The Rolex Submariner has celebrated over 50 years since it was first introduced. We can trace its roots back to the very first waterproof Rolex Oyster. However, the appearance of the model 6204 Submariner in 1954, signaled the dawn of what we have come to identify as the ultimate sports tool watch.
The Rolex 6204 was fitted with a Rolex caliber A296 semi-bubbleback automatic movement and was waterproof to 600 ft. This model was followed by the 6200 and the 6205.
In 1957, these models gave way to the Submariner models 6538 and 6536/1. Both had the new caliber 1030 movement and a larger case and better crown. This boosted the depth rating to 660 ft for the 6538, but dropped the 6536/1 to 330 ft.
The late 50’s was a transitional period for Rolex and the Submariner. Rolex introduced updated models using the 1500 series of movements. These ran concurrently with the short lived caliber 1030 series. The first Rolex Submariner to use the caliber 1530 was the model 5510. This model used the oversized crown of the Submariner model 6538. This model 5510 is one of the rarest of Vintage Rolex’s and was only produced for a year or two.
The Rolex model 5512, also using the Rolex automatic caliber 1530 and depth rated to 660 ft, quickly replaced the 5510. The 5512 was the watch that gave the Rolex Submariner its most identifiable face. With the crown guards, Mercedes hands and large waterproof case. This model was put up for sale alongside the replacement for the Rolex model 6536, the Submariner ref 5508 which still did not have crown guards and was only depth rated to 330 ft. When the 5508 was retired a new model was introduced. The 5512 was fitted with a chronometer rated Rolex 1560 movement. The reference 5513 was introduced using the venerable Rolex caliber 1530. The Rolex Submariner 5512 was marketed until the late 1970’s and the 5513 was finally retired in 1990.
All the previously mentioned vintage Rolex Submariners were no-date models. A Submariner model with a date window was introduced in 1965. The Rolex Submariner model 1680 was manufactured till the mid to late 1980’s.
Rolex later updated the product line and introduced models. Sapphire crystals and high beat movements were introduced in about 1985. The new model that first debuted with a sapphire crystal was the transitional Submariner 16800. This used the Rolex calibre 3035, chronometre rated with date mechanism. The Rolex Submariner 5513 was replaced with the Submariner model reference 14060 in about 1990. This model featured the Rolex automatic calibre 3000 and a synthetic sapphire crystal. The model 16800 was later replaced with the Submariner 16610 in about 1989-1990.