THE 2 YEAR WONDER
It’s impossible to judge just how much of its abiding fame the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner owes to James Bond.
There’s no doubt it would still be the world’s favorite dive watch even without the superspy’s patronage, but would it have reached that status as quickly as it did had it not appeared on Connery’s wrist so prominently throughout all six of his official outings?
We’ll never know, but I’d imagine there’s a very large Christmas card from the brand above the Eon Production Studios fireplace every year, right next to the one from Aston Martin.
THE BOND SUBMARINER
Both Connery and Roger Moore sported a number of different Sub references during their respective tenures, but it’s the first model 007 wore as he set about ruining Dr. No’s plans for world domination that will be forever known as the Bond Submariner, a vintage Rolex Submariner that is incredibly hard to find.
By the time the ref. 6538 emerged in 1955, the watch was already into its sixth iteration in just two years, with several of its predecessors appearing and disappearing in the relative blink of an eye and in minute quantities. However, each new model built on the work of the last, and by the time the 6538 debuted, most of the elements we have come to expect from the Submariner name were in place, with one or two notable exceptions.
The black, rotating bezel had been a permanent presence since the watch’s inception, borrowing the concept from Rolex’s own Turn-O-Graph ref. 6202. Graduated to 60 minutes, with the first 15 marked individually to more accurately measure a diver’s underwater decompression times, it is perhaps the Sub’s most identifiable feature from across a crowded room.
The dial too, had evolved to its now customary form, with its lume-filled mixture of dot and baton indexes, and the inverted triangle at 12 o’clock. The Mercedes hour hand and sweeping, lollipop-style seconds hand have also remained unchanged for the last 60 years.
Where the ref. 6538 starts to show its age, in a charmingly charismatic way of course, is in its crown. Notoriously the weakest aspect of any watch design, the Submariner range was still four years away from adopting protective crown guards, when the ref. 5512 became the first in the series to do so.
The Bond Sub’s unshielded ‘big’ crown, measuring some 8mm, gives it an unmistakably vintage air, leaving the watch both immediately identifiable and strangely unfamiliar.