Friday 16 January 2015

The Rolex Submariner 5513 - A 40 Year Chase Comes To An End.

I've told a short version of this story before. And now that this odyssey, this quest, has come to an end, I figure it's time to tell it all again. One last time, for the sake of posterity.
No matter how I looked at it, I had a feeling this would be a very, very long post. And I'm certain that the technical details will make a true hard-core Rolex Submariner collector laugh, but that's okay, too.
This is, after all, my own little(!?) tale of how I finally got my mitts on a watch that I've wanted for four decades.

It all began on a warm Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1975*, I think. My dad took my brother and I to a screening of two James Bond films at some cinema in Sydney Road, Brunswick. The films were Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun. It was a Roger Moore Bond double-feature. These two films started me on the road of a life-long Bond fan;

Whenever this gun-barrel sequence appears on-screen, my heart-rate increases.

And, without my realising it, another seed was planted in my head in that air-conditioned cinema on that summer afternoon. However, I didn't begin to figure it out until years later.
By the time Live And Let Die was made in 1973, Q Branch and its gadgets had well and truly become a staple of the Bond films. In this, Moore's first outing as OO7, Bond was equipped with a nifty wristwatch;

Being a kid, I paid no attention to what brand it was or anything like that. I just thought it was nifty that Bond had a watch with a powerful magnet in it...

...that he uses to lift a spoon off a saucer from across a room.

And, a few minutes later, to pull down a zipper on a woman's dress;

Being a pre-pubescent boy, I thought "Meh" when I saw that bit. Later in the Third Act, however, we find Bond and Solitaire (the Bond Girl) tied up and about to be lowered into a pool of sharks;

Bond once again twists the bezel on the watch and the entire dial and bezel start spinning. The bezel, you see, is a buzz-saw;

"Wow, what a watch!", I thought to myself.
And thought nothing more about it.

A few weeks later, my brother bought the paperback of Ian Fleming's Live And Let Die and the book's cover art was basically the poster for the movie. I doubt that he ever read it, and it sat on his bookshelf for years. I would take it down from time to time and look at the cover to re-live scenes from the movie. I think I may have opened it up to the first page once or twice;

"There are moments of great luxury in the life of a secret agent."
It would be a few more years before I sat down to read the rest of the book. I was about thirteen or fourteen, I think, and much of it went over my head. My big disappointment at that age was learning how different the book was to the film. No speedboat chases, no stepping on crocodiles (or were they alligators?) to get to safety, no Sheriff J.W. Culpepper telling guys to "step out of the veehickle". And no mention whatsoever of a wristwatch with a built-in magnet and buzz-saw, although Fleming does refer to Bond having a Rolex watch, but he never goes into more specific detail regarding which model Bond wore. This has been the topic of much (and often heated) discussion on wristwatch forums over the last decade.

I thought nothing more about Bond's wristwatch until a few years later when I found myself with yet another 'flu, sitting in my Doctor's waiting room. I looked past the issues of Women's Weekly and Little Golden Books and picked up an issue of Reader's Digest.
Pretty soon, I landed on a page with this advertisement on it;

"Hey, it's James Bond's watch!", I thought to myself. And I thought it for years. I've got a theory as to why I was convinced that it was the Bond watch. I think it has something to do with the red and blue bezel on this model, the GMT Master. To a kid, those two primary colours are very LEGOesque in their brightness. Or maybe I remembered the design of the hands, the dots on the dial or the design of the bracelet, since they are similar to Bond's watch.

So, for quite a few years, I thought Roger Moore in Live And Let Die wore a Rolex GMT Master. As a side note, these classic Rolex magazine ads were pretty hard to miss. You couldn't pick up a Reader's Digest, National Geographic, or TIME Magazine without seeing one.
As I got older, and especially after I did Media Studies in school, I realised what a great marketing campaign it was on the part of Rolex, and also how vastly different it was to the way the brand markets it watches today. These old advertisements would always show the watch lying on its side, nicely lit. The text above would speak of some famous explorer, in the case of Thor Heyerdahl (above) or Wally Herbert, of Red Adair (who puts out fires in Texas oil fields), of author Fredrick Forsyth, who wrote The Day of The Jackal. These ads would always feature a couple of quotes from the person explaining why they chose a Rolex. It was usually to do with the accuracy, reliability and robust qualities of the watch. They were great advertisements.

