*Unpolished* 1957 Rolex Submariner (Ref. 6538) "Big Crown" From The Family Of The Original Owner

The Rolex Submariner reference 6538 is an icon, a legend, and one of the most important sports watches ever made. The Rolex Submariner is the purest representation of the diver's tool watch – period. Nicknamed the "Big Crown" by the watch aficionado community, the Rolex Submariner 6538 has a special place in Rolex and horological history as it’s the original James Bond Submariner and appeared on Sean Connery’s wrist in those early, genre-shaping films. Of course other Submariner references – including the 5508 and 6205 – have been given the nickname "Bond Sub," but the Submariner ref. 6538 is the definitive Bond Submariner.

The Rolex "Big Crown" Submariners are one of the most captivating value propositions currently in vintage Rolex collecting. Between these watches’ low production numbers and increasing desirability within the vintage Rolex market, access to prime examples has diminished, and pricing has increased due to collectors retaining known examples within their personal collections as one of the ultimate prizes in the vintage Rolex space. This means that when one of the very few known examples leaves a collection or an uncirculated example is discovered, they primarily end up in auctions and private sales.

This example of a 1957 Rolex Submariner ref. 6538 "Big Crown" comes to us directly from the family of the original owner, is fresh to market and has never before been seen. This watch is in remarkably clean and original condition and was originally purchased at a naval exchange in San Francisco. The original owner wore this watch sparingly until passing it down to his son, who then placed the watch in storage for his entire life. From the unpolished case, to the exceptional red triangle bezel insert, to the original Oyster bracelet, this "Big Crown" can only be described as a principle example, destined to be the marquee piece of a passionate enthusiast's collection. 

Stock # RLXSM6538-3
Brand Rolex
Style Submariner "Big Crown"
Model 6538
Serial 30XXXX
Size Men's
Material Stainless Steel
Dial Glossy Gilt Chapter Ring
Millimeters 38
Strap Rolex "Swiss Made" Oyster Rivet Bracelet W/ 65 End Pieces



The unpolished case of this “Big Crown” is possibly the nicest we’ve ever seen, and retains its original case geometry, chamfers, and finishing – with only slight “sleeve-shine” on the tops of the lugs. The visible wear on the case is exceptionally light as this watch was only worn for a short period of time before being placed in storage. The brass bezel and “long 5” red-triangle bezel insert are also remarkably well-preserved, with the red of the 12 o’clock triangle remaining bright and also partially retaining its radium lume pearl. The rest of the bezel insert exhibits only light signs of previous use. The definitive big screw-down crown is original and features the correct Rolex coronet and Brevet text. The domed acrylic crystal is also original to the watch and exhibits spider-crazing in its center, which is expected for crystals of this vintage. Completing the case is the also original and superb Rolex “Swiss Made” Oyster rivet bracelet with 65 end pieces; the bracelet is stamped 4/57 and exhibits only minor signs of previous wear as all 11 of the original links exhibit almost no stretch from use.


The dial retains a mirror-like glossy finish and has achieved a subtle chocolate brown coloration when viewed in the sunlight. The spidering in the lacquer is so subtle that it is unnoticeable to the naked eye, making this dial one of the nicest gilt dials we’ve seen. The gilt chapter ring and text jump off the dial with a vivid gold coloration and remain fully intact throughout the dial, and the silver-gilt depth rating has taken on a slightly darker patina – which is commonly seen and expected. The radium lume plots are fully intact, something that is rarely seen on these early Submariners, and they show full and round dimensions with a lovely golden brown coloration and no notable degradation when inspected under U.V. light. The 6 o’clock lume plot is characteristically lighter than the rest of the lume plots and reacts accordingly brighter when exposed to U.V. light. The radium-filled gilt Submariner handset features the original and charming white “lollipop” seconds hand. All of the hands retain the original gold gilt finishing and white enamel paint respectively – something that is usually lost through age. The lume in the hour and minute hands has aged to a dark gray coloration and is believed to be original to the watch as the lume consistency is similar to the dial when inspected under microscope. The radium lume in the hands exhibits no lume loss or degradation when inspected under U.V. light.


None. The watch is keeping time perfectly.

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