Tag Archives: Submariner

Rolex Collector’s Notebook: The mystery of the “Neat Fonts” matte meters-first 5512 Submariner dial

Grateful thanks for this article go to timlua and HQ Milton for kindly contributing their dials and data. Thank you, gentlemen! I’m also especially indebted to the great collector & Man’s Fine Life contributor Beaumont Miller II, not only for sharing his watch photos but also for his invaluable insights about the “Neat Fonts” dial, its place in matte dial chronology and particularly his excellent observations on its similarity to the mid-1960s gilt Sub dials. My heartfelt appreciation for sharing your expertise, my friend — couldn’t have done this without you!

One of the things that makes collecting vintage watches so interesting, and Vintage Rolex in particular, is trying to decode the subtle changes that took place in ostensibly “identical” watches those many years ago. We see evolutions in movements, in cases but most intriguingly we see variations in dial layouts and typography. And just when you think you’ve figured out a dial sequence and its logical chronology, something else out of the ordinary comes along and makes you look at things with fresh eyes.

timlua's 5512 from the VRF Dial Archive -- the watch that put me on the hunt

timlua’s 5512 from the VRF Dial Archive — the watch that put me on the hunt.

Such is the case with what I call the “Neat Fonts” matte meters-first 5512 dial. I first saw this interesting dial several years ago, when a Vintage Rolex Forum member named timlua submitted his mid-1960s 5512 for the Dial Archive. I knew I had to have one… and it took me 8 more years to hunt one down. As you can clearly see and what struck me right away, the printing on this dial is not at all like what we normally see on the first generation of matte meters-first 551x dials.

A standard matte meters-frist dial -- courtesy HQ Milton

A standard matte meters-first dial — courtesy HQ Milton

Those first gen matte dials for the Submariner have always had a particularly “first draft” quality to my eye, with rather scraggly fonts and slightly uneven printing. And it makes sense that Singer, undertaking their first try at this new matte-style of dial manufacture and departing their tried and true gilt/gloss method of dial printing, might have had some teething issues with their printing techniques. But not so the “Neat Fonts” 5512 dial. You can already see the clean typography that would become a hallmark of the later 1960s and early 1970s Singer dials: nicely proportioned, flat-ish bottom Coronet with a small “mouth”; SUBMARINER text very clean with a distinctive snake-like “S”; and the depth rating pretty level with minimal jump to the numbers and open 6s.


In fact, the “Neat Fonts” dial does not resemble the Mark I meters-first Sub dials at all. It actually resembles the pre-Bart gilt/gloss dials of the middle 1960s with their high standards of printing and execution. So much so that aside from the application of the SWISS – T<25 you might even think that Singer used the same dial dye for the process. Perhaps they did after figuring out how to utilize that gilt-era dye/tampon, which featured a reverse printing method, and apply it to the paint-on-top method of the matte dials. But more likely they returned to it as a template for the new matte-style dye and that is why they are so similar if not quite identical.

5513gilt-coronet 5512MetersFirst-coronet

5513gilt-depth 5512MetersFirst-depth

It also shares some characteristics with the Mark III Red Submariner dial, particularly the fonts for the depth rating, the SCOC text and the odd little feature of the dash in the “SWISS – T<25” not quite being centered over the “30” tick.

Photo courtesy Beaumont Miller II

Photo courtesy of Beaumont Miller II


Photo derived from Vintage Rolex Forum's Classic "Everything Red Sub" by Mark Lerman

Photo derived from Vintage Rolex Forum’s Classic “Everything Red Sub” by Mark Lerman

(If you visit the great site DoubleRedSeaDweller.com you can also see that the SCOC text on the Neat Fonts and Mark III Red Sub is highly similar in format/style to the Mark I 1665 Double Red Sea-Dweller, indicating another connection there.)

Making this iteration even more interesting is that unlike just about every no-date Sub Rolex ever made, the “Neat Fonts” dial is always to the best of my knowledge found only in 5512s and never 5513s. Continue reading

tomvox1’s Vintage Watches for Sale — March selection

On offer this month is this absolutely stunning mid-1970s vintage Rolex reference 5512 Submariner. The true Steve McQueen watch — don’t let anyone tell you differently — the 5512 is the iconic Chronometer-rated no date Sub, which was produced in ever diminishing numbers as time went on and Rolex realized that not many customers cared enough about the fancy movement to pay the higher price when compared with the standard non-Chronometer cal. 1520 5513 model. It was, in fact, discontinued in the late 70s.

5512NonSerif-4 copy

But the discerning few were willing to pony up then and still are today. This is one of those magic Rolex Sports models that you come to appreciate as you learn the history of Rolex’s dive watches and how they all fit together in the big picture. Simply put, the 5512 is an elite Submariner and a cut above most matte 5513s or 1680s, all other things being equal.

