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Vintage of The Week: What Watch Did Steve McQueen Wear?

December 24, 2013

BY Paul Altieri


There’s vintage. And then there’s nearly-impossible-to-find-would-sell-an-organ-to-buy-it vintage. The Submariner 5512 belongs in the latter category and there’s good reason. Yes, Mr. Steve McQueen wore one, and while it’s pretty hard to compete with the man who starred in The Great Escape, Bullitt and Le Mans and had spectacular swag, the 5512 is even bigger than McQueen.  When this classic watch made it’s way into Bob’s Watches we knew that we had to share it.

steve mcqueen rolex submariner - Bob's Watches

Steve McQueen Rolex Submariner

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Vintage 5512

steve m rolex watch 5512 - Bob's Watches

Steve McQueen with a Rolex Submariner 5512

Production of Rolex Submariner models for the reference 5512 began in 1959 and moved to the next model phase in the late ’70s—1978 to be exact. This particular 5512 is back stamped and dated 1962. With nearly two decades of production dedicated to the Submariner 5512 model, there are a few specific qualities that define different periods during its time. It is what differentiates a modern Submariner to a vintage timepiece that carries a legacy.

The Face

The Submariner 5512 was produced with both two-liners and four-liners. And one of the first things an enthusiast might notice is this number of lines on the face of the watch, directly above the 6. The chronometer of this model is water-resistant to 200 meters; this depth rating, as well as the model name (200m = 660ft and Submariner) are listed on two lines. Other Submariner 5512 models crafted during the second half of the model’s run show four lines of type on the face. It is also significant when you notice that meters is listed first on the depth rating. Study any Rolex watch today and you’ll notice that the order of these measurements is switched.

rolex submarner 5512 brown leather strap - Bob's Watches

A Submariner 5512 will either have two or four lines depending on when it was produced.

The Numbers

The fact that this model of Submariner has numbers on the face at all is significant, as other Rolex models are marked only with bold minute markers. Assess one step further to see that another note on the dial shows that the numbers, 3, 6, and 9, are stamped with a process known as gilt, or gold font.

This Submariner 5512 is vintage.

Vintage Rolex Submariner 5512 with bold minute markers.

The Body

If you look at the sides of the watch, you’ll see that the crown guards are pointed. To achieve this effect, Rolex craftsman would grind these to a particular point, making them thinner and shorter than what you might see today. These are a characteristic of the earlier 5512 models and are dubbed Cornini among collectors. This is so rare that the early 5512 Subs are considered prototypes among the series. Rolex started using full-length point guards in later models. This 1962 Submariner 5512 is also fashioned with a Caliber 1030. After 1965 the company used Calibers 1560 or 1570.

vintage 5512 1962 - Bob's Watches

A vintage submariner 5512 from 1962. A line that was produced for more than 20 years.

A Stylish Vintage

We are very pleased to be showing off this unique vintage 1962 Rolex Submariner 5512. Please let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or sharing this post on your favorite social media website.



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