Rolex Submariner Tropical Dial
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Rolex Submariner Tropical Dial

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. 

Speaking of the dial, this one is certainly something special. Dials from Submariners in this era of Rolex often take on a fine stippling often associated with exposure to humidity for long periods of time. While we've seen tropical dial Submariners before, this is without a doubt the most impressive tropical dial we've ever seen.

The case is also strong as well. So many Rolex sport watches of this era have been woefully over-polished at some point in their lives, and thankfully this one has been spared that fate. That fact, combined with the stellar dial and the lovely high-dome acrylic crystal, make this 5513 a truly beautiful piece. 

Details

Stainless steel case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Rolex reference 5513, automatic Rolex movement, circa 1968.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is excellent, strong condition with no major signs of wear or over-polishing. Tropical matte dial is in excellent condition with no major blemishes, signs of discoloration, or hand drag. Luminescent elements on the hands and hour markers have patinated to a beautiful even hue. Rotating bezel does show some signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Signed crown; unsigned case back bears original sticker.

Includes one 20mm brown suede Hodinkee strap and two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle

SKU: AS01492

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