Beginning with the very first James Bond movie (Dr. No) Sean Connery’s 007 wore a Rolex Submariner 6538 — and it was the catalyst in making the dive watch the icon it is today.
Connery first wore the Rolex Submariner 6538 “Big Crown” 2-Line version in Dr. No (1962), and it stayed on his wrist in From Russia with Love (1963) and Goldfinger (1964). Him wearing the Submariner as Bond is a huge factor in making it famous. Future 007s often wore a Rolex, up until 1995 when Omega became the official wristwatch of James Bond.
The “James Bond Submariner” Ref. 6538 was made by Rolex from 1955-1959, including the Ref. 6538A Military Submariner version. A version with the 4-line text on the dial came up for sale at Phillip’s in 2018 and sold for $567,000. Compared to the 6538 that sold for $92,000 at Christie’s in 2011, as reported by Eric Wind for Hodinkee, the price has jumped quite significantly. However, that was almost a decade ago, was the more common 2-line version, and as with all vintage Rolexes — the price varies greatly depending on the condition, provenance, and which iteration is being sold.
Next week, a 6538 will be sold, but not by an auction house such as Phillips, Sotheby’s, or Christie’s as has been the typical final selling point of these coveted “James Bond Submariner” dive watches. Bob’s Watches — a pre-owned retailer that focuses heavily on selling Rolexes — will sell this first generation Submariner.
The Rolex “James Bond Submariner” 6538 comes in a stainless steel case that measures 38 mm, with a big 8 mm crown, and no crown guards.
This particular 1957 example features a 2-line gilt dial, like what Connery wore. The bezel insert is heavingly faded (ghost bezel), the red triangle is missing the pip but is nicely faded like the rest of the watch face, the case and rivet-link steel bracelet have been polished, and the black dial is completely matte with nicely patinated gilt markers and hands. According to Bob’s Watches, the movement is working and is under warranty for one year.
The Bob’s Watches auction will begin on November 16.
Update: The watch sold for $180,000 on November 23, 2020.