5512NonSerif-move copy

And this particular example is even a bit more special than most other matte 5512s. Along with its beautiful 4-line SCOC dial (technically referred to as “Non-Serif” style in the ever more complex glossary of dial definitions) it displays a plethora of all-original qualities: wonderfully patinated Tritium luminous; matching original hands; a sexy Fat Font bezel insert with Tritium pearl; domed acrylic crystal for that unbeatable vintage look; and it even comes with its original Folded Oyster bracelet with “PATENTED” diver’s extension. It’s not easy to find a 40-year-old watch in this sort of all around period correct condition — this baby is truly a survivor!


To put the cherry on top of the sundae, this great 5512 has just been fully overhauled for years’ more faithful service to its new owner. If you’re looking for an elite Rolex tool watch with that extra special, extra collectible quality of 100% period correctness — not to mention that magical McQueen connection — look no further. Your Submariner has arrived.

5512NonSerif-lng copy

Check out the complete ad with many more pictures and complete description over at the Vintage Rolex Forum’s Market section  SOLD

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — January selection, Pt. III

Third up in January we return to those indispensable Rolex tool watch roots by offering this fantastic circa 1984 Rolex ref. 5513 Submariner, one of the all-time classic Vintage Rolex with one of the earlier appearances of the famous gloss/white gold surround dial. Last of the plastic Rolex Subs, this 5513 is in Excellent overall vintage condition and the beautiful dial is Near Mint (and that’s only because I’m a real tough grader!).

5513-8.3milGloss-2 copy

This dial is extremely glossy and has developed a lovely patina to the original Tritium luminous plots. Better yet, the hands actually match the dial plots in tone, something that is really hard to find on these gloss/WG 5513s due to so many of the handsets being replaced over the years. Simply stunning patina on this Sub!

5513-8.3milGloss-8 copy

Also cool is that the original bezel insert is a late Fat Font version not the more prevalent thin style from the late 80s. And this great Sub also comes on its original 93150 Heavy Oyster bracelet with correct 580 ends, the true business partner of any late Submariner with it’s purpose built diver’s flip lock clasp and wetsuit extension, two innovations pioneered by Rolex.

5513-8.3milGloss-bkl1 copy

Adding to the overall value, this great Rolex has also just been fully serviced and so is ready to rock and roll for many more years, whether you’re on land or sea. Strap it on and see where this  classic Submariner takes you. With a dive watch this tough yet stunning, it’ll likely be straight to the top.

Check out the complete ad over on Timezone’s Showcase section for many more pictures and complete condition report.  SOLD

The Gilt-Gloss 5512 Submariner– a Review by Beaumont Miller II


The 1950s to the mid 1960s was a golden era for Rolex. Watches produced by the company during this time have captivated the hearts and minds of Rolex collectors for many years. The passion that drives many watch collectors is the desire to find not just older watches, but to search for vintage watches whose dials have been well preserved and protected from the elements and at the same time, have aged in a way that each has taken on a unique patina. Thanks to the introduction by Rolex of it’s patented Oyster case with its improved screw down case back and winding crown, many of these dials have survived today giving collectors much to be happy about.

The dials produced for the Rolex Submariner and GMT during this time are known by collectors as gilt-gloss or gilt/gloss dials.  The term gilt, as applied to these early Rolex dials, refers to both the gold tone of the text as well as other features of the dial.  While many collectors may not feel that the term gilt is appropriate when used in this context, it has stood the test of time, and as any collector with a passion for Rolex dials can tell you, it is a far better description than the names given to identify some other dials. The term gloss describes the mirror like black glossy surface of these dials, which is in contrast to the matte finish which was introduced by dial manufacturers for Rolex watches in the mid 1960s.

5512-61,4line-2  5512-61,4line-3

The manner in which these gilt-gloss dials were produced is very interesting. While some dial manufacturers might paint the text on the colored surface of the dial, those making the dials for the Rolex Submariner and the GMT did so in a way that the gold colored text and features are in relief or below the surface instead of on top. These gold aspects of the dial are actually the brass dial plate and lie underneath a coat of black glossy paint. On top of the black layer of paint, a clear coat of lacquer was then applied . In the case of the very early gilt-gloss dials, it was not uncommon to have lines of silver colored text in addition to the gold colored text. The silver colored text was applied on top of the final clear lacquer coat. Finally, the luminous material that allowed the watch to be read in the dark was applied. The more radioactive radium used for the dial and hands in the 1950s to make them glow was swapped for the less radioactive tritium in the early 1960s.