Fast-forward to 1981 and I'm calling the only store in Melbourne that carries the Rolex brand. I explain to the gentleman on the phone that I'm interested in a Rolex GMT Master and could he tell me what the retail price is, please?
"You sound a little young to be wanting a Rolex", said the salesman on the other end of the line.
I explained that I've always liked them and the conversation sort of fizzled out after that.
However, I still went into the store a few weeks later to get a Rolex catalogue;
It was a small, 34 page affair. Slightly larger than a passport, slightly smaller than a paperback novel. And on page 23 was the GMT Master, model number 16750. The salesman I spoke to even wrote the retail price down for me;

Oh my God! A thousand and fifty bucks. Ouch! Still, I filed this catalogue away. One day, I would get myself a GMT Master, just like Bond wore in the movies.

A couple of years later, I sat down one night to watch Live And Let Die again (on VHS) and when I saw Bond do the magnet-and-spoon trick again, lo and behold, he was wearing a Rolex Submariner, not a GMT Master as I had thought for years. 
I guess on a subconscious level, I must have known. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, my passive hunt for a Bond watch was slightly recalibrated towards a Submariner now.
Time rolled on and, in 1987, I saw a nice TAG Heuer 1000 Series dive watch in a catalogue. TAG Heuer had appeared on the market in Australia a few years earlier and their Formula 1 Series models were selling like crazy. They were available in a wide range of colours and they retailed for $235.oo;

Almost everyone I knew had one. But I wanted something a little different, so I opted for the 1000 Series dive watch in two-tone. It was the '80s, after all. I put a deposit on it and paid it off over five or six months. It cost seven hundred and sixty dollars back then.

I needed a more water-resistant watch than the Maurice Lacroix dress watch that I'd been wearing and I didn't have the bucks for the Rolex Sub, so I bought the TAG.
Mine looked exactly like this one on the right. It was quartz (battery) powered, 200 metres water-resistant and 40 mm in diameter. Looking at the dial and bezel, it clearly took its design cues from the Rolex Submariner, but I didn't care. I guess that's probably what drew me to it in the first place. That plus the fact that I didn't have the discipline to save up for a Rolex Submariner.
I happily wore it for years and it served me well.

                                                                                                                                            Picture courtesy of Tagman1000

Rolex had released numerous versions of the Submariner since its first incarnation in 1953. Here's a list, not in order of release;
The 5512 model, which was chronometer-rated, meaning its timekeeping accuracy had been given the stamp of approval by the government-run Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute;

                                                    The non-chronometer-rated 5513;

The 1680, with a magnifying lens (normally referred to as a 'cyclops') over the date;

The 1680 "Red Submariner", which was produced for a few short years, making it highly sought-after
these days;


The military-issue-only 5517, with the sword-shaped hands and Tritium 'T-in-a-circle' logo, which is even more highly sought-after and is priced accordingly. Some sellers ask as much as $60,000.ooUSD for one of these;

The modern, non-date 14060;

And the modern, date-model 16610;

And, of course, there were a few vintage models from the 1960s, such as the 6205;

And, the classic 6538 model with the non-crown shoulders, red triangle bezel and gilt dial;

Now, this last one here, the 6538, is perhaps the grand-daddy of them all since it's the one that Sean Connery wore in the classic opening scenes of Goldfinger in 1964;

Sure, he also wore it in Dr No and From Russia With Love, but it was in this film that we see a decent close-up of it to the extent where the actual model was able to be determined. 

By now, you can see what a minefield exists in the world of vintage Rolex Submariners. There are some (or probably many) unscrupulous watch dealers in the world who mix and match parts from one model to another in order to create a collectible model. I've seen a red Sub dial sell on eBay for two grand. And then there are dealers who have a faded or pitted dial re-painted to look like new. This absolutely kills any collector-value.

