An original-owner Rolex Submariner 5512, Explorer Dial, coming up for auction is not a regular occurrence, so when one does appear in the wild, it is most certainly newsworthy. One such watch, bought by a coal miner from Nottinghamshire England 56 years ago for a mere £70, came up at auction at Gardiner Houlgate out of the U.K., and just sold for £217,000 (well over $ 250,000). The estimates for the sale ranged from £150,000 – £250,000, so it fell at the higher end. The hammer price was £175,000, with the larger amount reflecting buyer’s premium and other associated fees.
According to the auction listing, the owner of the watch was born and raised in London. During World War II, he was conscripted as one of the so-called Bevin Boys, who were young men chosen by lottery to work in the coal mines in the North of England as part of the war effort (The name is taken from that of Ernest Bevin, who was Minister For Labour And National Service). The listing further indicates that he purchased the watch from Watches of Switzerland in London on December 22, 1964, as a 40th birthday present to himself. When he passed in 1995, he left the watch to his daughter and son-in-law, where it stayed in the family until this sale. Included in the auction catalog for this watch was an assortment of photos of the original owner and his Explorer Dial Sub. This is one of those kinds of stories you hardly ever hear anymore.
The origins of the Explorer Dial Subs date back to the mid-1950s with the reference 6200, known for its big crown and no crown guards (for a deep dive into all things Submariner, including Explorer dials, Stephen’s Reference Points is a must-read and a must-watch). We have seen a few examples of Explorer Dial 6200s in episodes of Talking Watches with both Mark Haddawy and John Mayer. You may also recall a certain seven-figure sale of a reference 6538 Explorer Dial Submariner back in 2018. Explorer Dial Subs were also produced in both the reference 5513 and 5512. Interestingly enough, most of the 5512 crop of Explorer Dials were made for the U.K. market, which certainly explains the watch that just sold here. All of this is to say that Explorer Dial Subs in any reference – but especially the 5512 – are exceedingly rare.
Speaking of which, I think the nature of this sale (in terms of provenance and rarity) puts it squarely in the category of some of the more crazy finds we have covered. I am thinking about the LeCoultre Deep Sea Alarm found in a bin at Goodwill for $ 5.99, or the more recent Antiques Roadshow episode with the unworn Paul Newman 6263 Daytona. Just when we think we have seen it all, something else comes along. If nothing else, this is a great story about a well-loved watch.
For more about this watch, and the entire auction, you can head over to Gardiner Houlgate’s website for the full catalog.