Vintage Rolex

Vintage Rolex is no hype, it is here to stay. It does come with waves though and so do the prices of some of the models. Today, a double red Sea-Dweller is less expensive than it was a couple of years ago, but in general, you could say that almost all of the vintage Rolex sports models are a solid ‘investment’. I have never lost money on a (vintage) Rolex. I bought my first Rolex GMT-Master 1675 for 1800 Euro in 2003 and made a nice profit not long after (as part of a trade for a more expensive piece). However, when I wanted one back again, I needed to cough up around 4500 Euro in 2013 for a similar reference 1675. Now, in 2016, you have at least to bring 6 or 7K Euro for a nice 1675.

Rolex Submariner 5512 and 5513

Anyway, let’s assume you are in the running for a vintage Rolex sports model, a Submariner. The icon of Rolex and perhaps even the mother of all modern sports and dive watches. I selected the Submariner 5512 and Submariner 5513 references, the ancestors of today’s Submariner 116610LN and 114060 (no date).

The vintage Submariner with a date is reference 1680 and are – except for the version with the red writing on the dial – less popular than the 5512 and 5513 no-date models. Perhaps the cyclops (date magnifier) is still a thorn in the flesh of many collectors out there. As the title of this post gave it away already, it is 5512 versus 5513. Let’s go.

Rolex Submariner 5513

Rolex Submariner 5513

Long Production Run

Both references, the 5512 and the 5513 were in production for a long time, even for Rolex’s understandings. The 5512 was introduced in 1958 and was in production till 1978. The 5513 was introduced a few years later than the 5512, in 1962 and was in production till 1989. Although today’s prices of these watches suspect that there aren’t many of them around anymore, the total production numbers must have been very high.

Originality

So far for exclusivity you might think, but try to fetch one in a great condition. Most of them have been serviced a few times, including polishing of the case which means that the sharp edges and so-called beveled lugs are long gone in most cases. Also, during the years, parts will break down and need replacement. So you will see a lot of more modern bracelets on these watches, replaced clasps etcetera. A replacement bracelet isn’t the end of the world, but a replacement dial and hands are, especially in the eyes of the hard core vintage Rolex collectors. It can be a matter of hundreds or even thousands of dollars whether a Rolex is still original and unpolished or not.

Rolex Submariner 5512 - Rolex Submariner 5513

Rolex Submariner 5512

Chronometer and Non-Chronometer

Although many Rolex collectors are more interested in the aesthetics of the watch than in its technical specifications, both models have seen different movement calibers throughout the years. The Rolex Submariner 5512 and Submariner 5513 started both out with a Rolex caliber 1530 movement. The first few ref.5512 models that came out did not bear the chronometer (Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified) writing on the dial, and actually were not chronometers at all. Later on, the ref.5512 Submariners were equipped with a chronometer certified caliber 1560 and 1570 movement, bearing the chronometer writing on the dial (so-called 4-line writing).

Rolex Submariner 5512

Chronometer writing

Minimal Differences

The ref.5513 Submariner was introduced with a caliber 1530 movement as well, but was equipped with another non-chronometer caliber 1520 movement quickly after its introduction (1963/1964). Differences in these movements are very minimal, the big change came with the introduction of the caliber 3xxx movements, many years later.

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Both watches are very sought after, but when it comes down to the differences, these are very minimal when you take a look at the specifications of the watch. All movements used in these watches were based on the base caliber 1530 in the end. The finish of the movement, case, bracelet are all equal. This is why I previously stated that a lot of Rolex collectors do not care much about this technical stuff, but rather focus on the aesthetics of a watch. Nothing wrong with that of course, but the slightest change in font, color, bracelet type or whatever detail increases or decreases the value with significant steps. Be prepared for that and decide whether you really care for certain used typography, alignments, writing etcetera.

Rolex Submariner 5513

Rolex Submariner 5513

The Last Significant Changes

The Rolex Submariner 5512 ceased to exist in 1978, and the ref.5513 Submariner kept going on. The Rolex Submariner ref.1680 (in fact a 5512 with a date and cyclops) was kept into production though. In the early 1980s (+/- 1983), the dial of the Rolex Submariner 5513 changed significantly, as white gold rings were applied around the hour markers and the finish of the dial changed from the typical matte to a high glossy finish. The successor of the Rolex Submariner 5513, the reference 14060 (1989) was more or less the same watch, but with an upgraded movement, caliber 3000 and a sapphire crystal. It wasn’t until 2008 when Rolex introduced the Submariner reference 14060M with a chronometer certified movement and 4-line printing. We did an in-depth write-up on the Submariner reference 14060M here (and you will love it).