So, if I was going to go for a Submariner watch, I would have to do my homework. I would also have to tread very carefully. 
And then, I began to see them everywhere;
-A 1680 model in an antiques store in 1990 selling for $2200.oo. I didn't have the money for it. 
-In 1995, a customer at the restaurant I worked at came in wearing a 5513 on a cheap leather strap. I got to talking to him about it and he said he paid a thousand bucks for it a couple of years earlier. Which was dirt-cheap. 
-In 1997, a watch collector friend of mine looked at the TAG Heuer 1000 on my wrist and said; "You know, for what you paid for that watch, if you have thrown another $300 on top, you probably could've gotten a second-hand Sub."
-In 2005, I served a guy who had on a 1977 model 5513 that he got from his parents when he turned 21. It looked immaculate. 
-In 2011, a dealer told me that he'd just sold a nice model 5513 for four grand.

And while in Thailand a few months ago, I spotted a nice model 1680 on a fellow's wrist and we got to talking. He bought it in the Philippines in 1976 for around $350 USD. Then he told me that a friend of his recently sold his own model from around the same era for $900 NZD.

Many collectors have told me over the years to just get myself a nice modern 16610 model. But there's something about the current models that I just can't warm to and it took me quite a few years to figure out what it is. 
Sometime in the early to mid 1980s, Rolex made changes to the Submariner. The 5512 had been discontinued and the 5513 model underwent a slight facelift. Whereas the hour markers on the dial had always been a plain white luminous dot;

Rolex soon put a ring of white gold around each marker;

This change made the hour markers smaller, since now a part of them were made up of metal rather than being a full dot of luminous compound. It represented a big change to the look of the dial, in my view.
Another change was the switch from a raised plexiglas crystal to a flat mineral crystal (before the later switch to sapphire crystal) and this, to me, took a little warmth away from the dial. I now felt that these changes altered the aesthetics of this watch and  I wasn't sure I liked what they'd done to this classic dive watch.
About five or six years ago, Rolex phased out the 16610 Submariner Date model and introduced the 116610 model. I hate it. Here are the two of them, side by side;

 picture courtesy of

The older model (16610) is on the left, the newer 116610 is on the right.
I like the larger dial markers on the newer version. And that's it. I dislike everything else about it. Both watches measure 40mm in diameter, but the new model looks larger. Notice the lugs also. They're thicker on the new model. Same with the crown guard. The classic Rolex dive watch has been fed a steady dose of steroids, as far as I'm concerned.
And the black bezel insert is now made from a ring of ceramic rather than aluminium.
One hard and sharp knock against the bezel and that ceramic ring will shatter. I've heard of it happening. Can't be repaired and not cheap to replace.
And one major pet hate of mine regarding modern Rolex watches is how they've engraved the name all around the inner chapter ring next to the dial;

Considering that a new model Submariner will set you back almost ten grand (AUD), I, for one, am not about to forget what brand of wristwatch I'm wearing, so I don't need to see 'ROLEXROLEXROLEX' encircling the dial.
But what do I know? Rolex makes a million watches a year, and sells every single one.

However, back to my Rolex story.
Around ten years ago, I had decided that, out of all of the vintage Submariner models on the market, I preferred the look of the 5512 and 5513 models most of all.
Of course, by now I knew that Roger Moore's Rolex in his first two Bond films had been the 5513, before they made the switch to those dreadful Seiko digital watches on his wrist later in the '70s, in an effort to keep Bond on the cutting-edge of technology.
As it happened, I was boxing up a bunch of wristwatch catalogues about five years ago and found that old Rolex one that I'd gotten back in 1981. I flicked through it again and landed on page 20.
And made up my mind then that I would one day get myself a vintage Submariner 5513;

I only really figured out recently why I want this particular model. In all the years of looking at these Rolex dive watches, in all the years of seeing the various changes and upgrades that were made, I had decided that I much prefer the simplicity of the 5513 model's dial. Plus the fact that this model on page 20 of the catalogue had pretty much burned itself into my subconscious.
I must have looked at that page a million times over the years.

