Vintage Rolex is hot right now. Vintage Rolex steel sports watches are super hot. Whilst the Daytona has essentially become a brand within a brand, there is still a lot of love for the Submariner, especially the vintage pieces that so proudly wear their domed acrylic plastic crystals.

Matte or gilt dial, there is a special appeal about the vintage Sub. If was good enough for James Bond then it is good enough for any of us. The plastic crystal Submariners began their life with glossy dials and ended their run with glossy dials (the last series 5513 with glossy dials and white gold surrounded hour markers).

In the middle however were the matte dials, the last run of which collectors refer to as Maxi dials. The first matte dials appeared in 1966 and Rolex utilised the matte finish dials for 18 years.

The knowledge on these dials, like many things vintage Rolex, was largely a concerted effort on the Vintage Rolex Forum (VRF). The VRF is a hot bed of discourse and occasional disharmony between some of the heavy weight vintage Rolex authorities, but the common goal is to share, clarify and acquire knowledge and understanding of vintage Rolex.

It’s important to note that unlike Patek or Omega, Rolex will not engage in confirmation of their older pieces. So the VRF became the encyclopedia for collectors and continues to be an invaluable resource for collectors and dealers alike.

Getting back to the Maxi Subs, they got this nickname due to the fact that they all feature larger than previously seen hour markers, although the first-time Maxi dial was widely used was in reference to the 16610LV green bezel 50th anniversary Submariner date.

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V (© Revolution)
The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V (© Revolution)

There are five different, sequential versions of the Maxi dial, conveniently named Mk1 to 5. The Mk1 was introduced in 1976 and it is acceptable to see these dials in watches with serial numbers from around 5.5 million to early 6.0 million. The Maxis ran until around 1984 with the Mk5.

There are generally accepted rules for which 5513 case serial numbers correlate to the five versions of the dials, but like a lot of vintage Rolex, it’s not an exact science.

All the iterations of the Maxi dials have one thing in common, aside from the large hour plots; a coronet that is elegant, elongated and tall – fanning upwards from a narrow base to a wide-open top. The different versions feature a mixture of serif and non-serif texts, open and closed sixes (on the “660ft” depth rating) and the placement and width of the “SUBMARINER” moniker.

Everybody has their own way of quickly identifying which version a watch houses. For me, the first thing I notice on a Mk 1 is that the “SUBMARINER” text is below the depth rating. On later marks the text moved to above the depth rating. The Mk5 is distinguishable by the fact that the “SUBMARINER” text is above the depth rating and is wider than it. The other features of the Mk5 are that the “=” in the depth rating is directly below the A in “SUBMARINER” and the ‘open 6s’ in said depth rating.

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK I (Image: sheartime.com)
The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK I (Image: sheartime.com)

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK I

Identifiers
  • Tapered and slender bottomed coronet
  • “SUBMARINER” printed under depth rating; in MK II to V the world is printed above the depth rating
  • “=” sign in the depth rating is directly above the “A” of the word “Submariner”.
  • The S in “SUBMARINER” has a particular “zig zag S” character, which some describe as almost a capital “Z” that’s facing the wrong way

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK II (Image: sheartime.com)
The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK II (Image: sheartime.com)

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK II

Identifiers
  • “SUBMARINER” printed above depth rating
  • No serif on the “f” in the depth rating
  • A curvy “S” in “SUBMARNIER” rather than the “zig zag S” the Maxi I and Maxi IV Dials
  • The “=” sign appears directly under and the middle of the “A” in “SUBMARINER”

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK III (Image: sheartime.com)
The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK III (Image: sheartime.com)

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK III

Identifiers
  • “SUBMARINER” printed above depth rating
  • The large tritium hour plots look like they are touching the 5 minute hash marks, earning the dial the name the “lolipop”
  • Large “open 6’s”
  • Very peculiar serif on the “f” of the depth rating
  • The “0s” in the “200m” depth rating line up exactly with the “N and E” in “SUBMARINER”

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK IV (Image: sheartime.com)
The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK IV (Image: sheartime.com)

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK IV

Identifiers
  • “SUBMARINER” printed above depth rating
  • Has the “zig zag S” in “SUBMARINER” same as in the MK I dial
  • The “=” sign in the depth rating is under and slightly to the right of the “A” in “SUBMARINER”

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V (© Revolution)
The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V (© Revolution)

The Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V

Identifiers
  • “SUBMARINER” appears above depth rating and is longer than the depth rating
  • No serif in the depth rating
  • “=” sign is directly under and in the middle of the “A” in “SUBMARINER”

One of the most stunning aspects of a Maxi dial 5513 is the way the domed acrylic crystal causes the hour plots to almost dance. A shift in the position of your wrist can suddenly change the way the light hits the dome; the light hits the dial and the shape of the domed edge of the crystal can distort the hour plots – elongating them and heightening their presence on the dial.

The Maxi dial can be found on other references too, side from its spiritual home in the 5513. It made a significant appearance on the military Rolex Submariner (MilSub) reference 5517 and also on the Comex-issued reference 1680 Submariner date.  There was also a Maxi dial reference 5512, the non-date Submariner that was chronometer rated. However, It wasn’t just about the Subs. The GMT Master also had a Maxi dial on watches from the late 1970s. Featuring the same large hour plots, these watches also featured the tall and elegant coronets from the Maxi family.

The Maxi dial 5513 is a great watch to wear on a day to day basis and it can quickly morph between casual day wear and smart evening wear. For the true tool watch look, one cannot go wrong with a steel Oyster bracelet with classic fliplock clasp. For evenings an elegant Italian leather strap can instantly dress the watch up…and it will ‘scrub up’ well! Want a MilSub vibe? Then pop it on a nylon nato-style strap. In the words of Axl Rose “my way, your way, anything goes…”.

On the wrist, the Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V (© Revolution)
On the wrist, the Rolex Submariner 5513 MAXI Dial MK V (© Revolution)