Tropical Meters First 5513 Rolex Submariner
Like Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, wabi-sabi has a hold on me. I think what appeals to me so strongly in a tropical dial is that it’s a massive middle finger to the idea of putting a watch in a safe and waiting for appreciation. This is appreciation through love, which to my sensibility is a far superior process. What was once a black dial, admittedly already-special meters first 5513, has been made something far more differentiated in this example, which is sporting a warm brown dial and slightly more purple-ish bezel. Tropical tones are common in a few 1665 dials, more common in early 1680s, but surprisingly difficult to find like this on a matte (not gilt) dial 5513. Someone wore this watch hard and they came pretty close to accidental art.
Tropical dials in 5513s are sort of a magical byproduct of the massive volume Rolex produced. If you’ve ever gone shooting fowl, it’s neigh-on impossible to hit a single bird. At least for a young me it was, not terribly practiced. If you disturb a dozen or so, even Ray Charles is going to land a shot. The 5513 had the longest production run of any Sub. There are a few out there. As such, one or two lived hard lives near the equator but weren’t polished to hell at RSC. This is that watch. It takes a thousand Subs leading varied lives to make just one like this, an object that is flawed, but perfectly so.
But it’s also a 1969, MF. Meters first variants hail from early 5513 production and were the dial which transitioned from gilt gloss to both matte non-serif & serif dials. This is where the fully-assembled DNA of the modern crown-guard Submariner line began in earnest. These things wear with a lightness and delicate proportion that a Maxi-case has nothing on. The look does not age either, this looked as right in 1969 as it does today, if not moreso for its dial. I’ve said it before, but, if there is a god, tropical dials are his way of saying ‘Wear your damn watches’.
This example has the points you want, MF touches like the L of ROLEX having less serif, SWISS – T < 25 across five hashes. Its case has proud bevels that sport a light surface wear, visible across the entire exterior. The dial doesn’t even need my remarks. Tritium is a light cream, dial is chocolate, the bezel has this great purplish contrast I haven’t seen on many (with pearl even). It comes from a well-regarded Dutch retailer.