A rare Royal Navy diver’s timepiece, described by a dealer as “one of the rarest and most collectable watches”, has exceeded expectations by selling at auction for £155,000.
Only 1,200 Rolex 5513/5517 Military Submariner watches, known as MilSubs, were ever made, between 1971 and 1979. No more than 180 are thought to remain, according to watch experts.
The distinctive Milsubs featured a tritium “T” on the dial, sword-shaped hands for increased legibility under water, a 60-minute bezel, fixed lug-bars to secure the nylon strap, a non-reflective case and military engravings on the back.
The Ministry of Defence issued the timepieces to Royal Navy submariners, leading divers and mine-clearance personnel. The one in question was issued to a diver in the 1970s, but by the early ‘80s he had sold it on to a Scottish diver, who is remaining anonymous but lives in Perthshire.
The second owner had worn the watch regularly until the bezel fell off during a dive in 1996, after which he had left it in a chest-of-drawers – until recently, when it was taken out to be valued by Nick Brewster Art & Antiques in Crieff.
The sale at Bonhams auction rooms in London on 15 June was possibly prompted by that of another original MilSub at the same sale-room in February – although that watch, complete with bezel, had been sold by its original owner for an even larger sum, a record-setting £180,000.
However, the latest sale surpassed the owner’s pre-sale expectations of £80-120,000.
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