The way these dials have aged is at the heart of why these watches are so favored by vintage Rolex collectors. Just as no two fingerprints are the same, the same can be said of these early Rolex dials. It is not uncommon for the dials produced in the 1950s to have a darker more orange color to the text on the dial, while many others that were produced later tend to have acquired more lighter shades of gold tone. The difference between the two is likely due to the radium versus tritium used for the luminous material and how the brass dial plate reacted with the chemicals used to prevent corrosion during the manufacturing process. Another beautiful feature of these rare watches is the appearance of the glossy dial in different lighting conditions. The richness of the black high gloss finish of many dials can be readily seen in the sunlight, while other dials exhibit different shades of brown.

photo  photo

Another reason these early Rolex models are sought after by enthusiasts is because of the attractive styling of the watch case. As hobbies evolve and collectors become more knowledgeable, it’s common for the emphasis placed on certain aspects of the objects collected to change over time. Vintage watch collecting is no exception. Within the last five or six years, collectors have moved away from the mantra, “It’s all about the dial” and adopted a more progressive maxim, “A great watch starts with a great dial, but doesn’t end there”. Both the Rolex Submariner reference 5512 and its predecessor, the Submariner 6538, share the large chamfers or beveled edge on the lugs of the watch case that are prized by collectors. In recent years collectors have realized that unmolested examples with their sharp cases nearly intact are rare treasures.

photo   IMG_0109                                                                         

The Rolex Submariner reference 5512 was introduced in 1959 and was likely produced until 1980. Early examples were fitted with the calibre 1530 movement, and the improved chronometer rated 1560 movement was introduced a year or so later. The 5512 shared some of the styling features of the earlier Submariners like the outer rotating black bezel that helps to keep track of elapsed time. However, unlike the earlier Submariners, the watch case produced for the 5512 featured crown guards on either side of the winding crown, a feature that remains on the Submariner to this day. The many different gilt-gloss dials combined with the different shaped crown guards are some of the unique features of the 5512 that make this sporty and elegant reference a favorite of vintage Rolex collectors. Understanding the chronology and significance of these early dials is a passion of mine. From a collector’s perspective it is important to be able to evaluate a vintage watch based on its originality and period correctness. Unfortunately, not many collectors have the ability to locate vintage watches from original owners, and because the provenance of other watches is not always clear, understanding the significant changes in the evolution of this Submariner is critical in making sure that the watch has the correct movement and dial.

The following is a brief overview of the 5512 discussing some of the more common and rare gilt-gloss dials and their characteristics as well as a short summary of the different types of crown guards and movements from 1959 to 1966. There are few hard and concrete rules with Rolex during this period, and as such, this overview should NOT be seen as a conclusive authority to check the correctness of your vintage Rolex, but rather a guide to help collectors appreciate the many subtle nuances of the 5512 from the early to mid 60’s.

A warm thank you to Andrew Shear for allowing the pictures from his dial archive for this 5512 review.  Click on each pic for a higher resolution photo in a new window.  



photo-17  photo-18

The earliest dials for the 5512 are often called MK1 dials and can be easily recognized by the shape of the coronet, typically with the last spike on the right extending a bit further down than the other four. The phrase “Old Font” dial, a term often used by Marcello Pisani, was an appropriate description based on the observation that the Mk1 coronet was reminiscent of some of the previous coronets seen on the “Big Crown” Submariners from the 1950s.

During this period there are two different types of dial configurations for the 5512. There is the 2 line version with only the depth rating and “SUBMARINER” printed below it and the 4 line version with


aka SCOC text , printed below the depth rating and “SUBMARINER”.

The early 5512 Submariner dials have different combinations of silver and gold text ranging from one line of silver and one line gold to three lines of silver and one line gold. Continue reading

Watch Collector’s Notebook: The Rolex 1680 Submariner — one vintage model, many looks, always desirable

When Rolex introduced the reference 1680 Submariner circa 1969 they did something entirely new for the brand: they created their first-ever dive watch with date function. Now your first reaction might well be: “What took them so long?” Blancpain, Omega and others had long had date divers in their portfolio. But the wheels of change move slowly at Rolex and they are never terribly concerned about following the latest trends. So no doubt the question of whether to make a date version of their iconic Submariner was considered with all due deliberation as the 1960s progressed and then the decision to proceed finally taken at the end of the decade when all the numbers had been crunched and the sales potential gamed out. In the end, it proved to be a very smart if somewhat belated call by the marque of the Coronet.