Not only that, but the Submariners from this era were a reminder to me of what these watches were originally for. Sure, they were always an expensive watch, but they were expensive because of their reliability and because of how well-made they were (and no doubt still are).
And the Submariner, aside from brilliant 1960s magazine ads like this...

...was also worn by some of the coolest actors of the '60s and '70s;

ABOVE: Steve McQueen on the set of, if
I had to guess, Papillon (1973).

RIGHT: Robert Redford, as journalist Bob Woodward, in a scene from All The President's Men (1976). Although, I think this was his own, personal wristwatch, since I've seen him wearing it in many photos taken of him off-screen throughout the 1970s.

BELOW:  Jeff Bridges (with Jessica Lange in her
film debut) in the 1976 remake of King Kong.

 (Last two pics courtesy of

However, sometime in the Eighties, the Rolex brand was appropriated by the emerging Yuppie contingent and the idea of what a Rolex stood for (to me, anyway) began to shift in Pop Culture consciousness. 
A Rolex watch was now being seen as a must-have luxury accessory for a lot of people. It was a way of letting the world know that you'd arrived. Remember that scene in Die Hard (Dir: John McTiernan, 1988) where Ellis, that smarmy co-worker (wonderfully played by Hart Bochner) of John McLaine's wife insists that she show her watch, which she was given as a company bonus. "It's a Rolex", he says with an arched eyebrow.
Whereas for me, a Rolex watch still conjures up images of gas pipelines and oil platforms in the 1960s, of E-Type Jaguars with Raquel Welch or Ann-Margret lookalikes in the passenger seat, of guys like Steve McQueen or Rod Taylor pouring themselves a scotch while an unfiltered Camel dangles from their lips. I've always viewed it as the kind of timepiece some 1970s National Geographic photographer would wear (thanks to all those magazine ads, no doubt), or a war correspondent reporting from a bombed-out village in Iran, circa 1985.

My serious hunt for a Submariner 5513 began again about six months ago. I had already accumulated a bunch of photos off the web over the years, but it was now time to start doing a little more research. If I was going to get one, I wanted to do it right.
Even my wife said to me; "You've wanted one for so long, you might as well get exactly the model that you want. At least then you'll stop talking about it."

First things first, however. I wanted to keep track of who I dealt with, so out came a Moleskine notebook, a typewriter and the photocopier;

There are six or seven pre-owned watch dealers in my neck of the woods. Personally, I would only purchase from one or two of them. I have dealt with most of them during my years of selling watches. Some of them were okay to deal with, but they always seemed to grumble over money. They would come into my store with some pre-owned wristwatch that they had just bought that would require a new leather strap or bracelet in order to make it more presentable for them to on-sell. And they would always want a discount on the strap or bracelet before placing an order. I would always have to remind them that there's practically no profit margin in spare parts. The price that they would pay for the strap would be a few bucks more than what my store paid for it.

Anyway, I decided that I would deal with one guy that I knew. I'd give him first dibs on the sale, provided he had what I wanted. I knew he was going to do me no favours on the price, since the Submariner 5513 is a sought-after watch, but I was going to stress to him that I wanted a watch in near-perfect ORIGINAL condition.
While out and about one day, I passed by the shop window of another watch dealer that I've dealt with in the past. I figured it wouldn't hurt to see what he had in stock, so I went in. He saw me from his desk in his office and came out to say 'hi' to me. He knew who I was, but I'm sure that he couldn't remember my name.
We chatted for a few minutes and I mentioned that I was on the lookout for a 5513. This fellow has been in business for years and has had this model in stock in the past and I was hoping that he might have one available soon.
"If you want a 5513, you should go and see XXXXXX. He gets them in from time to time", he said.
This was basically code for 'I don't think I'd call you if I get a 5513 in stock because I have long-term, regular customers that I could sell one to if I had it.'
That's the vibe that I got. And that's it with this dealer, as far as I'm concerned. I've been in his store about three or four times in the past and he's always given the impression that he wouldn't shake your hand unless there was a wad of cash in it. He's always provided the very bare minimum of service.
I'll never walk into his store again.

