The Rolex Submariner 5508
No-Crown-Guards Submariners have always been some of the most desirable dive watches for vintage collectors, and it is one such watch we are focusing on today : The one and only Rolex Submariner Reference 5508.
The ref. 5508 first appears in 1958. Made as a replacement for the 6538, the new models were equipped with new 1500 series movements, Cal 1530 were used. The ref. 5508 was guaranteed waterproof to 100m/330ft, existed with and without the “Chronometer” Certification (but we'll come back to it) on the dial, and had a production range of 4 years, around 1958 to 1962.
There are tons of things that make this watch stand out : Obviously, it was not the first vintage Submariner reference, but what makes it really interesting is that the 5508 represents the first step towards standardization.
Before, the Submariner line-up was blurry, with watches carrying a 3-6-9 dial or hour markers indicators under the same reference. The 5508 adjusted that, as well as being the first Sub with fifteen minute markers on the bezel… Which we still find on every Submariner nowadays.
Another quirky, funny thing contributed in making this watch a legend : As the watch is the heir of the watch (ref. 6538) worn by Sean Connery in a James Bond movie, this watch was commonly mistaken as one and nicknamed « James Bond », thus putting it under the spotlight for vintage collectors and increasing its value during decades.
Design and changes
This watch marks a huge turning point in the history of the Submariner, as it is the last reference of the first generation of the Submariner, and as a consequence the last of them to feature old-school design features.
As instance, the 5508 was the last Submariner to feature a 100-meter depth rating, as next references were tested to 200 meters. It was also the last Submariner carrying this old-school design, featuring no crown guards, a 37mm case size, a 6mm « Small Crown » (which eventually became one of its nicknames)
Paradoxically, the 5508 was also the first Submariner with key design elements of modern Subs regarding the dial, that looks almost line the ones fitted on the first Rolex 5512 references.
Another change that came with it was the switch to reference numbers 55XX, which lasted until the mid 90’s, and the 15-minute markers on the bezel insert, which became the trademark of the Submariner up until now !
It is pretty easy to see why the reference 5508 stayed in everyone’s mind 60 years later : Being the last of the first old generation, but also the first step towards modern references, it embodies both the future and the past, mixing modern Submariner codes and dials with old-school features, and one could easily say this watch itself sums up the whole Submariner line-up !