By now, you know just how deep our love for the Rolex Submariner runs. Putting a Sub on our wrist feels like coming home. They’re classic, functional, and will ALWAYS be what we recommend losing your Rolex virginity to. But there’s one Rolex Submariner that we don’t mention too often.
It’s elusive, always in high demand, and keeps us collectors pining away. It’s the Rolex Military Submariner, better known as the Rolex MilSub. If you’re lucky enough to feast your eyes on an authentic MilSub, etch that vision permanently in your mind because you’ll probably never see another in your lifetime. And if you’re baller enough to own one- lock that baby up like Ft. Knox.
We’ve talked about the history of the Submariner plenty of times on here, but the cliff notes read like this:
The Sub was first released at the Swiss Watch fair in 1954. At resistances originally up to 200m below sea level, the Sub was manufactured for professional scuba divers. The durability, countless upgrades, and general badass-ness pretty much guarantees Submariners will hold their value.
Now….about the Rolex MilSub.
HISTORY OF THE ROLEX MILITARY SUBMARINER
The Rolex MilSub was created solely after the British Military of Defense requested it of Rolex in the early 1970s. Navy divers received a MilSub as part of their standard issued equipment. MilSubs are highly sought after today because they were never released for civilian retail, and historians believe only 1,200 were ever produced.
Three collectable MilSub models to note are the 5513, the 5517, and the double stamped 5513/5517. They all had similar features that easily distinguished them from non-military Submariners.
KEY FEATURES OF THE ROLEX MILSUB
Fixed bars: These bars required a nylon strap that attached to a swimboard. This swimboard allowed divers to measure depth and navigate direction via a compass. Because you can’t implant mines and attack ships if you’re swimming the wrong way.
Larger bezel: The larger size provided gloved divers more gripping power, and the special material (German silver) used was unlikely to break or crack upon impact. It also features 60 minute markers rather than the usual 15 seen on typical Subs.
Dial: A circled ‘T’ is seen on the dial above the six o’clock marker. The ‘T’ indicates the markers contained Tritium for their luminescence, which is a rare hydrogen isotope that glows in dark environments.
Sword Hands: The unusual ‘sword’ hands are no longer produced by Rolex, and are an easy way to differentiate between an original MilSub versus a serviced one. Flaking and oxidation are often present due to the larger surface area and Tritium content.
Out of the 1200 Military Submariners produced throughout 1971-1979, only 180 remain.
MilSubs are extremely hard to come by. Collectors would rather give up their first-born than sell a coveted MilSub. Occasionally an estate sale may unearth one of these timepieces, but patience is a virtue if your heart is set on finding one. You’ll also need a well rounded bank account.
As always, we recommend a trusted dealer when it comes to buying a rare, vintage Rolex. It’s best to let the experts (ahem…us) help research and find an authentic model.
Do you have specific vintage Rolex you’re looking for? Give us a call or fill out our contact form. Check out our Facebook page for box openings and watch reviews by our in-house watch expert Sergio Nuncio!