A few months ago, I was speaking with Mike, you remember him;

Wristwatch Case Restoration Done The Right Way

...and I was saying a 5513 was next on my hit-list and he said; "Do you want one? Why didn't you ask me? Don't waste your time with XXXXXX and YYYYY, I can get you one the next time I go to Hong Kong."
Now, to be honest, it had never occurred to me to ask Mike to source one for me. Reason being that I didn't think he was up on what to look for in a genuine, unmolested Rolex Submariner 5513. I told him as much. I didn't mean that as an insult, but I wasn't sure how au fait  he was with vintage Rolex dive watches, since he mainly sells more recent models.
What I hadn't realised was that he had indeed gotten very familiar with vintage Rolex dive watches in the past couple of years, since he has had similar enquiries from other customers in the past. 
He said he'd have a look for one during his next buying trip to Hong Kong. He was about to go on a buying trip to Japan and asked me if I wanted him to look for one there.
I said; "You could try, but I'm telling you now, Japanese collectors go for very pristine condition and Japanese dealers price their watches accordingly. I think they'll cost a bomb over there. But have a look anyway, since you're there. You never know."
Two weeks later, I spoke to Mike. His results were no surprise to me. He did indeed find one or two of them in Japan. But the prices were high. However, their condition was excellent.

Mike headed over to Hong Kong in early August. He told me he'd keep a lookout for any Submariner 5513s. Before he left, I told him exactly what I was looking for- a model with matching patina on dial and hands, from between the years 1977 and 1983, bracelet optional.
There are a couple of  reasons why I wanted one from this particular time-frame.
Firstly, '77 was as old as I wanted to go, since that's already pushing towards forty years old. I have seen many examples from earlier years and they are either incredibly pricey or their dials are a little too faded for my liking.
And secondly, sometime in 1983, Rolex made the change to the dial markers that involved those dreaded rings of white gold that I mentioned earlier.

It didn't take Mike long to find a suitable watch. I got an e-mail from him two days later with photos of a watch that he'd placed on hold with a dealer. I have to say, this watch was in great condition. The case and bracelet were in decent condition with no visible dents or nicks, and the patina on the dial markers and hands matched perfectly. Ah yes, the patina. This was perhaps my main concern. With older watches, which used a tritium compound for the luminous areas of the dial and hands, there is always a tendency for this compound to discolour as the years roll by. Tritium starts off as white and, through exposure to UV light over time, it begins to change to a creamy hue and can normally wind up looking like buff yellow. This is the patina, which can usually, but not always, be evidence of an untouched, original dial. This patina can continue to darken till it ends up looking like stale cheese before it becomes brittle and begins to flake off. This result is to be avoided, obviously.

A few e-mails back and forth to determine authenticity of the watch, service history, and year.
This model dates back to around 1982. Perfect.
It was serviced in 2007 and again in March of this year. Nice.
It has the correct Oyster(TM) bracelet on it. Cool.
It had the service paperwork, but not the original papers. Good enough.
But the price was way more than I was willing to pay. As it turns out, demand is yet again beginning to hot up for these old Rolexes and dealers are hiking their prices up accordingly. Just my luck.

No matter. Something would turn up sooner or later. I just had to do a little more digging. I had already spent some considerable time on a brilliant website called in an effort to really brush up on the differences between models and now had an exact idea of what to look for as far as authenticity of dials and production years. So I just kept looking.


I got in touch with another dealer who had one in stock. I went to have a look at it, but it had a 'service dial' fitted to it at some point. When you take a Rolex in for servicing, if there have been any upgrades made to the model since it was produced, then those upgrades are automatically added to your watch unless you stipulate otherwise. So, if you have a Submariner with the white-dot dial, Rolex will fit the newer white gold ring dial to the watch when they service it. Again, this alters the originality of the watch, even though you get your watch back looking like a brand new one. A lot, if not all, collectors opt to keep the original dial in place.
So I looked at this watch and immediately thought 'no'. The dealer told me I could just get on eBay and chase up an earlier dial and get it fitted, but this didn't sit well with me. I wanted original condition, not something that I would have to modify. So I passed on that one. He said he'd keep looking, but I don't entirely trust the guy.
I called three other dealers Australia-wide who said they'd keep an eye out for me, but I somehow don't think they'll be picking up the phone to call me if they get one.
Called another dealer I know and he told me he hadn't had a 5513 in quite some time, but he'd let me know if one came up. No worries. I trust this guy, but I don't think he'll get one for quite some time. They've become pretty thin on the ground here in Australia. 
So I had to cast my net out wider.

