When it comes to vintage Rolexes, it is the small, almost invisible differences that create values in the thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. Among the Submariners, a few models stand out and are highly valued by enthusiasts and collectors alike. Rolex introduced the Submariner in 1953, so all those early models from the 1950s will be valuable. A particularly noteworthy reference is the vintage Submariner model that debuted in 1958. 5508 made its debut in 1958. It was by no means the first Submariner, but it represented a crossroads in the history of the watch and the end of a particular style of Rolex’s now-famous dive watches.
Rolex introduced the Submariner 5508 in 1958, preceded by about half a dozen other models. Within just five years of introducing the Submariner model, all of these models would be hard to imagine today, as we have become accustomed to Rolex producing the same model for at least a decade.
The company experimented with the design of the Submariner in the 1950s, trying to strike the perfect balance between legibility, durability and performance to produce the ultimate dive best swiss replica watches. This was not to create the world’s most luxurious sports watch, but rather a quest to make the most reliable tool watch for underwater divers.
Those early Submariner models from the 1950s varied in terms of water resistance, dial details and crown size. Prior to the 5508, there were incongruities in the dials of the Submariner. Some dials had hour markers – similar to those of contemporary Submariners – while others had Explorer-style dials with 3, 6 and 9 indicators. Many collectors divide these vintage 1950s submarines into “large crown” and “small crown” groups.
The Submariner ref. 5508 is a “small crown” variety, featuring a 6 mm crown (for comparison, the “large crown” submarines include an 8 mm crown) and a slightly slimmer case. Rolex produced the Submariner 5508 until 1962, and its production cycle overlapped with other models such as the Submariner 6538, 5510 and 5512.
Although the reference 5508 marked a trend of standardization for the company, it was also one of the last references with features that symbolized the first submarines. Chief among these features is the absence of a crown protector. Although crown protectors are now a typical element of contemporary Submariners, none of the first Submariners was equipped with them, a change that occurred shortly after the 5508. The Submariner 5508 was the last model not to include a crown protector, in a 38 mm case. It was followed by the larger 40mm Submariner 5512 with its 7mm crown protected by a guard.
Another classic feature of the 5508 is its depth rating. The first submariner (reference 6204) had a water resistance of 100 meters, and the majority of 1950s submariners also had a depth rating of 100 meters (some boasted 200 meters). The Reference 5508 was the last submariner to have 100-meter water resistance, as subsequent Reference products had depth ratings of 200 meters or higher.
One notable change that occurred during the production of the Submariner 5508 was the evolution of the bezel. The earliest versions had a red triangle on the bezel (at the zero position), similar to the previous Submariner 6538. however, Rolex swiss replica watches eventually changed it to a silvered triangle, as did later examples. Regardless of the colour of the triangle, all Submariner 5508 bezels include a hash for the first 15 minutes, with markers (alternating numbers and sticks) every five minutes thereafter. Unlike modern Submariners that have unidirectional bezels (for added security), the vintage 5508 bezel turns in both directions.
Powering the reference 5508 is the Caliber 1530 nickel-plated lever automatic movement with 25 jewels and a monometallic compensated balance wheel. Both this movement and its predecessor (Caliber 1030) are known as “butterfly movements” due to the shape of their rotors. However, Caliber 1530 is more modern and reliable than its predecessor.
The Rolex Submariner 5508 is highly regarded because it is both the first and the last of its kind with certain key features.
When a company has been around as long as Rolex has, and has changed as little as it has with the Submariner, models that mark the end of certain features and the beginning of others certainly have their place in the hearts and wrists of true collectors.