Using their recently developed caliber 1575 date/chronometer movement, which Rolex had previously reserved for their ubiquitous Datejust and legendary GMT-Master, the first versions of 1680 Submariner had the very interesting quirk of red writing for the model name on the matte dial. There is a great, thorough examination of the different acceptable Red Sub dials and their relative scarcity in the Classics section of the Vintage Rolex Forum for those who are looking for the fine details. But suffice to say what seemed like an eye-catching way to differentiate the date model from its traditional no-date brethren, the all-white refs. 5513 and chronometer-rated 5512, would eventually make the Red 1680 one of the most desirable and collectible vintage Rolex Sports models in the pantheon. And when its big brother the cult classic saturation dive-ready ref. 1665 Sea-Dweller debuted with its signature double lines of red for the initial double model name — “Sea-Dweller/Submariner 2000” —  it was only a matter of time for the prime position in the hierarchy for red writing Rolex dials to be cemented in collectors’ psyches. Owning a vintage Red Sub has become the goal of many enthusiasts of the brand and fans of tool watches in general, both novice and expert.


Rolex also had another idea for the 1680 Sub in mind, that of a super exclusive all-gold stunner along the lines of their elite gold GMT-Master, which existed from the very debut of the GMT line back in the mid 1950s. But Rolex had never made a gold Submariner — until they did so in stunning fashion with the debut of a gold 1680 to go along with its more workaday all-steel version. With a list price about five times that of its steel sister when purchased on its heavy 18 karat Oyster Fliplock bracelet with diver’s extension, the Gold Sub was immediately a status symbol of great impact.


With their beautiful “Nipple” markers borrowed from the GMT, the gold 1680 was initially produced in extremely small numbers with a meters-first depth rating just like the initial run of steel models. Continue reading

tomvox1’s Watches for Sale — May selection, Pt. II

The hits keep on coming in May with this stone classic Rolex reference 5513 Submariner. With an “L” serial prefix, this watch represents the last of the line for plastic crystal Subs and the end of the road for the legendary 5513 reference. Dating from circa 1988 this beauty features a stunning gloss finish/white gold surround dial with only the handsome biscuity patina to the original Tritium luminous plots giving away its age.


With important period correct details like a valuable original 93150 bracelet with correct 580 end pieces and original bezel insert with Tritium pearl intact, this Submariner is a great way to get into the world of Vintage Rolex. And as the 5513 reference gets bumped back another iteration on the family tree by the new Ceramic Subs, this outstanding last series example is no doubt destined to become even more collectible, which seems to happen to all the historical Rolex models as time passes. Putting the cherry on top of the sundae, this classic plastic no-date Sub has just been fully overhauled by my watchmaker for years more of faithful service. Strap it on and see how good it feels to go through your life with a Vintage Rolex on your wrist!


You can view the full ad for this sexy Sub over at Vintage Rolex Forum’s Market section — check out the full description, many more pictures plus a special discount for buyers over there.  SOLD

Rolex collector’s site of the day — 5513mattedial.com

Vintage Rolex collecting, perhaps more so than any other brand of vintage watch and especially with regards to the Sports models, is very much about the minute variations in the details of a given model line over time. Very often these changes in fonts, for example, occurred in rapid succession as Rolex ramped up production of, say, their Submariner line in response to increased demand for their iconic watches. Therefore, one sees not only relatively big changes in dial printing, such as the switch from red SUBMARINER to white in the 1680 date model or the move away from gilt/gloss dials to matte/white writing in the later 1960s, but also extremely subtle shifts in the basic fonts and printing of otherwise very similar dials that are much harder to keep track of and difficult for the unitiated to see. In the end, a lot of the main factors of a Vintage Rolex Sports watch’s appeal and value come down to hard-to-spot minutiae.

And that’s where a new site like 5513mattedial.com becomes so valuable. Taking a magnifier to the Matte dial non-date Submariners that were produced from the late 1960s until the early 80s, the site’s author, longtime collector Beaumont Miller II, has catalogued the key evolutionary differences in that ultimate Rolex tool watch, the reference 5513 Submariner, during its long years of matte dial production. Now in one place we have a handy collector’s resource that makes clear the key characteristics of Maxi dials, Pre-Comex, and the early Meters-First variations, among others. And as a result of these comprehensive efforts you will see more variety in this “common” model than you previously thought possible.

If collecting Vintage Rolex is all about the details (and it is!), then 5513mattedial.com is an exceptionally handy resource to consult when hunting a white-writing 5513 and determining where its dial falls in the production sequence and if in fact the printing is actually legitimate. Written in an entertaining and self-depricating style, the site is as thorough and specific as they come and shows that by looking closely and analyzing seemingly random minutiae at length, a much greater mosaic comes into view when all the puzzle pieces are finally laid into place. It’s a job well done all around and I strongly recommend it to anyone interesting in collecting these iconic Submariners.