Above- This is one guy's collection of Rolex Submariners. I shudder to think what this bunch is worth.

I began looking at overseas dealer websites. And once again tip-toed through a mine-field. Found one on from a dealer in Italy. It was a 1982 model that seemed to tick all the boxes and the price was fair. Until I went to my bank to enquire about sending money overseas. Call me naive, but I was a little shocked by the fact that the bank's exchange rate would mean that the watch would cost me an extra seven or eight hundred dollars by the time I was done. I have all of the family's accounts, including the mortgage, with this bank. I was kind of hoping they wouldn't try to stiff me. I'm naive, remember?

That was about three months ago. In that time, I've seen more Submariner 5513s come up for sale at higher prices than they were six months ago. And the word on the street (on internet watch forums) confirmed that prices were beginning to creep up again. Aww, hell!
Bound to happen. Now that I was ready to get one, every other collector in the world decided that they wanted one too.
Anyway, I contacted the Italian dealer last week. He still had the watch in stock. A few e-mails back-and-forth to confirm condition and get higher resolution photos of it and it was soon time for me to make the decision. I was now a little nervous. I had the money for it, made up from my last paycheck from the watch store that I quit a couple of years ago and the proceeds from a few watches that I sold in 2011.
So this was it. D-Day. Zero Hour. I spent another day thinking it over.Then another day. The watch looked good, the dealer seemed helpful (of course he was), I had the bucks, so what was stopping me?
I thought it over for another day. What was stopping me was how little protection I had from my bank if this deal went sour. Let's say I buy the watch and receive it only to find that it doesn't match the photos, for whatever reason, and I decide to get my money back, but the seller doesn't want to play along. I re-read the seller's terms and conditions. He offered a 12 month warranty on the watch. It would be sent insured, and via DHL.
I thought about it for another 24 hours before making the wire transfer of the funds, resisting the urge to throw up. That was on a Saturday, so I had to wait till the Monday to get in contact with the seller with my address details. When making the transfer, my bank has a message-for-seller screen that only lets you type in 90 characters. WTF?! I'm making a financial transaction with an unseen party 16,000 kilometres away and I can only have 90 characters? I should have made the payment via Twitter!

Monday night, I got an email from the seller to acknowledge that I had made payment, but that it would take up to 48 hours for it to clear. This I knew, so I didn't fret. Seller also stated "when you receive item, check that it is original." Hmm, we'd already established last month that the item was all original. I put that phrase down to the seller's command of English, since certain phrases in Italian will use different words when translated into English. So there was no need to worry.
Besides, I'd already checked this seller's feedback and there have been no complaints.
They also have a Premium Seller rating on Chrono24.

Tuesday night, the seller sent me confirmation that the payment had cleared and the watch had been shipped. An hour later, the package was in Rome, living La Dolce Vita for all I knew. Oh yeah, Anita Ekberg died a couple of days earlier. I've only seen the film once and it was a long time ago (VHS, bad print, too), so I think I'm due for a re-viewing someday.

A few hours after that, the package was in Leipzig, Germany, awaiting its next transfer.

Wednesday morning, I checked the tracking to find that the watch was now at DHL's hub at Heathrow Airport. My God, this watch is better-travelled than I am!", I thought to myself. 

Thursday morning, it had arrived in Australia and was currently at DHL's headquarters being processed, with an estimated delivery date of sometime before close of business on Friday the 16th.

