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The Original Rolex 'Military' Submariner

The Rolex 'Milsub'

Rolex Military Submariner

History

During the 1970s military specification Rolex Submariners (Often referred to by collectors as 'Milsubs') were made available to both the UKSF Special Boat Service (SBS) & Special Air Service (SAS) divers. The watches differed to the standard Rolex Submariners sold in watch stores as they were modified to meet the needs of the elite units specific requirements.

Approximately 1200 modified Rolex Submariner were delivered to Royal Navy & British Army between 1972 & 1979. Because they were used in such challenging environments, the survival rate for watches in their original configuration is low, thus rarity along with their fascinating & important military provenance is why they have become so sought after by collectors.

The original Rolex Military Submariners were issued as 3 different references.

The Model References

5513
(5513 engraved between the lugs at 6:00)
5513/5517
(5513 engraved between the lugs at 6:00 & 5517 engraved under the 7:00 lug)
5517*
(5517 engraved between the lugs at 6:00)

*Note: Whereas the Model ref 5513 & 5513/5517 were a modified version of the existing Rolex Submariner. Model ref 5517 was unique to the Military Submariner. This particular model reference was never sold commercially & hence is the most sought after of the 3 references by collectors.

Full Specification

Each reference of the Rolex Military Submariner had the same custom specification:

  • Matt Dial with circled T logo - denoting the use of Tritium within the luminous compound
  • Sword or Gladiator Hands - for greater visibility
  • Continuosly graduated 60 minute bezel - for more accurate measurement of time underwater
  • Satin case finish - anti reflective
  • Military fixed bars - for enhanced durability, to be used in conjunction with a NATO strap
  • Military & unique issue case back engravings

The Dials

The dials of the Rolex issued milsubs were standard dials with the a circled T (denoting the use of tritium) added after the hands and before the model name. Between 1972 & 1979 4 versions of dials were used.

Serif
Non Serif
Smudge Crown
Maxi Mk 1

The different individual dial types were not exclusive to any particular model reference, but were relevant to the date of issue. For example a Serif dial should really only be found on certain batches of the model ref 5513 until 77 & the last batch of 5513/5517 (double ref). A Smudge dial features on watches issued post 77 (unless the dial was changed on an earlier watch during service)

Outer Case Backs

0552
(RN MOD service code)
923-7697
(NATO code for divers watches)
Broad Arrow
 
Issue Number
/ Year for Issue

OR

W10
(MOD code for the Army)
6645
(NATO code for time measuring instruments)
99
(NATO code UK)
923-7697
(NATO code for divers watches)
Broad Arrow
 
Issue Number
/ Year for Issue