“Nicknamed “The James Bond”, Rolex collectors will quickly recognise the significance of this piece. Its combination of the big, guardless crown and the red depth rating in two lines of writing with no unit measurement make it a particularly unusual find.”

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Submariner "Red Depth" Units Only

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Rolex collectors will quickly recognise the significance of this piece with its big, guardless crown and the red depth rating in two lines of writing.

Starting with Dr. No, Sean Connery wore a 6538 in several Bond films. This catapulted the watch to stardom and all guardless, big crown Submariners, even the 5508, are often nicknamed “The James Bond”. It all started with the 6538, which makes this one of the most sought-after Submariners in collecting history.

The Rolex Submariner 6538 has almost an endless list of features that distinguish it from its predecessors the 6200, 6204 and 6205. This is all because it has a dizzying number of dial variations for such a short production run of only 4 years (1955-1959). There is no readily available documentation confirming the lineage of the dial productions for the 6538. At least 10 dial styles are known of with some being much more rare than others. There appears to be an almost random approach to the design and manufacturing of these dials – some with two lines of text, some with four; some with red writing, some with gilt; some with depth units, some without. There were Tiffany dials, and also extremely rare ”explorer” dials with 3, 6 and 9 in radium filled Arabic numerals. The variations have led to a vast difference in rarity and price today. The most commonly seen 6538s tend to be gilt dials, appearing regularly at auction and achieving middle range prices.

This particular model features two lines of text, a red depth rating and no unit measurement (“200/660” instead of “200m/660ft”), which makes it an unusual find. The dial and hands are original without restoration or replacement parts. A soft discolouration to the dial has emerged from natural aging, along with the degradation of the lume spots and lume in the hands. There is also some natural oxidisation to the Mercedes hour, minute and lollipop second hands. The depth rating and Submariner writing have seen some slight degradation.

The 6538 measures 38mm in case diameter and has a comparably large 8mm diameter crown containing a twin-lock Brevet thread locking system, providing the water tightness expected of a Submariner of the time. The inner caseback is inscribed with Montres Rolex S.A Geneva Switzerland Patented., then, as with all 6538s, the quarter-year of production inside the production year (e.g. III 1956).

A domed plexiglass is age-appropriate and the watch comes on the riveted link oyster bracelet ref. 7206 with ref. 80 end links.

Probably the most common part of this super rare piece is the bezel, which is a relatively standard 6538, bi-directional turning divers bezel. There are interval markers at every five minute intersect with 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 ain Arabic numerals.

The 6538 contains the Rolex Calibre 1030, with 25 jewels running at 18,800 vph. This was the standard operating calibre for the early Submariners before developing the 1035 and COSC certified 1037 which came in later models such as the 5512.


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