The Rolex Submariner is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and signature collections of the elite Geneva-based Swiss watchmaker. The current Submariner sports a broader case, ceramic bezel and many other features catering to the needs of a modern timepiece.
Nonetheless, the design and aesthetics date back to 1953. The exclusive combination of sporty and professional look is one of the significant reasons behind the design success of the model.
Well, currently, a rare Rolex Submariner set a new record by fetching £165,200 at auction. A three-bedroom house costs the same in Acocks Green.
This is a stainless steel Military Submariner from 1978, known to be used by British Special Forces. And this rare wristwatch was the grandee in Jewellery Quarter firm Fellow’s Birmingham auction house. Interestingly, the auctioneer estimated that the watch would bring in about £50,000 – £70,000.
But what came as an enormous surprise was that this “MilSub” sold for more than double its upper estimated price. It sold for a staggering cost of £165,200, setting a new house record. Eventually, the stainless steel Rolex Submariner Military Submariner became the costliest timepiece to be ever auctioned for the Birmingham firm.
The Rare Rolex Military Submariner Stainless Steel
As already mentioned above, British Special Forces used the stainless steel Military Submariner Reference 5517 that was the star in the Fellows’ auction house.
Now, Rolex produced this steel Military Submariner watches in the 1970s in a limited number of 1,200. And the brand did not unleash any of these watches for public sale.
In fact, the Swiss watchmaker developed these MilSubs exclusively for the British Special Forces. And since then, only about 200 of these watches have recurred.
However, Rolex furnished the Military Submariner with a grey “NATO” nylon strap and a pin buckle in stainless steel. Also, the watch comes with a 39mm case.
A New Record At Fellows Auction House
The Stainless steel Rolex Submariner Reference 5517 was presented as Lot 129 in Luxury Watch Sale by Fellows. And the event took place at the firm’s Birmingham Jewellery Quarter saleroom.
Interestingly, more than 1,000 individuals registered for taking part in the sale. It is the first live watch auction of Fellows since February.
So out of the total 1,200 Military Submariners produced in the 1970s, this one MilSub spared a fierce bidding war between five people.
Finally, the day was taken by a telephone bidder, offering a price for the 1978 Rolex Military Submariner that was double its estimated value.
The Fellows auction house has a 144-year history, and this MilSub is the most expensive watch sold by the auctioneers.
The five-minute bidding war resulted in breaking the previous sale record of the auction house, set by a Rolex Milgauss. In November 2017, the Rolex Milgauss sold for £110,000 at the Fellows auction house.
So it is clear that the rare Military Submariner set a new house record, surpassing the previous record by over £50,000.
The managing director of Fellows Auctioneers, Stephen Whittaker asserted –
“We are overwhelmed to have sold thus magnificent Rolex Military Submariner for over £160,000. This is the most expensive watch to have gone under the hammer in the history of the company, and our watch department has worked hard to ensure we held another successful sale.”
He further added –
“This watch is incredibly rare, and we had a feeling it would be sought-after, but for it to break our house record is a huge delight.”
Rolex offered the Military Submariner Reference 5517 to the Ministry of Defense. Consequently, the timepiece was available to the divers of the Special Air Service and Special Boat Service. Moreover, Rolex produced these Submariners from 1972 to 1979.
Interestingly, the rarity of this MilSub has also been explained by a website Vintage DB –
“Due to their use in such hostile conditions, the survival rate for watches in their original configuration is low. Thus, rarity, along with their fascinating and important military provenance is the reason they have become so sought-after by vintage and military watch collectors. Due to the environments, they were often exposed to, MilSubs would often need to be serviced more regularly than their standard civilian counterparts.”
“Unfortunately, this resulted in far fewer watches surviving in their original configuration. Watches in original condition with the full military specification continue, therefore, to attract significant premiums.”