Explorer Dial 5512 Rolex Submariner
The Submariner is, today, a uniform mass market product. Mass as Rolex’s production today is about equal to the entirety of the rest of Switzerland, combined. And uniform because not one will age, or very minimally. Every single 124060 looks precisely the same, down to the tiny serifs on the repeat Rolex engraved on its rehaut. But this wasn’t always the case. The 5512 was a similarly mass-manufactured product. But production was totally nonlinear and often varied in small ways. Fonts changed year on year. The plots could be larger or smaller. You could have one in gilt or matte flavor. And, if you’re really hardcore, you could seek out an Explorer dial.
Yes, Rolex did make a handful of Subs with a 3-6-9 dial in early production. We’ve seen them in the 6538, 6200, 5510, 5512, and 5513. This was very likely an artifact of their production methods at the time, where if spare dials were hanging around the factory they just got cased up. What did Rolex do if they had excess Explorer blanks? Print Submariner with a depth rating and go for it. Although they’re a bit different in detail. It seems most Explorer dials were printed without an ‘m’ on the usual 200m, interestingly. And ‘ft’ is not italicized as normal. It also seems likely from much research all these years later that these all originated from a UK point of sale in period. Explorer dial Subs are perhaps the sole Rolex most emblematic of the era when Rolex just wanted to make a tool to accomplish a job, whatever the means, no more and no less. Not luxury; purpose. They got the job done. If some Explorer dial blanks were hanging around the factory, hey, they still worked perfectly fine. It was a totally different company.
But this didn’t happen with frequency, Explorer dial 5512s and 5513s are some of the rarest iterations. For all practical purposes, they’re unobtainium, both in scarcity and values today. The insane value says a lot about just how highly collectors respect the mindset that Rolex of old times held. Collectors today are willing to spend roughly the same amount on both a, technically, slightly-incorrect Submariner as they are a Grönefeld Grönograaf, which in every measurable way has had more attention, effort, and labor poured into it. And yet, by market value, that labor of love appears to be about equally as desired as a time when Rolex made tools, nothing more. There is certainly a kind of romantic nostalgia that we’re all guilty of in watch collecting, but here I think it’s deserved. That pure of heart Rolex will never exist again. It’s all AD games and mass-market luxury products from here on. So maybe the valuations aren’t really that insane after all?
This one’s really a great example too. First, it’s an exclamation dial. If you don’t know, that’s a very small dot of tritium below 6, which was only the case for 1961 and 1962 production years at Rolex, right after they’d moved on from a majority-radium lume composition. The case has seen a light polish, but still has decent bevels. Its dial is original and unrestored in the best way possible, orange numerals, light pitting in the lacquer from hard use, and slight fading of the chapter ring. This is echoed in the ghosted bezel, totally uniform wear. It’s a lovely object, and one that you don’t come across often. It comes from a well-regarded Miami retailer.