models.
Rolex's quest to produce a waterproof wristwatch case has its roots in the First World War, when a need arose for soldiers to have a watch that could withstand the wet, dusty conditions of the battlefield. Rolex's Oyster case of 1926 represented the culmination of a decade of development. It gained notoriety in 1927, when Mercedes Gleitze became the first British woman to swim across the English Channel. The watch she wore was - you guessed it - a Rolex. A series of advertisements followed this feat, featuring smiling flappers dunking their Rolex Oysters in fishtanks.
The Submariner emerged at a time when oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau exposed the world to the wonders of undersea exploration. With the advent of SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) in the late 1950s, skin-diving as a sport became much more accessible to amateurs. Since a watch is crucial for divers to calculate how much air is left in their tank, they needed a specialized, yet easy-to-read watch. Rolex was fortunate in that René Jeanneret, one of the company's directors, was a skin-diving enthusiast, giving Rolex a unique insight into the development of their diving watch. Since a Rolex had already scaled the world's tallest mountain (the Explorer, worn by Sir Edmund Hillary on Mount Everest), where else should a Rolex go but to the very bottom of the ocean?
The early Submariners foreshadow the classic model of today and yet lack certain features that make a Submariner a Submariner. There were no crown guards on these early references, only five-minute markers on the rotating bezel, and these early Submariners were only rated to a depth of 300 feet. Nevertheless, the Submariner became almost an overnight success, being seen on the wrist of no less a personage than 007 himself, James Bond.
Rolex continued to develop and improve the model, until by the time the ref. 5513 was introduced, the Submariner had attained the distinctive features that define the model. The ref. 5513 ran from 1962 until 1989, probably the longest-running model of Rolex ever. In the eyes of many collectors, it is the ultimate Rolex, the one that is an absolute must to own.
Ours dates from the mid-1960s, in the earlier part of the 5513's run. In around 1966, Rolex switched the dial from a gilt gloss dial to a matte "meters-first" dial, the "meters-first" referring to the depth rating found at the bottom of the dial above 6 o'clock. Another salient feature of this era of "meters-first" dial is the condition of the lume, which on dials in the middle of the run (as this one is) attain a slight dome-like appearance. To many collectors, the matte "meters-first dial," is more desirable as it only ran for the first few years of the Submariner's run.
The 5513 has become incredibly popular over the last few years, and excellent examples such as this one have become frustratingly difficult to come by. Striking a balance of originality and patina, this example is a no-excuses Submariner that will please first-time vintage Rolex buyers and seasoned collectors alike.
Available exclusively at Marshall Pierce
Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 39mm (excluding crown). Rolex Submariner Reference 5513. Circa 1967.
Overall Condition: Stainless steel Oyster case is in very good condition with some slight signs of wear, particularly on the sides of the case. Rotating bezel shows signs of age throughout, including some fading consistent with age, and some scratches due to wear. Black matte dial also shows some lightening consistent with age, and has puffy luminescent hour plots that have darkened with age, as have those on the hour markers and hands. Rolex crown. Rolex case back has some slight tool marks, most noticeable at the top and the bottom.
Includes one 20mm light brown suede strap.