In 1954, Rolex unveiled the Submariner. This was the first wristwatch that was specially designed to withstand extreme depths of water. Since its initial release, Rolex has issued 11 references or versions of the watch. Some of these references are far more valuable than others, with the smallest details making some Submariners worth only $5,000 while others are worth $30,000.
Reference 6204 is the first Submariner, however Rolex’s interest in waterproof watches goes back as far as 1926 when they released the first waterproof watch, known as the Oyster. As the first Submariner, Ref 6204 does not list a depth rating. Rather, it simply says "Submariner" on the dial. This is also the only known Rolex Submariner to feature a white dial. Ref 6204 was produced for only one year in 1954 before it was replaced with Ref 6205. This short run, along with it being the first Submariner, makes Ref 6204 extremely rare and valuable.
Both references are extremely rare Sub versions, though they were produced for an extended period of time. The Submariner 5512 was introduced in 1958 and produced until 1978, while Reference 5513 was produced from 1962 until 1989. Submariner References 5512 and 5513 are sometimes known as the “gilt-faced Submariners” because the Rolex crown and writing is colored gold. From 1966 to approximately 1984, the Submariner Reference 5513 featured a matte dial as opposed to the previous gilt dial.
Reference 1680 was in production for more than 30 years, but only offered the rare red Submariner writing on the face from 1968 to 1972. This red letter Submariner is nicknamed the “Red Sub.” In 1973, Rolex made the switched to white type, known as the “White Letter Submariner.”
Another rare Ref 1680 model is known as the COMEX Sub. This specialty Submariner was made for the French off-shore diving company COMEX in 1978. While these watches were initially used as work tools, they are now highly sought after collector’s timepieces.
Reference 6538 has the distinction of being "The Bond Submariner." While other references also use this nick name, such as References 5508 and the 6205, Ref 6538, produced from 1954 to 1959, is the original James Bond Submariner. Actor Sean Connery wears the watch in the first four Bond films: Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger and Thunderball.
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