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The Minute Details: Rolex Submariner 5512 Part I

December 13, 2017

BY Paul Altieri

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In our latest installment of The Minute Details series—where we examine the seemingly small differences that make a huge impact on the watch’s value—we dive into the famous vintage Rolex Submariner ref. 5512.

Produced from 1959 until about 1979, the Submariner ref. 5512 brought about several notable changes to the famous Rolex diver’s watch family. For instance, it grew in size to 40mm compared to the 38mm sizes of preceding models. Furthermore, it introduced the crown guards to the Submariner collection.

Like most vintage Rolex watches, during the two-decade production run of the Sub ref. 5512, the watch underwent several designs and technical modifications. Let’s have a look at what these differences are and what influence they have on the value of a vintage Submariner ref. 5512.

Rolex Submariner 5512

Rolex Submariner 5512 models. Left has the square crown guards and right has the pointed crown guards.

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Submariner 5512: Square vs. Pointed vs. Rounded Crown Guards

As previously mentioned, the ref. 5512 was the first Submariner to include crown guards. And depending on the production year, there are three distinct types of crown guards found on the Submariner ref. 5512.

When the Submariner ref. 5512 made its debut in 1959, Rolex furnished the watches with square-shaped crown guards. However, their shape proved to be unpractical as it was cumbersome to pull out the crown—particularly with diver’s gloves on. So Rolex quickly replaced them with pointed crown guards. The pointed crown guards eventually picked up the nickname “Cornino” by watch collectors, derived from the Italian word for “horn.”  About five years later, Rolex switched the crown guard silhouette yet again, to a more rounded shape, which became the standard shape throughout the remainder of the Submariner ref. 5512’s run.

In terms of value, because the square crown guards (SCG) were in production for such a short amount of time and thus, are exceedingly rare, these are the most valuable Submariner ref. 5512 models in the vintage market. In fact, Christie’s sold a ref. 5512 with square crown guards in 2013 for about $207,000!

Rolex Submariner 5512

The vintage Rolex Submariner 5512 is an undeniably cool watch.

Submariner 5512: Glossy Dials vs. Matte Dials

While all Submariner ref. 5512 watches came equipped with black dials, there are two main versions. The earlier editions came with glossy black dials with gilt (gold) text up until the mid-1960s. Rolex then replaced these dials with matte black dials with white printing.

As expected, those Submariner ref. 5512 watches with glossy black dials and gilt typically command higher prices than those with matte black dials and white printing. Similar to the GMT-Master ref. 1675, there are also two versions of the glossy/gilt dials found on the Submariner ref. 5512—ones with a chapter ring followed by those without a chapter ring.

Stay tuned for Part II of our in-depth look at the features that add the most value to a vintage Submariner ref. 5512. We’ll cover details such as two lines versus four lines, meters first vs. feet first, and SUBMARINER label placement.

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