Rare Royal Navy diver's Rolex watch sells for £155,000 at auction

'One of the rarest and one of the most collectable watches today,' says antique dealer Nick Brewster

The Rolex 5513/5517 Military Submariner watch. PA
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A rare Rolex diver’s watch which had been sitting in its owner's drawer for decades has sold for £155,000 ($187,000) at auction.

Only 1,200 of the UK government-issued Rolex 5513/5517 Military Submariner watches were ever made and experts estimate between 120 and 180 still exist.

A resident of Perthshire, Scotland, who wishes to remain anonymous, took the rare item to antique dealer Nick Brewster who noticed something special about it.

“The hammer price of £155,000 plus commission was above what we had hoped for and both myself and my client are overjoyed with the result,” Mr Brewster said.

“It was a pleasure to be able to bring the watch to market and for it to achieve such a high price.”

He previously described the item as “one of the rarest and one of the most collectable watches today”.

Nick Brewster described the item as one of the rarest and most collectable watches today. PA

Known as a MilSub, the watch was issued to a former Royal Navy diver in the 1970s by the Ministry of Defence and was bought from him by the second owner in the early 1980s.

From then on, the rare item became his go-to dive watch until the bezel fell off in a dive in 1996. It was thereafter stored in a chest of drawers.

Now, 40 years later, it is with its third owner.

Despite the eye-watering figure, the sale fell short of the cost of the last original MilSub to reach the Bonhams London saleroom which, Mr Brewster said, made £180,000 in February.

Between 1971 and 1979, 1,200 of these watches were issued as standard equipment by the Ministry of Defence, mainly for use by Navy submariners and their leading divers and mine-clearance personnel.

The Rolex Military Submariner's unique military-designated features of tritium “T” on the dial, sword hands, 60-minute bezel, fixed lug bars, nylon strap, non-reflective case and military engravings on its back set the MilSub apart from other Rolex Submariner watches.

The auctioned watch had an estimated value of £80,000 to £120,000.

Updated: June 15, 2022, 3:45 PM