Retrospect: 1961 Rolex Pointed Crownguard Gilt Underline Submariner

Arguably the most recognizable models within the storied Rolex lineage, the Submariner series of watches has seen an extensive history since it was first minted in 1954. Ask any watch enthusiast and they will profess that the Submariner offered a completely fresh approach to watch aesthetics of the era – a design that has spurred numerous copies since. Although the Submariner series has seen a relatively taut range of model introductions and reinterpretations since its 1950′s debut, each consecutive model has never shied away from the core tenants that first set it apart form the traditional masses – form and function.

Five years after the inaugural debut of the reference 6204, Rolex made a significant stride with the introduction of its Submariner 5512 series – a reference model that would go on to experience a lifespan lasting until the early 1980s. For our newest Hypebeast feature titled “Retrospect” we focus in on a unique 1961 Rolex Pointed Crownguard Gilt Underline Submariner from the collection of watch purveyor and vintage Rolex specialist Eric Ku of Ten Past Ten Timepieces. Amidst the plethora of extremely rare and vintage Rolex Submariners that fill Ku’s Goyard Watch Boxes, this particular example stands out because of its uniquely distinguishing elements and exclusivity. Expressing his affinity for the unique build, Ku states, “In terms of rarity, I have simply never seen another one with the exact same configuration dial – and I’ve looked through many books and literature but not quite found the identical example.” Manufactured in 1961, this particular Submariner is one of the earliest production models from the reference 5512 history. An elegantly streamlined casing boasts a gilt dial with four lines of text printed in underlined silver – writing that is more often seen emblazoned in gold. Although the significance of the underlining has been open to mixed opinions throughout the years, many watch experts and enthusiasts alike attribute the embellishment to the Rolex’s transition of using radium for luminous material to tritium on the dial.

The 5512 was also the first Rolex Submariner that was built with “crown guards,” a design facet that has served as an evolution of the earlier “James Bond” styled case. The elegant face sees a rich black base that is juxtaposed with via gilt (gold) hour, minute hands and minute markers. For Ku, the coveted 1961 Rolex Pointed Crownguard Gilt Underline Submariner represents both a deeply valued collectible as well as an ongoing adventure that offers him the challenge of searching out vintage Italian leather straps and other coveted bands to add to his collection. Although this particular reference 5512 resides somewhere in the middle as it relates to vintage Rolex market value, Ku’s rare 1961 version would likely pull in approximately $40,000 USD in value.

Photography: Richard Liu/Hypebeast

Throughout the pages of history, passing trends and fleeting fashions come and go. Looking back to eras past, there are a select few mainstay names, brands, techniques, automobiles or other collectible items that have withstood the test of time, effectively retaining their grandeur and value despite changing times. “Vintage” is a term that if often thrown around rather flippantly, being applied to just about anything in hopes of adding a weight of value to it. Our feature “Restrospect” aims to sift through the plethora of simply dated items to showcase those that truly merit the title of “vintage.” Digging deeper into the historical background, component specifics, and overall relevance, Retrospect works with experts, enthusiasts and specialists to procure an understanding of each object of its focus.
Reginald E. Weekes IV