The market for luxury products such as wristwatches is highly reliant on human emotions and perception. Dealers of artistic or lifestyle luxuries have long known that perception and availability are for many consumers much more important than actual inherent value.
It seemed as though the beefed up Submariner was to receive its own reference number, 6540, given the amount of modifications, but, likely due to the small production run, the reference defaulted to A/6538. In fact, documented examples show a crossed-out “6540” stamped inside of the casebacks, with “A/6538” stamped alongside.The MilSub is one of the priciest vintage Rolex watches, the result of having serious military provenance combined with such low production numbers. All told, from 1971 through 1979, only about 1,200 MilSubs were issued, of which an estimated 180 or so still exist today. Regardless of whether it’s an A/6538, 5513, 5513/5517, or 5517 purchasing a MilSub takes patience, lots of research, a trustworthy seller, and a healthy bank account. In good condition and with documentation, don’t be surprised to see a MilSub fetch over $100,000. That’s a lot of coin for a modified Submariner that can only be worn on a nylon strap.
If the Rolex Submariner is the most famous dive watch, then the Rolex Military Submariner, or MilSub, is the most famous military-issued dive watch. What is now a highly sought after piece of watch history — and one of the rarest collector’s watches ever — was once merely Ministry of Defense (MOD) standard issue equipment.
The Brits were one of the early militaries to use divers for offensive purposes during wartime, complementing ongoing recon and defensive missions. Coming out of WWII, the MOD realized a robust and reliable dive watch would be absolutely necessary for diving units. At the time, Rolex was the clear leader in waterproof watch technology, catching the attention of the MOD and marking the first appearance of a military-issued Submariner.