Rolex Military Submariner

May 23, 2018 by  
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If the Rolex Submariner is the most famous dive watch, then the Rolex Military Submariner, or MilSub, is the most famous military-issued dive watch. What is now a highly sought after piece of watch history — and one of the rarest collector’s watches ever — was once merely Ministry of Defense (MOD) standard issue equipment.

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Around 1957, when the MOD was ready to commit to the Submariner, Rolex was several years and several upgraded references into the Submariner’s history. The 6538, which would become known as the Bond Submariner for its time on Connery’s wrist, was made into a MOD-spec version, the A/6538. According to Mike Wood, one of the world’s preeminent collectors and authorities on MilSubs, the MOD required certain features that would differentiate the civilian and military Subs: fixed bars, requiring a nylon strap and ensuring the watch case isn’t leaving your person without an arm attached to it; a larger bezel, allowing gloved divers more gripping power; and a bezel material of German silver, which would typically dent upon impact, versus cracking or breaking. The factory-installed dials with luminescent markers powered by radium had to be re-lumed by MOD watchmakers due to their unsafe radioactive levels. Tritium was used for the re-lume, signified by a circled “T” above the depth rating — making this likely the only vintage watch worth just as much or more with a re-finished dial.

While the three 5513-based MilSubs are very similar, their subtle differences are based on markings and date of release. The early 1970s saw the release of the 5513 MilSub, which, as you can guess, is stamped with a 5513 between the lugs. As the mid-70s wore on, the 5513/5517 began production, adding a small 5517 marking on the backside of one of the lugs — hence the term “double-stamped”. Finally, the most sought-after reference, the 5517, followed the 5513/5517 and replaced the 5513 marking between the 12:00 lugs to simply read “5517”. Clear as mud, right?

The MilSub is one of the priciest vintage Rolex watches, the result of having serious military provenance combined with such low production numbers. All told, from 1971 through 1979, only about 1,200 MilSubs were issued, of which an estimated 180 or so still exist today. Regardless of whether it’s an A/6538, 5513, 5513/5517, or 5517 purchasing a MilSub takes patience, lots of research, a trustworthy seller, and a healthy bank account. In good condition and with documentation, don’t be surprised to see a MilSub fetch over $100,000. That’s a lot of coin for a modified Submariner that can only be worn on a nylon strap.

Trying to understand the MilSub from an outsider’s perspective, the high prices and obsessive collectors may seem odd, maybe even ridiculous. But after digging into the details, the picture gets somewhat clearer; the history is there, and it’s nothing short of impressive. Over a short span, MilSubs provided a clear link between watchmaking and world history. As the existing examples get lost with time, the link slowly fades away with them. So, you know what? Forget the Queen. God save the remaining MilSubs.

It seemed as though the beefed up Submariner was to receive its own reference number, 6540, given the amount of modifications, but, likely due to the small production run, the reference defaulted to A/6538. In fact, documented examples show a crossed-out “6540” stamped inside of the casebacks, with “A/6538” stamped alongside.

Rolex Milgauss Watches

May 18, 2018 by  
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The lack of a date cutout also results in what is a simply awesomely symmetrical dial; which is easily one of my favorite aspects of the Rolex Milgauss. First, the dial is black with simple baton-like hour markers filled with white Super-Luminova that shine green, though the markers at 3, 6, and 9 are orange-filled and shine blue. At twelve o’clock is a large Rolex coronet underneath which the Rolex Milgauss model is marked with the common Oyster Perpetual. The hour and minutes hands are similar to the Datejust model and are made of white gold with a thin strip of the white Super-Luminova. On the periphery of the dial is the now common ROLEX ROLEX (…) and unique serial number (at 6 o’clock) laser etched markings which helps with counterfeiting and gives the dial a certain genuineness…

Inside the Rolex Milgauss is the in-house Rolex 3131 movement, that while hidden from view, is superbly accurate and sparsely decorated. I’ve spent weeks wearing it noticing only about +/- 1 or 2 seconds difference from my iPhone reference time which I used to set the Rolex Milgauss using the 3131 movement hacking feature. The power reserve is 48 hours and the 3131 movement can also be wound manually by unscrewing the non-protected large but flat crown. There is no date on the Rolex Milgauss since any cutout on the dial would likely interfere with the operation of the Faraday cage. Finally, the 3131 movement includes the Rolex Parachrom hairspring which is made with a highly non-magnetic material, providing additional protection from the omnipresent fields that the Rolex Milgauss tries so hard to fight against.

But perhaps the best aspects of the dial are these two subsequent features. First, the seconds hand on this watch is the completely unique lightning bolt hand that is painted orange. The color contrasts perfectly with the black dial and also matches the discreet seconds markings around the dial (also in orange). And second, to complete the case, the dial is covered by the uniquely colored crystal matching the corporate colors of Rolex. The crystal is perfectly transparent with hints of green that never overpowers and seem to change intensity depending on the angle you look at the dial or how light is reflected on it. Finally, while you would not think that orange and green would work well together, it does so in this case in spades… and this is coming from someone whose color preferences tends to be conservative (read, black and white).

Rolex GMT-Master II Everose

May 10, 2018 by  
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This new GMT-Master II is made entriely of Everose gold and weighs a ton. But it’s a comfortable ton, we might add.The dimensions and specifications of the Rolex GMT-Master II Everose are largely comparable with the Rolex GMT-Master II that we talked about here (new Pepsi). It’s a 40mm diameter watch with bi-directional bezel and the Rolex in-house developed caliber 3235 movement. The bracelet, in this case, is an Oyster bracelet with polished center link (like the one on all other GMT-Master II models except the new Pepsi) with Easylink system and fliplock Oysterclasp. There is little to tell that we haven’t already explained to be honest.

However, the use of Everose gold is new to this model (and the bi-color version) and this, in combination with the black and brown ceramic bezel, makes it a very special watch. Shouldn’t this be yellow gold with a brown dial (perhaps even with some nipple hour markers), I asked myself when looking at the displays of the Rolex booth. Once on the wrist though, I felt that the Rolex GMT-Master II Everose is really easy on the skin: less ‘hard’ than a yellow GMT-Master II would be. Because one of our guys has an earler model and for the sake of comparing, we put it next to the new Rolex GMT-Master II Everose.

With this Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi, the GMT-Master II Bi-color (steel and Everose) and this GMT-Master II Everose, there’s quite an interesting line-up of new variants. Let’s also not forget about the new white gold GMT-Master II Pepsi, with blue dial. Unfortunately we did not have the opportunity to shoot this particular reference. Also good to know is that the Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Batman’ (blue & black bezel) will stay in the collection, despite other rumors in the market. We checked this with Rolex and they confirmed that this model will stay in production.