Pensioner Discovers his £69 Explorer Dial 1963 Rolex Submariner now worth over £100,000

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A rare Explorer Dial 1963 Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 that was purchased in 1963 for a not so princely sum of £69 is about to earn its owner more than £100,000 over 50 years later.

The 1963 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner with a stainless steel bracelet watch is expected to command such a premium by virtue of the special explorer dial, one of only a handful of its type that were sold at the time. The so-called “Explorer face” is named for the Arabic numerals at 3, 6 and 9, reminiscent of the Rolex Explorer owned by Sir Edmund Hillary, famous for his ascent of Mount Everest.


Left: Hillary and Norgay. Right: The Rolex Explorer I ref 1016 which Sir Edmund Hillary bought for himself (as opposed to sponsored) while he was in Hong Kong.

Comparatively, a similar model from 1954, the Ref 6200 Submariner “James Bond” equipped with a similar Explorer dial was estimated by Christie’s to fetch USD 165,195 – USD 275,325 at the 2013 Geneva Important Watches auction; by the time bidding closed, it had realised double the estimate – USD 527,891.

A similar model Rolex Submariner ref. 5512 of similar provenance recently set a world record at auction, selling for £192,000 in May 2016 while another owner is hoping to secure a six-figure amount in the same range.

Purchased by the pensioner’s wife in 1966 to celebrate the birth of their first child, she purchased the watch from Perry Greaves Limited, Birmingham on the 28th May for £69.10; adjusted for inflation, the Explorer dial Rolex Submariner would have cost around £1,000 in today’s cash.

Left: 1954 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Ref. 6200 auctioned by Christie's in 2013 for over $520,000. Right: Unnamed pensioner's 1963 Rolex Submariner with Explorer dial.

Left: 1954 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner Ref. 6200 auctioned by Christie’s in 2013 for over $520,000. Right: Unnamed pensioner’s 1963 Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 with Explorer dial.

He had been wearing the watch regularly for decades since the birth of his baby girl while keeping a fairly regular servicing schedule. When he realised that he was sitting on a gold mine 20 years ago, he decided to send it in for one last service 20 years ago before safe-keeping; his instructions to the watchmaker? Change the dial which had gotten ‘speckled’ over the years. Fortunately, the watchmaker lacked the components to make the change and left it untouched save for a clean and re-lubrication. In the rarefied realm of vintage Rolex Sub collecting, any changes to the factory default components as it left the Geneva manufacture would significantly reduce the value of the watch by 95%.

“Some people might look at it and think it’s only a £3,000 Rolex but it’s the submariner explorer dial that makes it so rare. And provenance is so important, you can’t put a value on that.” – David Hare, from Gardiner Houlgate

To be sold on 26th October by auctioneers Gardiner Houlgate of Corsham, Wiltshire, the seller has included mementos of provenance in the form of two original family photographs of him and his children wearing the Ref 5513 Rolex Submariner in two different decades – 1967 and 1977; additionally, the watch is sold complete with Rolex box and papers, purchase receipt, spare bezel and plexi-glass which were replaced during a previous service.


Ref 5513 Submariner complete with the Rolex box, purchase receipt, spare bezel and plexi-glass which were replaced during a previous service; also two family photographs depicting the vendor wearing the watch in 1967/68 and 1977.

The very rare Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner ref. 5513 has pointed crown guards, and bears the Serial no. 1009xxx, circa 1963, with gloss black white ‘Swiss’ dial with small minute markers, hour baton markers, quarter 3-6-9 Arabic numerals and gilded dial printing ‘Rolex Oyster Perpetual 200m=660ft Submariner’ and worn on riveted 7836 Oyster folded link bracelet.

His heirs, a son and daughter now in their forties had their inheritance recalculated when the value of the watch came to light and in fairness to his daughter, his son will use some of the proceeds of the auction to finance the purchase of a brand new Rolex Submariner and then split the profits evenly.




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