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Rolex Submariner 6536 Ultimate Buying Guide

Paul Altieri

First launched in 1953 and remaining in constant production ever since, the Rolex Submariner is the single most famous dive watch in the entire world. Although it was originally created specifically for scuba diving, the Submariner has transcended its tool watch roots and is now worn by countless individuals around the world – both above and below the surface of the ocean. Produced for only a couple of years during the 1950s, the Rolex Submariner 6536 is one of the very earliest iterations of the brand’s iconic dive watch and despite its remarkably short production run, a surprising range of variations exists within this single reference.

Although it is not the most famous vintage Rolex Submariner (that honor would likely go to the ref. 6538, which was worn by Sean Connery in the original James Bond films), the ref. 6536 is one of the most interesting vintage Rolex models to study and collect. Below we take a closer look at the Rolex Submariner 6536 collection, including its history, key details, some noteworthy variations, and (of course) how much it will cost if you want to add one of these historic vintage Submariner references to your collection.

Rolex Submariner Reference 6536

Rolex Submariner 6536 Ultimate Buying Guide

Submariner 6536 Key Features:

– Reference Number: 6536 (6536-1, 6536/8)

– Production Years: 1956 – 1958 (Approx.)

– Case Size: 37mm (37.5mm for ref. 6536/8)

– Materials: Stainless Steel

– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds

– Dial: Black w/ Luminous Hour Markers (Gilt)

– Bezel: Bidirectional, Black Aluminum Insert w/ 60-Minute Scale

– Crystal: Acrylic (Domed)

– Movement: Rolex Caliber 1030

– Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 330 Feet

– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet (Stainless Steel)

– Price Range: $35,000 – $100,000+ (Pre-Owned)

Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Submariner.

Vintage Rolex 6536 Submariner Ultimate Buying Guide

About The Vintage Rolex Submariner 6536

By the end of the 1950s, the Rolex Submariner’s design had already (more or less) settled into the icon that we know today. However, in the first several years following the watch’s release, Rolex launched a number of different Submariner models, each with its own set of unique traits. The reference 6536 is one of these early models that first appeared around 1956 (although some of the earliest examples are believed to have been made in 1955) but was discontinued before the end of the decade.

While the 1959 launch of the reference 5512 introduced a larger 40mm case size and the addition of crown-guards, the earlier models (including the ref. 6536) are collectively known as pre-crown guard Submariner watches. As their name suggests, these models pre-date the implementation of crown-guards and feature smaller cases that offer a distinctly vintage overall aesthetic.

Despite the fact that the reference 6536 first appeared just a couple of years after the Submariner’s introduction, there are several other references that pre-date it. Additionally, while the Submariner 6536 was only part of Rolex’s catalog for around three years, the wide range of variation that can be observed among surviving examples is entirely representative of the numerous changes that were taking place during the years that Rolex was refining the design of its now-legendary dive watch.

Regardless of the slightly different dials, hands, bezels, and even cases that appeared on ref. 6536 watches, the single element that defines this model is its 6mm “small crown” – which differs from the 8mm “big crown” found on the Submariner 6536’s sibling reference, the “James Bond” Submariner 6538. Additionally, unlike its big crown-equipped sibling, the reference 6536 is also the last Submariner model to feature a 100-meter depth rating, before Rolex increased it to 200 meters on subsequent references.

Vintage Rolex 6536 Submariner Red Depth Rating

Rolex 6536 Variations

It is rather common for a large range of variations to exist among vintage Rolex references, and this is especially true for the Submariner during the 1950s. With that in mind, the reference 6536 offers far more variety than any of its predecessors, and it might just be the single most diverse pre-crown guard Submariner reference that Rolex ever produced.

Rolex 6536/6538:

Often referred to as Submariner 6536/8 or 6536/6538 watches, these versions actually pre-date the formal release of the ref. 6536 and are viewed as transitional models that represent somewhat of a mix between the Submariner 6536-1 and the “Big Crown” Submariner 6538 (both models were formerly introduced the following year).

The “double reference” moniker comes from the presence of both the “6536” and “6538” reference numbers on the case of the watch, with the “6538” number crossed out and engraved with the correct “6536” reference number. With that in mind, the ref. 6536 and the ref. 6538 have slightly different cases, and the Submariner 6536/8 has the slightly larger and thicker case of the Submariner 6538, yet has the smaller 6mm winding crown and the lower 100-meter depth rating of the standard Submariner 6536-1.

Rolex 6536 Dial:

Although all Rolex Submariner 6536 watches are fitted with black gilt dials with chapter rings and radium lume, there exists an astounding range of variation among surviving examples. Some of the very earliest and rarest versions of the Submariner 6536-1 and 6536/8 feature red depth ratings that read, “100/300” above the “Submariner” name, although you will only find these from the very first year of the reference 6536’s production run.

