Skip to main content

The 5 Truths For Hunters Of Military Submariners

submariner banner image

Quest For The Rolex MilSub

Rolex Oyster Submariner watches with genuine military provenance are highly collectible and command top tier prices. MilSubs as they're known, are not watches purchased by soldiers. Even with verified active service records, these don't qualify as MilSubs. If you're interested in genuine Military Submariners, you need these Five Essential Facts (and of course, The VRFG!).

1. State Property

Rolex watches purchased by the military are state property and bare official property marks on the casebacks. They are issued to military personnel along with other specialized tools such as diving equipment. Failure to return equipment to the quartermaster could have severe disciplinary consequences.
milsub caseback engravings

2. Path to Private Collections

There are only two ways a military issued Rolex Submariner can find its way into private ownership - an official government auction of surplus equipment, or theft. If you own one with a serial number that was not officially auctioned, your legal right to ownership is highly questionable. Trading in stolen military equipment (no matter how old) is a bad idea.

3. Specific Military Branches

Rolex only supplied military Submariners to the British Army Special Air Service (SAS) and the Royal Marines Special Boat Service (SBS). A very small number were sold to the Royal Canadian Navy. Tudors were sold to the French, Australian, American and Canadian armed forces.

4. Limited Model Reference Numbers

The only official Military Submariners are the following references,

  • 1957 to 1966: Reference A/6538 (aka 6538A)
  • 1972 to 1979: References 5513 and 5517
  • 1977 to 1978: Reference 5514 (16 very special COMEX Subs)

5. Very Limited Exception

Rolex dive watches were only once gifted to soldiers by a foreign Sovereign. The Sultan of Oman awarded Rolex watches to 90 British SAS soldiers after the Battle of Mirbat in 1972. These bare the red Kanjar Qaboos crest on their dials.

To learn more about Military Submariners, consult The Vintage Rolex Field Guide section on Submariners, and subscribe to the list.