Rolex Submariner collector’s 101 – [Part 1]

The Submariner was one of the first watches ever purpose-built for diving. In the world of vintage Submariners, we can break history down into four eras:

  • The No Crown Guards Era which ranges from the 6204 to the 5508 and all of the cases with no crown guards.
  • The 5512 which is the Chronometer Crown Guards Era.
  • The 5513 which is the Non Chronometer Crown Guard Submariners Era
  • The 1680 which are Chronometer Certified and have a date

First Rolex Submariner

A lot of people don’t know the first reference that’s recognized by the collector community, which is the 6204. This model has hands that are very different than the Mercedes hour hand we see today, they are called pencil hands. It has a rotating bezel but without hash marks between 12:00 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions. The watch dial, however, shows the characteristics we see today, the triangle at 12:00 o’clock and the rectangles at 3, 6 and 9 on a “no date”. So it all started here, this is the smallest crown ever on a Submariner, it’s 5.3 millimeters and this watch also said Submariner on it so this was really the birth of the reference.

Just a year later we get the next model 6205

This is the earliest version of 6205, also with the pencil hands. There are multiple variations within these references. This version does not say Submariner on the dial, neither of these references has depth ratings, the bezel is the same as the predecessor version, and then we also have another version of 6205 this is where we see the famous Mercedes hour hand.

The hands on this one are very long and this is much more of what we see today.

The next watch we have is kind of an outlier of sort because it is a Submariner with an Explorer dial, the 6200 or what some people call the King Sub, and it’s funny because that’s the earliest Submariner reference but we see it come to market later.

It has the “3, 6, 9” dial, this is the first Submariner to have that and also we see the eight-millimeter crown which is of course what makes it most distinguishable. Big crown models are referred to as James Bond’s Submariners. And having one with the small logo like this is much rarer and having any in really good condition is extremely desirable.

The small crown Submariner 6536/1 (1956-1957)

The next group of watches we have is where a lot of people would see and immediately recognize true Submariner, or all the DNA is there, and that’s the 6536/1, also called a small crown Submariner. This feels very similar to the earlier models but it has a depth rating and the dial of 100 meters, no hash bezel, it also has that distinctive white seconds hand.

The last version of 6536/1 is the first model with the hash marks between 0 and 15 minutes, also with a red triangle mark, also with a depth rating.

The Submariner has a long history, so we divided this guide into three comprehensive parts. Subscribe to our newsletter to find out first when the second part will be available.

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