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The Spy who Loved Watches (Ep.1): Rolex Submariner 5513

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 25 August 2017

There’s no denying it. For most of us, James Bond is someone that has influenced our childhood, by his watches and by his conquests. I’m sure you know that Rolex had an important role in the life of the spy, even if other emblematic brands have also been seen on the wrist of the English gentleman and his ennemies. Seiko, Breitling and Omega to mention just a few. For the big boys (that we all are) who’ve grown up following the adventures of James with stars in our eyes, we’ll be going through them one by one, looking at the iconic models seen on the big screen that have, as a matter of fact, inspired numerous other collections. Sound good?

George Lazenby donned a Rolex “Pre-Daytona” 6238 in the famous ski chases not far from Gstaad. We are hence beginning our review, quite logically, with a certain Submariner 5513, which equally shared some wrist time on the Australian actor who once played the role of Agent Bond…and only once.

The Rolex of George Lazenby

Georges Lazenby James Bond

Simply the Rolex that was the most worn by James along with its sister, the 6538, from its first apparition on George Lazenby’s wrist in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to that of Roger Moore’s in The Man with a Golden Gun.

Don’t forget that in 1968 we saw for the very first time an unknown George Lazenby in a Fry’s Turkish Delights commercial (where he serves the goodies in a suit and tie in Turkey). Yes, you heard correctly, a commercial for Turkish delights. So what right? Everyone could already see that the gentleman had style. A 188cm tall handsome thing with a charming Australian accent, built like a lumberjack…or a medal-winning athlete. Unnerving isn’t it?

When he arrived on the set that famous day in 1968 to audition, the crowd was blown away by his presence. He wore the same suit that Sean Connery had on in the previous Bond movies, and auditioned by telling time on his Submariner 5513 (his personal watch that we can also see in the movie). Any questions? Sean was like a mentor to the young George, who actually didn’t think to be up to par for the role of the Secret Agent at first. Imagine those nights he spent practising Sean’s hand gestures and overall behaviour in Goldfinger or in Dr. No. This is what we call a lesson in strong-willed determination.

Peter Hunt was immediately won over by the tall drink of water, and Lazenby became Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service that was shown from December 1969. Remember the scene where James needs some precious documents from the safe of Gumbold, Blofeld’s lawyer? He sneaks into the lawyer’s study, uses a highly sophisticated tool to test out the possible combinations of the safe, browses through Playboy magazine at the same time, and all the while checking the time on his 5513 that he placed on the tool. He makes it look so easy…

The Rolex of the other Bonds

Rolex Submariner 5513

The Submariner has become the British agent’s accessory par excellence. It all began with Dr. No in 1962, where we saw the Submariner 6538, and also From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball. We’ll come back to this because the Submariner 6538 and Sean Connery deserve more than just a couple of lines.

The 5513 would then be seen on George Lazenby’s wrist once (his first and last James Bond), then on the wrist of Roger Moore in Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. Then all of a sudden, it’s the end of the line. With the arrival of the Quartz movement, Submariners and pieces of the like became scarce. Although, we do have Roger Moore with his personal Rolex Datejust in A View to a Kill, and then Timothy Dalton’s personal Rolex 16610 in The Living Daylights.

The Rolex Submariner 5513

Vintage Rolex Submariner - 5513

I will have, hopefully, an opportunity in the near future to talk about the history of the Submariner at length, but today, a brief glimpse will have to suffice.

The 5513 was brought to the light of day in 1962 as an evolved version of the 5512 and the 6538. Two lines at 6 o’clock, plus the mention of “Superlative Chronometer, Officially Certified” (no, the 5513 isn’t certified, sadness). The shoulders on the 5512 have remained intact onto the 5513.

With Rolexes, hence with the 5513 as well, God is in the details more than ever. Meters first or feet first? Glossy or matt dial? Serif or Sans Serif fonts? I will try to be simple and concise, “try” being the operative word here.

Glossy or Matt Dial?

Production started in 1962 with smooth lacquered dials, a.k.a. “Glossy”. Matt Dials would come a few years later in 1966. So what is “Glossy” you say? First of all, it’s a lacquered coating. Imagine that your girlfriend took her black nail polish and brushed a layer of it onto your watch dial. And BAM…no more girlfriend. To decorate the lacquered dial, the writing can be gilded. This type of dial, naturally, is named “Gilt.”

Matt dials reigned during the course of 1966, then in 1984 Glossy dials made a come-back, but this time with circled markers for a modern touch.

Meters first or feet first?

The first models of the 5513, released in 1962, were “meters first.” A name for a type of dial on which the limit of depth is written “200m = 660ft” and not the other way around.

Glossy dials have this meters first particularity until 1969. During 1970 however – changing times, changing ways – feet first takes the lead and stays there. Bye bye meters first…

Serif or Sans Serif?

Serif, as its name indicates, refers to the font of the lines of text on the dial. “Serif” means that a little decorative stroke will extends from the ends of the letters. The first Sans Serif writings were seen around 1969. To put things simply, everything started with Sans Serif. Then around 1970/1971, Serif coexisted with Sans Serif, and for a while until 1975/1976, when Serif dials became the preferred route.

Regardless the layout of the dial, the 5513 is the quintessence of the British agent’s watch in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Who would’ve imagined that such a dive watch would so perfectly land on the wrist of an agent in a dinner suit? Not many I’d say, that is, before Sean Connery in 1964 in Goldfinger. This is the only watch that could handle, with conviction and grace, being on a wrist that kills, strangles, punches, drives an Aston Martin, and embraces the most beautiful women. A normal James Bond day…

(To be continued…)