I love vintage watches. That might not come as much of a surprise to many people I know. But there is something more to be gained from this passion for me, beyond simply owning or wearing an old watch. It's about a shared history and the sense that a few years under the belt for a watch imbues it with a greater value in my eyes. I like the fact a watch has lived a bit.
Often I find myself wondering about that life and the events that might have marked the decades of a particular watch's life, The places it might have been, the action it might have seen. In almost all cases these are left to nothing more than my own musing and imagination. I'll be lucky enough to know a little of the history from the previous owner and get a sense of the journey of a watch but nothing more...usually.
Which is why the subject of this particular piece brings me so much joy in the sharing. This watch represents exactly what I love about this business for I had the pleasure of meeting the daughter of the original and only owner of this absolutely beautiful Rolex 5508 from 1958.
She shared with me the story of how this watch was a gift from her grandfather to her father on his 16th birthday in 1958 as he joined his first ship in the Royal Navy. The watch journeyed with him throughout his travels and was worn daily, as you can see. This treasured gift has lived a life (and a life at sea no less!) but most importantly the owner had the foresight to keep the watch completely original even though it has been regularly serviced and keeps perfect time.
The Rolex Submariner 5508 was released in late 1957 so this example, dating from a year later, is amongst the earliest and has the hallmark early cal 1530 with the original butterfly rotor. The serial number of the watch corresponds to the inner case back engraving dated 11/58 confirming the genealogy of the watch.
Sean Connery famously wore an early no crown guard Submariner in three Bond films and so early references like the 5508 are fondly associated with this famous franchise, much loved by watch collectors.
I make no apologies for not changing the original tropic plexiglass even though it shows some signs of wear. I believe that is what imbues this remarkable watch with character. It wears it's battle scars proudly! But under the plexi you can see a totally original gloss gilt dial which has a beautiful spidering to the lacquer making this a completely unique piece, along with the original dial go the untouched original full handset. The lume on the hour markers and hands has aged perfectly to a desirable coffee colour, (again much loved amongst vintage watch collectors.)
This unique example is capped off with a faded (ghost) bezel and comes fitted to a quality black alligator strap as the original rivet bracelet sadly didn’t survive the rigours of daily wear for over 5 decades!
This is a piece worthy of any collection but also a watch that’s as perfect for daily wear now as it was when first proudly worn by a 16-year-old man embarking on his first voyage. I can’t help but wonder who will continue its story.