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A Trio of Rolex Watches That Served In the Military

November 11, 2016

BY Paul Altieri


Since it’s Veteran’s Day, a day that honors the men and women who have served in the military, we take a look at three Rolex watches that have military ties. Read on to learn more about the Turn-O-Graph, Daytona FAP, and Milsub.

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1. Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph

Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph “Thunderbird” ref. 116264

Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph “Thunderbird” ref. 116264

Making its debut in 1953, by the late 1950s, the Rolex Datejust Turn-O-Graph was an official military watch. Used by the U.S. Air Force’s Thunderbird aerobatic squadron, the rotating bezel on the Turn-O-Graph allowed the pilots to execute navigational calculations. When Rolex caught wind of this, the brand created the Rolex Datejust Thunderbird timepiece with the Thunderbird emblem on the dial.

Because of the military association, all Rolex Turn-O-Graph watches are often referred to as the “Thunderbird” regardless if it bears the official insignia or not. Although the original vintage Datejust Turn-O-Graph line was abandoned for a while, Rolex brought it back in the early 2000s. Due to their Datejust shape, fluted bezels with markings, red seconds hand, roulette red and black date wheel, and red “TURN-O-GRAPH” label on the dial, the model strikes a nice balance between a dress watch and sports watch. Although the Turn-O-Graph was discontinued yet again in 2011, there are still plenty of options in the secondary and vintage market.

2. Rolex Daytona FAP ref. 6265

Rolex Daytona 6265 FAP

Rolex Daytona ref. 6265 FAP

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Peruvian Air Force, better known as Fuerza Aérea del Perú (FAP), issued timepieces to their pilots and officers including the Rolex Daytona. The Rolex Daytona 6265 FAP seen here bears all the hallmarks of a FAP standard military issued watch. The caseback has the FUERZA AEREA DEL PERU engraving, along with the last three digits of the serial number.

This being a Daytona 6265, it sports the characteristic metal bezel with tachymetric scale. Furthermore, it’s also furnished with the highly sought after big red “Daytona label on the dial. It’s estimated that only 700-800 Rolexes were ever commissioned by the Peruvian Air Force, thus locating a military Daytona 6265 FAP is a rare occurrence indeed.

3. Rolex MilSub ref. 5513

Rolex MilSub ref. 5513

Rolex MilSub ref. 5513

The most well-known and popular military Rolex is by far the MilSub. Commissioned by the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) in the 1970s, the MilSub is a modified version of the Submariner ref. 5513.

There are several details that differentiate this military issue Submariner from regular civilian ones. Firstly, the MilSub always has a large T within a circle on the dial to indicate the presence of tritium. Secondly, the rotating black bezel has the full 60-minute markings, rather than just the first 15 minutes. Thirdly, the MilSub had to have spring bars to allow for a NATO strap. And lastly, the Rolex Milsub is full of unique engravings on the caseback including Ministry of Defense part and issue numbers, production year, in addition to a triangle with a hat.

Since the MilSub is a very popular vintage Rolex, it can be a tough one to find. Moreover, because these Submariners were used in extreme environments by navy men, it’s even more difficult to find one in great condition.





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