Rolex Submariner 5513

Rolex Submariner 5513

Which Vintage Submariner To Choose

One could say the Rolex Submariner 5512 is more sought-after (and thus more expensive) than the Rolex Submariner 5513 because of the production numbers, which could be true. It does at least sound more logical than the fact that it would be more sought-after because it has a chronometer-certified movement.

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What Matters To You

If you are having doubts whether to choose for Rolex Submariner 5512 or a Rolex Submariner 5513, keep in mind what’s important to you: exclusivity (less ref. 5512 Submariner watches produced than the ref.5513), the 4-line dial because of the chronometer certified movement instead of a 2-line dial or a clean and simple dial for example.  A ref.5513 Submariner in good and original condition starts around 5000 Euro but quickly become more expensive for older (and all original) watches. A ref.5512 in good and original condition – without box and papers – start for well over 10.000 Euro, easily.

What I Would Do

If it was up to me, and money is an issue (like it always is), I would go for a Submariner ref.5513 in good condition. I love the clean dial and both references without a date window and cyclops give me the same look & feel. I don’t care for the four lines on the dial, and only ‘200ft/600m’ and ‘Submariner’ is good enough for me. If you want a basic vintage sports watch, this is as basic as it gets with Rolex.

Rolex Submariner 5513

Collecting Rolex Submariner by Mondani

A Good Book On The Subject

Want to know everything about the Rolex Submariner (and Sea-Dweller) line-up? Guido Mondani wrote an excellent book on this subject. The latest edition of this book is now being offered with an interesting discount of 40%, so the price will be approx. 250 Euro (excluding shipping). An investment well worth it, as the slightest mistakes when buying a vintage Rolex Submariner can (and will) cost you much more. Click here for more information about this book.

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More information about Rolex can be found here.

*This article was originally published on October 7th 2010, but has been revised and updated. We also replaced all previous images with new images of Rolex Submariner 5512 and 5513 watches. The information on Mondani’s Rolex Submariner book was also updated.

Robert-Jan Broer
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Robert-Jan Broer

Founder & Editor at Fratello Watches
Robert-Jan Broer, born in 1977, watch collector and author on watches for over a decade. Founder of Fratello Watches in 2004.
Robert-Jan Broer
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  • Hok

    Nice article!

    Best regards

  • Another fine and relevant post here, Robert-Jan.

    The Rolex 5513 Submariner, of course, has an established connection to James Bond via Christie’s auctions which have confirmed it in a number of cases as associated with the 1973 Eon Productions 007 film, Live and Let Die. I have further seen some guesswork suggesting a 5512 tie, but, alas, no research cited.

    As to the Mondani book, let me say without reservation that it is well-worth the asking price. Although sold out now, I am confident it can be had on the used market. I bought mine new, and it is a resource I regularly consult; as I write this, my copy is within eyesight, one of the few books with a permanent position in my office for ready use.

    The other must-have for any serious James Bond watch researcher: Vintage Rolex Sports Models: A Complete Visual Reference and Unauthorized History, by Martin Skeet and Nick Urul. Again, I cannot imagine my own reference library being complete with out the copy I have!

  • Bogusjen

    Thanks for the “cliff notes” on these watches. Very helpful!

  • Rjscheuer

    I have a 1963 5512, as confirmed by the RSC in San Francisco. At its last service, in 1994, the SC swapped out the 2 line dial and replaced with a 4 – didn’t know this made any difference at the time, as I am not a collector, just a fortunate owner/inheritor. I did find out that Steve McQueen, a real person (versus a fictional spy), wore a 1970’s 5512 that sold for $234,000. My futzed 4 line replacement makes it a dead ringer.

  • Alpha Omega

    This was a great article, informative and concise.  Thank you for sharing your wisdom. 

  • graci giuseppe

    un rolex 5513 del 1979 con movimento 1520 deve avere il fermo bilanciere grazie a chi mi sa rispondere

  • Mario Falfan

    I own a 5513…and I love it !

    • Patrick

      I just bought a 1984 5513 with spider dial, beautiful watch. However wondering whether I should of got the new 114060, especially after readings this excellent new article on Hodinkee: http://www.hodinkee.com/blog/inside-rolex

  • Watches and Art

    Oh RJ, you are showing pictures of my memory and regret. For those who do not know, the 5513 underline pictured here was once mine and lastly sold at Christies for the highest price ever fetched for a 5513 underline to date. I wish I could get it back, the aura and patina and appearance of it makes it the most beautiful 5513 I ever owned.