At a certain time in the history of the no-date Rolex Submariner, collectors will commonly accept the switch from vintage to modern references. This moment appeared at the end of the 1980s when Rolex launched the Submariner reference 14060. However, prior to this watch, two references were manufactured, both extremely close in design and specifications, the Reference 5512 and 5513. And because it is the Submariner with longest production period, it has to be seen as the absolute Classic Vintage Submariner, as our “columnist extraordinaire” Paul Altieri (Founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches) will explain here.
Although Rolex’s Submariner is their most successful and iconic line of watches, not all Submariner references are considered equal among collectors. The basic design of the Submariner has not changed since its inception in 1953; however, it has undergone a wide variety of subtle changes and updates throughout the years, as Rolex worked to refine and improve its design.
The very first Submariner references from the mid-1950s did not have crown guards like their modern counterparts. While these early examples have become quite rare and valuable today, crown guards have become a hallmark trait of the Submariner line. To many Rolex collectors and enthusiasts, the classic vintage Submariner is made from stainless steel with an acrylic crystal and features crown guards but no date complication. Two particular references that epitomize this definition are the 5512 and the 5513.
The reference 5512 was introduced in 1958 and marked the introduction of crown guards to Rolex’s Submariner line. A few short years after the release on the reference 5512, Rolex introduced the reference 5513 in 1962 and proceeded to simultaneously manufacture both watches for a number of years thereafter, until they were discontinued in 1978 and 1989 respectively.
At first glance, the two Submariner references appear identical; and even after a closer examination, a trained set of eyes would be hard pressed to identify any major differences. In all actuality, the only areas in which these two Submariner references differ are the calibre of movement inside, and the accompanying lines of text printed on their dials that denote the difference in movement.
Generally speaking, the reference 5512 Submariner contained a chronometer-rated movement, certified by COSC, while the reference 5513 did not. Due to this subtle difference, the reference 5512 Submariner received two additional lines of text on its dial that read, “Superlative Chronometer / Officially Certified” to indicate that the movement has undergone and passed the rigorous standards of COSC testing.
Not all reference 5512 Submariner watches received COSC rated movements; and early examples of the reference 5512 were fitted with the same exact calibre movement that Rolex used in the early examples of the reference 5513, making the only difference the reference number engraving on side of the case.
A large part of the appeal of the reference 5512 and the reference 5513 is that these watches pre-date the widespread adoption of applied, white gold hour markers and synthetic sapphire crystals to the Submariner line. Their thick, domed acrylic crystals and an assortment of possible dial variations give them an inherently vintage look and feel, while the rest of the watch is very much identifiable as the same Submariner that everyone has come to know and love.
Due to the longer production run and lower price-point of the reference 5513, surviving examples are more plentiful and generally less expensive than comparable reference 5512 equivalents. Prices can range dramatically depending on condition, dial type, and provenance; however, both the reference 5512 and the reference 5513 Submariner are considered classics and are highly sought-after by collectors today.
This article is part of our Historical Perspective Series focused on the Rolex Submariner. You can find the 4 episodes here:
- The Missing Link, The Rolex Reference 6202 or the “Pre-Submariner”
- The Very First Rolex Submariner, The Reference 6204
- The Original “Bond” Rolex Submariner, The Reference 6538 “Big Crown”
- The Classic Vintage Submariner, The Reference 5512 and 5513
This article has been written by Paul Altieri, Founder and CEO of Bob’s Watches, who has been kind enough to share with us his passion and knowledge, as well as the photos of this article.