The Untrained Eye
To many serious Rolex collectors, the classic Submariner does not feature a date display. Although the Submariner line was first introduced in 1954, it was not until over a decade later, with the introduction of the reference 1680, that it saw the addition of a date complication and Cyclops magnification lens.
Rolex Submariner 5512 models. Left has the square crown guards and right has the pointed crown guards.
As the Submariner was originally designed to be a precision tool watch rather than a luxury item or status symbol, the classic Submariner was initially offered in only stainless steel. Additionally, as it was intended to be a timekeeping companion for SCUBA divers to use while underwater, a date complication was deemed to be an unnecessary feature. Consequently, all early Submariner iterations featured time-only displays with rotating bezels and highly legible, black dials.
Vintage Rolex Submariner ref. 1680 comes with a date and a cylops lens.
The Minor Difference: The 5512 and 5513
To many, the reference 5512 and the reference 5513 mark the end of the “classic vintage Submariner”, as these were the last non-date displaying Submariner references to feature acrylic crystals. To the untrained eye, the reference 5512 and 5513 are near-identical watches. Both references share the same stainless steel case, crown, bezel, and bracelet, and both watches get fitted with black dials, time-only displays, and acrylic crystals.
In addition to being visually very similar, the reference 5512 and the reference 5513 have production periods that overlap. The only areas in which these two Submariner references differ are the movements inside and the resulting lines of text that were printed on their dials to denote the difference in caliber of movement.
Generally speaking, most reference 5512 Submariners contained COSC rated movements, while the reference 5513 did not. Due to this subtle difference, the reference 5512 Submariners that were fitted with movement calibers that had undergone and passed the rigorous standards of COSC testing received two additional lines of text on their dials that read, “Superlative Chronometer / Officially Certified.”
Vintage Rolex Submariner 5512 with the four lines.
Early examples of the reference 5512 can be found with non-COSC rated movements, and as a result, these watches do not possess the additional two lines of text on their dials. Consequently, it is not entirely uncommon to come across a Submariner whose dial makes it appear to be a reference 5513; however a closer examination of the engravings on the side of its case will actually reveal it to be an early reference 5512.
You’re An Expert Now
Both Submariner references, 5512 & 5513, are highly sought-after by collectors; however, due to the significantly longer production run of the reference 5513, examples are more plentiful, and can be found with a greater range of dial variations than the reference 5512. As both references pre-date the adoption of synthetic sapphire crystals, they possess an inherently vintage look and feel, making them excellent alternatives for those seeking a Submariner that is visually distinct from later-era and contemporary references.