The Rolex “special deliveries” are very appreciated by collectors because of their rarity of course, but also because they are the ultimate expression of the concept of toolwatch, which has made Rolex famous. Some of these watches have the usual features of the “ordinary” models and some other have specific details that make them look even sexier to the eye of the connoisseur. The milsub belongs to this category and the happy few collectors who own one of these watches usually consider them as a keeper in their Rolex sportswatches collection.

A milsub in action (Photo: Mike O’leary)

In the 1970’s,Alange soehne SAXONIA MONTRES, about 1200 Rolex Submariner were made especially for the Royal Navy under the references 5513, 5517 or the double reference 5513/5517. These military Submariners – nicknamed milsubs by the collectors – have the following specificities:

– There is a “T” in a circle above the depth markings, to indicate the presence of tritium in the markers. This feature is shared by other watches issued to the Royal Navy, such as the Omega Seamaster 300. The dials used on the milsubs are all similar except for a small batch of dials with larger markers and a slightly different coronet.

– The hands are specific for this model and are often referred to as “sword” hands (ref. 5513 was also issued with Mercedes hands). Again, this type of hands has also been used on the Omega Seamaster 300 delivered to the Royal Navy.

– The bezel is a standard production, but in some cases (always on ref. 5517 and sometimes on ref. 5513) the insert has minute markings around the whole insert.

– The case spring bars are fixed to fit a NATO strap only.

– The case-back has a MOD (Ministery of Defense) part number engraved,Patek Philippe Replica Watch 4908/11R-010, which starts with 0552 or with W10, a triangle with a hat on top and below an issue number and year. The milsubs have been delivered to the MOD in well know batches and their serial numbers correspond to their issue number. The caseback numbers are quite different depending of the delivery and the serial number is also engraved inside the caseback.

There were several configurations of mil subs that are considered correct and original depending on the age and batch.

–         The 5513 milsub has been delivered with either sword hands or mercedes hands from new

–         The 5513 milsub came with either full 60 minute bezel insert or 15 min bezel insert from new.

–         The 5517 milsub was delievered only with sword hands and full 60 minute bezel,hublot

Some milsubs have had their dials repainted by the MOD watchmakers in a very unusual fashion: the resulting dial has a very unorthodox “explorer” display (with 3-6-9 numbers), a huge coronet and an outer chapter ring.

(Photo Mike Wood)

This is a page from BR 2806 Military divng manual 1972 issue – diver’s bible – including information and instructions regarding Military issue watches (scan by Mike O’leary):

here’s a British Royal Navy Minewarfare and Clearance Diving diver wearing Milsub on the cover of a Rolex brochure :

Here’s an amazing GTG of Milsubs during the last 100% Passion meeting in the Netherlands:

(Photo bullibeer)

(Photo PhilippS)

Acknowledgements: thanks to Ed Delgado and Mike O’leary for sharing their informations


For Jeff’s original post in Rolex forum, please CLICK HERE