Friday morning, I prepped the skirting boards in the lounge room so that I could paint them. Then I called DHL to verify delivery time and was told that I would probably receive it Monday.
'What!!!???', I thought to myself. Or, I was informed, I could pick it up in person from their depot, which just happened to be a twenty-minute drive from my house.
I tossed it up. Well, buddy, you've been waiting to get this watch since 1975, what's another three days?
After forty years, pal, it's another three days.
I got changed, then got in my car. Took my daughter with me too.
"Are you excited? Are you happy?", she asked me.
"Well, you know, it's just a watch, and I've wanted it for so long that I might have built it up in my head as some big thing, but really, it might probably be a few weeks or months before I begin to really appreciate it. As I wear it more, it becomes part of whatever experiences I have. Like the Omega that I was wearing when you and your brother were born. I don't wear it as much as I used to, but I'll never get rid of that one.", I replied.
"But you've wanted it for such a long time."
"Yes, but sometimes, you wait so long for something that, by the time it comes along, it might not have the same impact or effect that you thought it would. It'll be good to finally get it, that's for sure, but I'm wanting to remember that it is just a watch, no matter how long I've chased it."

Half an hour later, my daughter and I are back in my car. She's holding the DHL Express package while I unlock the car door. I sit on the speed limit, but can't wait to get home.

I unwrapped the watch once I got home. As I held it, I got quick flashes of various photos of this watch that I've collected off the web over the years. I recalled all of those classic magazine ads that Rolex used to do. I got a brief glimpse of Roger Moore as Bond cutting the ropes around his wrist.
This watch came to me with a lot of history attached, and I thought of those few times in my life when I was close to getting one, but didn't for one reason or another.
Anyway, I sat down and took a closer look at it. Case has been polished at some point. It's an okay job, but my man Mike can do better. I gave the watch a quick shake and it started ticking. So far, so good. I unscrewed the crown and gave it about five or six winds. It wound smooth. I turned the bezel. It was a little resistant, but that's better than a bezel that spins too easy. I took a close look at the dial and hands. The patina matched evenly, with no corrosion forming on the hands. Bingo! That was perhaps my main criteria. Anything else can always be dealt with when it comes time for servicing.
I'll take it over to Mike so that we can get the case-back off it and check the movement inside. This should have a Calibre 1520 inside it. So far, everything seems present and correct. I tried it on and determined that it needed one link removed.
Then I took it off my wrist and put it back in its box. There was still a heap of painting to be done around the house.

As I carefully ran the paint-brush along the skirting boards, taking care not to get any on the floorboards, I thought about this watch that I'd been after for decades. As I said earlier, it was a passive hunt. I didn't tie myself up in knots over it. I knew that one day I would have one. I just wanted to make sure that it satisfied certain criteria.
After I finished painting, I cleaned up and then got the watch out so that I could adjust the bracelet. A few minutes later, it was clamped to my wrist and, as I found out long ago when I first tried one on, the fit was slightly awkward as the clasp didn't sit right in the middle of my wrist. I knew this would happen, but I also knew that there would be a way around it. It would involve a little bit of fiddling around, but it could be done.
And so, I was finally looking at this watch on my wrist with the knowledge that I wouldn't have to hand it back to a dealer in the next few minutes. With the knowledge that I wasn't looking at a picture of it on the internet on Robert Redford's or James Bond's wrist.
This 5513 was mine.
At long, long last.

Anyway, here are some quick pics that I took. The house is in disarray as we renovate it, so I'll get around to some hopefully better pics over the next few weeks. I'm sure I'll be wearing this watch quite a bit, so there'll be more than a few photos popping up here. 

Now I can stop talking about this watch. Give my wife a break.
Thanks for reading!

* Live And Let Die was released in 1973 and The Man With The Golden Gun was released in 1974. I may have seen this double-bill in the summer of 1975, but it was common practice for cinemas to show double-features upon the release of the newer film, so it might have been the summer of 1974. We're talking forty years ago, so my memory is a little sketchy.


  1. Fantastic! Congratulations T, how terrific to finally land your great white after so long. Great story too, thanks for the fun read.

    1. I didn't factor in the import duty, ouch. That's when I thought; "I'm gonna need a bigger boat (wallet)." Still, that feeling will fade. In time.

