Tropical, ‘Tulip’ 4-Line Dial 5512 Rolex Submariner
Unless you’ve spent your entire life studying vintage Rolex, you probably won’t have heard of a tulip dial. Even if you have, you probably won’t have seen one with four lines. Yes, we’re back in the realm of obscure Wilsdorf details again, but this one is even more anorak than most. Have you ever looked at your Rolex coronet and thought, ‘Yes, this crown is beautiful, but a bit too pointy?’ Me neither. But it appears, by market demand, many collectors do indeed feel this way. Or Rolex people are just a bit silly. Probably the latter.
In the early years of gilt gloss Subs, 1961 and ’62 specifically, the 5512 went through a few different shapes of coronet. Of these, the least common is known as the tulip, so named for the fact that its points are in a straight line. The tulip dial exists in 2 and 4 lines, but in a very skewed ratio. It’s thought that there are roughly five 2-liners for one 4-line production, making the dial you’re looking at quite a rare bird indeed. This was because COSC-certification was sold at premium in period, so fewer were made. And that’s it; literally the only distinction. I never promised everything here would be groundbreaking, we aim only for ‘at least somewhat’ interesting. But the way Rolex collectors are, this small distinction means a near tripling of value. So there people who care what shape their points are in to the tune of hundreds of thousands in USD. A small, but particularly charming detail. It’s quite the odd niche we indulge.
This example, though, is one of the nicest you’ll find. Not only for its case, which has prominent bevels and great pointed guards, but the dial patina. Unless you’re blind, you’ll note that this is a gorgeous tropical tone with a deep cognac-like hue. The plots are still all present, with a deep patina in some light. It’s a 661XXX case, dating right to the middle of 1961, as would be correct for this dial. It’s a dream Sub for the right collector, though dreams don’t come cheaply. This one’s from a well-regarded collector and retailer who focuses on vintage sport Rolex.