Even after Rolex switched away from using red text for the Submariner’s depth rating, things were hardly standardized. In addition to variations in the color of the text (ranging from gold to silver), early examples lack the units of measurement and simply appear as “100/300,” while the meters and feet designations were added later, bringing about the more common, “100m = 330 feet” depth rating that we see on subsequent iterations of the model.

Additionally, it is rather common to find Submariner 6536 dials that have a lighter color of lume used for the 6 o’clock hour marker. These dials were made during the earlier part of the model’s production run, and this design detail was intended to help aid with low-light legibility. To further add to the excitement for today’s collectors, these vintage Submariner 6536 dials have all aged differently over the last sixty-plus years, and no two examples will appear exactly the same.

Vintage Rolex 6536 Submariner Long Neck Hour Hand Mercedes

Rolex 6536 Hands:

Although all Rolex Submariner 6536 watches were originally fitted with hour and minute hands that had a gold-plated “gilt” finish, there exists a surprising range of variation when it comes to the handsets found on reference 6536 watches. Additionally, By the time Rolex created the Submariner 6536, the model’s now-iconic “Mercedes” hands had already replaced the “Pencil” style found on the very first references. However, it would not be until part of the way through the reference 6536’s production run that its Mercedes-style hour hand would take on the appearance that we all know today.

Similar to the early red depth dials, the Submariner 6536/8 and some of the very earliest examples of the Submariner 6536-1 feature “Long Neck” hour hands that have a noticeably longer section connecting the “Mercedes” logo to the base of the hands (similar to the style of Mercedes hour hand found on the older Submariner 6200). Additionally, when Rolex updated the case for the reference 6536-1, the mute and seconds hand also grew slightly to better fit with the slightly different dial diameter.

Lastly, the seconds hand itself underwent a number of small updates throughout the production run of the Submariner 6536. In addition to the luminous plot continuing to shrink in size, the finish on the hand also changed. Some of the earliest examples have white painted seconds hands, while those manufactured near the end of the Submariner 6536’s production run will have seconds hands with a gilt finish that matches the rest of the hands.

Rolex 6536 Bezel:

Just like the dial and hands, the bezel inserts fitted to the Rolex Submariner 6536 can also be found with a range of variations. While all of them are constructed from black anodized aluminum and have a 60-minute scale, they can be found both with or without individual minute markings for the first fifteen minutes, and also both with or without the famous inverted red triangle at the zero-marker.

The very earliest iterations were originally fitted with all-black “No-Hash” bezel inserts that largely follow the design of the very first Submariner bezels and lack individual minute markings for the first fifteen minutes. From here, the red triangle was added to the zero-marker, although it would not be until closer to the end of the reference 6536’s production run that individual hashes for the first fifteen minutes would be added to the bezel’s scale. With that in mind, not all of these later hash bezels have inverted red triangles on them, and you will sometimes encounter a vintage Rolex Submariner 6536 that has a hash bezel without a red triangle.

Vintage Rolex Submariner 6536 Red Triangle Bezel

How Much Is a Rolex Submariner 6536?

When it comes to the price of a Rolex Submariner ref. 6536, no example will ever be considered “inexpensive” (after all, it is a vintage Rolex sports watch). Any of the pre-crown guard Submariner watches from the 1950s will be worth substantially more than the majority of contemporary Submariner references, even if they show signs of age. However, compared to other vintage Submariner models such as the ref. 6200 and even the big-crown ref. 6538 “James Bond” Submariner, many collectors will be surprised to learn exactly how much less a reference 6536 Submariner costs compared to its big-crown sibling.

Like many rare and highly collectible vintage Rolex watches, there exists an enormous range of values for surviving examples of the reference 6536, depending on the specific watch’s configuration and its overall condition. On the low side of things, you can sometimes find a Submariner 6536 for as little as $30,000, but prices for well-preserved examples of early iterations have been known to trade hands for six-figure sums. With that in mind, most examples will hover somewhere in the $35k to $70k price range, and as you might expect, it is the very earliest examples that have red depth ratings and long-neck hour hands that are considered to be the most desirable among today’s vintage Rolex collectors.

Lastly, due to the fact that the Rolex Submariner reference 6536 was discontinued way back in the late 1950s, it has been entirely unavailable at retailers for more than six decades. Consequently, the pre-owned Rolex market is now the only place where you will find one, although Submariner 6536 watches sometimes surface at high-profile auctions due to their high monetary value and general collectibility.

As a whole, the reference 6536 is not the first Rolex Submariner watch that the brand ever put forward (that honor would go to the ref. 6204), nor is it the most famous vintage Submariner (that would likely be the “Big Crown” ref. 6538 worn by James Bond). The reference 6536 is not even the rarest vintage Submariner, as that is likely the ref. 6200 with its “Explorer-style” dial; however, it remains one of the most diverse iterations of Rolex’s iconic dive watch that has ever been created. Although it was only part of the brand’s catalog for about three years, the Rolex Submariner 6536 continues to entertain vintage collectors more than a half-century later.

Vintage Rolex Submariner 6536 Ultimate Reference Guide
Paul Altieri
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