  2. The story of the hunt is where the real fun is had, and what a great story at that. Enjoy your sub, Teeritz!

  3. Congrats mate! Pleased to see it hit the spot. :-)

  4. What a story of good things coming to those who wait! Glad you found what you wanted! It's a great inspiration to those like me in the same boat! I, too, shall persevere!

  5. Well done Tino. It's been a long journey but you finally got there. I'm so happy for you.
    Congratulations again,

    Ed H

  6. Congrats, man! A thrilling tale of a grand hunt fulfilled. (:

  7. Great story - mine is a 16610. I experienced the exact same similar yearning desire as a 9 year old watching Live And Let Die. My ex-wife bought me my first, (stolen in 1996 on my birthday by way of a burglary when I was away from home). The replacement model being identical to the one worn by Timothy Dalton in Licence To Kill...

    1. Can't fault the 16610. A much better watch than its current replacement. I almost gave up over the years and bought one, but I knew I'd still have an itch for this vintage piece. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Huh. I wonder what happened to my last reply.

    That's an epic post, good sir. And well done finding that watch! I too know your pain while attempting my first ever overseas transaction. I've done a quite a few now, so I'm not so fussed anymore. But I bed the funds were still quite substantial.

    That said, I'm about a week away from heading over to HK myself. Want me to look out for anything? Anywhere you suggest going to have a look?

    Enjoy your watch, good sir.

    1. Hey Scott, yes it was scary transferring the funds overseas based on trust. Have a good time in HK. There are quite a few watch dealers over there, but I wouldn't know where to begin looking for them. If you are in a watch buying mood, take a look at what Hamilton have to offer. Well made and not too pricey.
      And nope, I'm in no position to look at ANYTHING for a while. Wallet took a battering.

  9. Thanks for the comments, all! I knew it would be a tricky undertaking and I wanted to tread carefully. Luckily, it worked out fine in the end.

  10. A lovely post. Very informative, and wonderfully evocative. Great stuff!

    1. Thank-you, Mr. B. And thanks also for the reTweet!

  11. Congrats! Thanks for posting that Tag ad from the 80's. That brought back some memories as my first "high end" watch purchase. Back then I remember a friend bought a brand new Oyster for $1100 retail. I think the Subs were going for about $1600 retail in '89.
    Craig Richards

    1. Sixteen hundred retail? Damn! I could have almost afforded that. Which means that a 5513 with the older dial, which would have been available second-hand, would have been a little cheaper. Even here in Australia. Problem is that back then, I didn't
      have a clue where to look for a preowned model.

  12. Great story Teeritz. Congrats on the watch

  13. Like your story :-)
    I am 38 from Surinam owner of a Rolex Submariner mk4 1980 ( the last of the mohicans) And since a have seen James bond with THIS watch i fell in lovE WITH IT.
    I am Lucky to have bought iT in 1997 for +\- $800,- from a Very good old friend . I have serviced iT just once in 2001 ..
    Wearing iT Every day working , swimming, at All conditions even for a Black tie party .
    i love the Sub.

    1. Thank-you! It is a great watch and it deserves the reputation that it has as a classic dive watch design. You paid a fantastic price for that watch. They were worth much more that $800 back in 1997. It's worth about ten times that amount now. Keep it forever!

  14. IT s a timeless classic vintage piece !!
    tumbs up

  15. I purchased a new Tudor Submariner, unrecognizable from the Rolex but for the name, in 1967 for $250; a deal our diving club struck with a local importer. Gave this to my son when he turned 18 but always missed it. In my travels, 45 years later, I picked up a nice Tudor Presidential that my son took a liking to. I traded him for my old Tudor Submariner and its like meeting an old friend again.

    1. The vintage Tudor Subs are nothing to sneeze at. They had the same build quality as their Rolex counterparts back then. The cases, crowns, hands, dials and bracelets were all made by Rolex. The only main difference was in the movements used inside the watches. Now that you got yours back from your son, I'd hang onto it. They have become highly sought-after in the last decade, and their pricing on the second-hand market reflects this.
      Thanks for stopping by, Chuck!

  16. This was an excellent read! Glad you finally got that watch; it's nice when stories have happy endings.