James Bond's Submariner: A Coveted Work of Art
Fans and collectors dream of getting their hands on one of the James Bond Rolex Submariner models. The legendary secret agent, 007, turned these diving watches into style icons. Today, these works of watchmaking art demand premium prices.
Rolex in Service of Her Majesty
"Bond, James Bond." Sean Connery first introduced himself as the British secret agent with these words in 1962's "Dr. No." In the film, the charming and stylish agent pairs his impeccable manners with exquisitely tailored suits and a fantastic wristwatch: the Rolex Submariner 6538 from 1959. Rolex released the original Submariner in 1954. However, this professional diving watch first gained international attention on the wrist of 007.
The 6538 also accompanied Connery on the silver screen in "From Russia with Love" (1963), "Goldfinger" (1964), and "Thunderball" (1965). The Submariner from "Goldfinger" is especially interesting, as it features a black and olive green NATO strap instead of a metal bracelet. Today, manufacturers refer to this style as the "Bond NATO strap."
The Submariner was Bond's constant companion through 1989. For example, George Lazenby sports a ref. 5513 in 1969's "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." His successor, Roger Moore, later dons the same watch in "Live and Let Die" (1973) and "The Man with the Golden Gun" (1974). The next James Bond, Timothy Dalton, wears the ref. 16610 in the 1989 film "License to Kill." Since then, Bond, played by Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, has exclusively worn watches from the Omega Seamaster collection.
What Makes the James Bond Submariner Stand Out
- A legendary diving watch
- Classic, unmistakeable, and highly coveted
- Popular among fans and collectors
- A safe investment
- A true style icon
How much does the James Bond Submariner cost?
|Reference number||Price (approx.)||Feature(s)|
|6538||122,000 USD pre-owned||Big crown, 37.5 mm, caliber 1030|
|5512||30,500 USD pre-owned||Crown guard, 40 mm, caliber 1530|
|5513||16,500 USD pre-owned||Crown guard, 40 mm, caliber 1520 or 1530|
|16610||15,500 USD new||Date, 40 mm, caliber 3115 with a Parachrom hairspring|
Purchasing Connery's Submariner 6538
When Rolex launched the first Submariner with a unidirectional bezel in 1953, no one could have anticipated the cult following this timepiece would one day enjoy. Back then, this relatively simple professional diving watch cost only a fraction of its current price, even adjusting for inflation. The ref. 6538 has become especially highly coveted among watch collectors.
The 6538 is also known as the "Big Crown." As this nickname implies, this timepiece has an unusually large, 8-mm crown. This makes it easier for divers to operate the crown while wearing gloves. Unlike later models, this version lacks any crown protector, making it truly unmistakable. This watch and its successors share other important features, including Rolex's signature Oyster case and Oyster bracelet.
An In-House Caliber and Mercedes Hands
Rolex equipped the 6538 with the in-house caliber 1030. This movement contains 25 jewels and ticks at a frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour (vph). Even back in the 1950s, the watch came with a guaranteed water-resistance of 200 m (20 bar, 656 ft), as well as luminous hands and indices. One of the timepiece's most recognizable details is its Mercedes hands, which Rolex still uses on every Submariner, Sea-Dweller, and Yacht-Master model to this day. Finally, the Bond Submariner features a beautiful gilt dial with a golden minute scale and hands.
Of course, such an iconic watch comes at a price. A well-maintained 6538 sold for 567,000 USD at a Phillips auction in late 2018. Functional examples are extremely hard to come by, and any search for a mint-condition piece will be in vain. If you're interested in owning one of these timepieces, be sure to do your research and scrutinize every last detail; the vintage Rolex market is teeming with counterfeit models. Pay particularly close attention to the seller's professionalism and be wary if a price seems too good to be true. On Chrono24, your average pre-owned Submariner 6538 demands around 165,000 USD.
Features of the Rolex Submariner 6538
- Automatic Rolex caliber 1030
- Trendsetting Mercedes hands
- Gilt dial with golden accents
- 37.5 mm in diameter
Prices for the Ref. 5513 Worn by Moore & Lazenby
Both George Lazenby and Roger Moore wore the Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 as Bond. Rolex produced this model between 1962 and 1969. The Genevan manufacturer first outfitted this watch with the automatic caliber 1530, which was soon replaced by the slightly modified caliber 1520 in 1963. These two movements are largely identical, and neither is chronometer-certified. In the early 1980s, the 5513 received a few updates, including applied white gold indices and a shiny black dial. If you're looking for an authentic Bond watch from this era, be sure to choose a model from before 1980.
The Submariner ref. 5513 was the first of its kind to feature a crown protector. Other notable features include the Mercedes hands, a unidirectional diving bezel, and the Oyster case and bracelet. At 40 mm in diameter, this timepiece is quite a bit larger than its 37.5-mm predecessor. Prices for a Submariner 5513 from between 1962 and the early 1980s range from 16,500 to 60,000 USD in good condition.
Many collectors have rarer pieces with a so-called "tropical dial" on their wish lists. Over the years, various environmental factors have caused these dials to fade from black to brown. The striking range of brown hues lends these dials a fascinating sense of depth. Since each dial has aged differently, every tropical dial is truly one of a kind. These models are much more valuable and easily cost upwards of 60,000 USD, even without their box and papers.
If you can't get your hands on a 5513, the ref. 5512 is a good alternative. While it may not be a Bond watch, it does share many of its more famous cousin's details. Rolex manufactured this model from 1958 to 1978. Since it had a shorter production run, very few of these exclusive watches are in circulation today, resulting in higher prices. Unlike the 5513, the 5512 houses a chronometer caliber. You can recognize this model by two additional inscriptions, "Superlative Chronometer" and "Officially Certified," on the dial. Fans refer to dials with this design as "4 liners." Should you decide to purchase this model, be sure to have at least 29,500 USD on hand.
Features of the James Bond Submariner 5513
- Automatic Rolex caliber 1520 or 1530
- First model with a crown protector
- 40 mm in diameter
- Especially valuable with a tropical dial
Timothy Dalton and the Ref. 16610
Timothy Dalton portrayed secret agent James Bond in two films. However, he only wears a Rolex Submariner in 1989's "License to Kill." More specifically, he wears a Submariner ref. 16610 from 1987. Rolex ceased production of this watch in 2010. Many aspects of this timepiece are considerably more advanced than previous models, including its date and Cyclops lens. It also marks Rolex's transition from acrylic glass to sapphire crystal. What's more, the 16610 boasts an increased water resistance of 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft). At 40 mm, the case is the perfect modern size. The chronometer-certified Rolex caliber 3135 powers this timepiece and provides it with a 48-hour power reserve.
Rolex outfits this movement with a Parachrom hairspring. Parachrom is a special alloy that is particularly resistant to magnetism and vibration. Furthermore, these hairsprings are more durable than conventional Nivarox hairsprings. At the turn of the millennium, Rolex made the switch from tritium to SuperLuminova for the luminous material on the hands and indices. You can tell which luminous material your model uses based on what's printed below 6 o'clock. If it reads "SWISS-T <25," your watch features tritium. If it reads "SWISS MADE," you have a later edition with SuperLuminova.
Due to its age, it can be difficult to find mint-condition 16610 models. However, they do still exist – for a premium. While a pre-owned 16610 changes hands for about 11,000 USD, a never-worn version demands around 15,500 USD.
Features of the Rolex Submariner 16610
- Automatic Rolex caliber 3135
- Water-resistant to 300 m (30 bar, 984 ft)
- With tritium or SuperLuminova
- Robust Parachrom hairspring