WristReview’s Top 5 Vintage Rolex Submariner Watches

By WristReview

Rolex officially announced the Submariner diver’s watch at Baselworld 1954.  In the 64 years since its debut, the line has grown into a vast collection of vintage and modern references.  While the newest generation of Submariners brings its own desirable qualities to the table, there is a significant demand on the market for vintage watches, thanks in large part to the character and history that older sports watches bring to the table as well as the adventurous spirit that has accompanied them since day one.  Today we will “dive” a little deeper into five vintage Submariners that would make an excellent addition to any luxury watch collection.

5. Ref. 1680 “Red” Submariner

Perhaps one of the most well-known divers of the past is the vintage Submariner ref. 1680, more specifically the variation with red font on the dial.  Produced from 1967-1979, it’s relatively easy to find this reference on the secondary market and has become more affordable in recent years.  What makes this ref. 1680 so exciting to search for is the many variations that it can be found in, ranging from original fat font bezels to one of seven dials.  Varying degrees of rarity coupled with a larger selection of variations and an affordable mid-level price makes the ref. 1680 an ideal option for those who are in the market for their first vintage Submariner.

4. Ref. 6538 “James Bond” Submariner

The ref. 6538 is most well-known as the Submariner worn by Sean Connery in 1962’s Dr. No and is extremely hard to find.  Some references sell for well over 100k, making it an unobtainable option for most collectors, but still interesting none-the-less.  In addition to its iconic 007 association, the ref. 6538 was also the first Submariner to be outfitted with the highly desirable big crown as well as to offer an increased depth rating of up to 200 meters.  If you can get your hands on one of the brand’s most coveted vintage Submariners, consider yourself incredibly lucky.

3. Ref. 5512 Submariner

Rolex produced the ref. 5512 for nearly 20 years from 1959 to 1978.  While it maintains the classic style of the early 1950’s references, it was also one of the first Submariners to feature a crown guard and bring a slightly different aesthetic to the line.  Throughout its production run, the Submariner ref. 5512 utilized the calibre 1530, 1560, and 1570 movements, all of which were COSC certified.  A non-COSC ref. 5513, which was identical in almost every way, was produced alongside the ref. 5512, offering a more affordable price tag and resulting in the ref. 5512’s eventual discontinuation.  Many avid collectors speculate that the shorter production run has made the ref. 5512 quite rare on the secondary market.

2. Ref. 5513 Submariner

As previously mentioned, the production of references 5512 and 5513 overlapped for quite a few years, and to the novice collector, both references are virtually indistinguishable.  Both offer a depth-rating of up to 200 meters as well as a similar-style stainless steel case and bracelet.  The main difference between the two is the movement that beats within the case, with the ref. 5512 offering a COSC certification and the ref. 5513 remaining un-certified.  The more affordable ref. 5513 prevailed and enjoyed a slightly longer production run and is more readily available on the secondary market.

1. Ref. 6205 “Mercedes” Submariner


The ref. 6205 was one of the earliest variations of the Rolex Submariner and is extremely rare.  While it wasn’t the first Submariner to hit the market, it was one of the first references to offer the now-iconic Mercedes hands that accompany every Submariner that has come to market since.  The Submariner as we know it today wouldn’t be possible without the addition of the ref. 6205, which makes it an often underappreciated yet worthy addition to our list.

Some of these watches are rare and collectors are head over heels for vintage Rolex watches. Luckily, we’ve curated a list where these watches are available. Bob’s Watches