Monday, May 25, 2009

Wrist Shot of the Day: Superdome Submariner...

Superdome Submariner

Alejandro took this great shot of his Rolex Submariner [Reference 5513] with the Superdome acrylic crystal. I have to say that one of the most intriguing and confusing vintage Rolex watches for me to understand are the Rolex Submariner 5512, 5513, 5514 and 5517, particularly when it comes to the acrylic crystals.

The Dividing Line Of Distinction
Between a vintage Rolex and a modern Rolex

Many would argue the dividing line between a vintage Rolex and modern Rolex is whether the crystal is Acrylic (Vintage) or Synthetic Sapphire (Modern). One thing is for certain, and that is the acrylic crystal Rolex watches have a definite and distinctly different aesthetic and vintage vibe.

For almost 25 years, I disliked the vintage acrylic crystal Rolex watches, but I must admit they have really grown on me and I really like them now. I have said many times, that often I have to hate something before I can love it. I don't know why life is that way, but that seems to be the way it works ;-)

The 551x series was the first model line of Rolex Submariner watches that were the larger 40mm. All the Submariner watches before the 551x series, like the Reference 6200, 6204, 6205, 6536, 6538, had no crown guards and were 37mm. In 1958 Rolex introduced the 5508 and 5510 that grew 1mm to 38mm, but still lacked crown guards.

To the best of my understanding, Rolex began making the 5512 in 1959, but it did not have the COSC designation on the dial for the first few years. Rolex made the 5512 until 1966, and then replaced it with the Reference 1680 in 1966, which ran until 1981. The key difference between the 5512 and 1680 was that the 1680 was the first Rolex Submariner that had a date–and the only Submariner to have a RED Submariner designation on the dial. The RED designation on the dial was rare and most were white and that is what makes the RED designation Reference 1680 rare.

Rolex started making the 5513, which never had a COSC designation, from 1962 to 1989. The difference between the 5513 and 5512 is that the 5512 was a Officially Certified Swiss Chronometer (COSC) and the 5513 was not. Externally they looked almost identical with the exception of the third and fourth line COSC designation on the 5512, but on the inside the movements were different. The 5513 (Non COSC) has one of those old-fashioned, adjustable on the movement levers, for fine-tuning the "+" and "–" of the speed at which the movement ran.

The 5512 (COSC) had the adjustable weights on the balance wheel to fine tune the precision of the accuracy of the timing. Sorry if your head is spinning, mine is to!!!

Back to the Crystals, I am confused because I have seen three different crystals on the 5512 and 5513. I have seen a flat raised one, a domed one that is also raised and the rarest which is called a Superdome. I believe the Superdome is pictured above. If anybody wants to help clarify this, please send me an email to or post in the comment section of this story.

BTW, A 5514 is a 5512 Submariner with a helium release valve and they are very rare. The 5517 Submariner was a Military Submariner made only for the British Royal Navy and to confuse things even further, Rolex also made a 5513 Milsub.

The other interesting fact is that Rolex started selling the first Rolex Submariner with a date and synthetic sapphire crystal in 1981 which replaced the 1680, but they sold the 5513 as the non-date Submariner alongside it until 1989. I remember when I bought my first Rolex Submariner [Reference 16800] in 1982 with the synthetic sapphire crystal, thinking it looked so much more refined than the 5513. Now I like simplicity of the 5513 better in many ways.

One of these days, I will write a definitive story with photos showing the evolution of the Rolex Submariner, model by model, as well as for the GMT, Daytona, Explorer, Datejust, Day-Date and Milgauss.

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