The Mk1 Maxi 5513 Rolex Submariner
The world of vintage Rolex collecting is obsessed with the small details that can ‘make or break’ a watch in terms of its collectability and/or value. The internet has played a significant role in the acquisition and sharing of knowledge which has ultimately been pooled into accepted theories. Whilst there are undoubtedly still aspects of supposition, there are now clearly defined accepted variations of watches (in terms of the correct dial, hands, pushers, bezels) in a chronology that is widely accepted by both dealers and collectors alike.
In the late noughties (2007-2009) a very passionate group of collectors began congregating in ‘public’ on an emerging collectors’ forum called the Vintage Rolex Forum (VRF). Discussions were often heated and emotions ran high, but these important discussions helped shape accepted tolerances for the various Rolex models and references. These conversations continue to occur daily now and the past decade’s worth of posts on the VRF form a unique encyclopedia of all things vintage Rolex. One well-known example of this shared knowledge approach is the Rolex Submariner reference 5513 late 1970s matte dials – know by collectors as the ‘Maxi Dials’. Today we want to discuss the King of the Maxi family – The Mk1 Maxi 5513 Submariner!
There are five versions of the Maxi Dials, so called due to the fact that they all feature larger than previously seen hour markers. The Mk1 was introduced in 1977 and it is acceptable to see these dials in watches with serial numbers from early to mid 5 million to early 6 million. The dial that was used before the Mk1 Maxi featured a coronet that was ‘fat’ from bottom to top with an almost smudged appearance that is now referred to as the Pre-Comex dial (due to the fact that it was utilised in Comex issued reference 5514 Submariners). The introduction of the Maxi dials saw a very different coronet style that was elegant and tall, fanning upwards from a narrow base to a wide-open top.
The First of Five
The Mk1 is a watch that we love at Bulang & Sons. It is both classic and versatile and really is a watch that will fit any occasion. The Mk1 also has a higher level of desirability and commands a premium over the other Maxis – why, I’m not sure but that just seems to be the case. There is a definite tendency for Mk1 to retain its bright white plot colours, which is in contrast with the various shades of darkening that is seen on the hour plots of other vintage sports watches – I love the way that this compliments the white text, which almost literally pops off the dial! The Mk1 was the last of the matte dialed 5513s to have the wording ‘SUBMARINER’ below the depth rating; the Mk2-5 have it above. Another key aspect of the Mk1 Maxi is the stylized font of the ‘S’ in SUBMARINER that resembles a reversed letter ‘z’.
In our opinions, there are few things more beautiful that an original superdomed Tropic 19 plexi crystal on a Mk1 Maxi 5513. The way the light hits the dome and fills the dial with light and the shape of the crystal distorts the hour plots – elongating them and almost magnifying their imposing presence on the dial. The Mk1 has the largest plots of all the Maxi daily and probably the largest of any Rolex watches. To us, it has an iconic look and balance that whilst subtle is beautiful and an absolute must for all collectors of vintage Rolex (and Bernhard knows – he’s owned over a dozen of them over the past decade!).
Not Just on 5513s
The 5513 Mk1 Maxi dial was also used on the Rolex Military Submariner, with the unique reference 5517 and the graphics also appear on the Comex 1680. For vintage Sub collectors both British MilSUbs and Comex issued watches are grail pieces and arguably this is why the Mk1 has something of a premium over the others. The maxi plots can also be found on civilian 1680s and also on the 5512 Submariner.
It isn’t, however, all about the Subs. The GMT Master also had a Maxi dial on watches from 1976/77. Featuring the same large hour plots, these watches also have the tall and elegant coronets from this era.
The Maxi works well in almost any condition and for any occasion. For the dive watch look, a la Comex, the steel 93150 bracelet is hard to beat. The flip lock clasp is an iconic design and worthy of an article in is own right. For a more utilitarian military look, slipping the Mk1 onto a grey or black Pheonix nato strap is perfect; this is the essence of the 5517 aesthetic. But the style can be mixed up by any choice of leather strap – either buckle or nato style. Sometimes it can be said that a strap wears the watch but with the Maxi 5513 the watch is definitely the main event and it works with a Classy edge-stitch strap, rugged side-stitch Blade or one of our Racing Straps.