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July 23, 2021

Rolex SUB-AQUA 6204: The rarest Submariner!

In the 50s, Rolex got a genius hunch: that the market could be ready to welcome a diving watch not strictly for professional use. Canne’s Institute of Submariner Research was in charge to experiment with and test this model, under the supervision of its president Dimitri Rebikoff. After 132 dives carried out over 5 months at a depth of over 60 meters, the oyster case successfully passed every trial.

This is how Geneva’s headquarters decided to start selling the first Rolex waterproof to a depth of 100 meters, a true revolution at the time for the watchmaking world. The candidate names to get on the dial at 6 o’clock? Here they are: Deep Sea Special, Frogman, Nautilus, Submariner.

The Birth Of The Myth

The mystery was unveiled in 1954 during the Baselworld showwith the presentation of the Submariner in its earliest shape, the Reference 6204. The new release, thanks to its characteristics, was an instant hit.

The model that has marked modern sports-and-diving watchmaking is well known to enthusiasts: the case is in a “tonneau” shape with diameter of 37mmthe reference is engraved with the word “BREVET+” in between the lugs at 12 o’clock while the serial number is engraved at 6 o’clock and is slightly shifted towards the top side. The winding crown, without protective pads, is 5.3 mm – the smallest ever mounted on a Submariner. This feature was inherited from the Turn-o-Graph Ref. 6202, the model which inspired it, classified in official spare parts catalogs as Reference 530 both for the tube and the crown.

Typical is the dial, slightly rounded on the sidesjust as the glass – which on the spare parts catalog is described as Tropic 16. The back of the dial is translucent black, attached to the movement with little fixing feet, and doesn’t feature any type of trademark to indicate the third party manufacturer.

The bidirectional bezel is made of chromed metal with a glowing triangle corresponding to the 0, the ring is divided at every 5 minutes and alternates little bars and Arabic numerals. Originally on some bezels the 0 triangle was red, but it was decided to replace it as the colour becomes hard to see only after a few meters underneath the water. The caliber belongs to the “600” series, defined as A260with 18.000 alternances per hour. 

And the bottom part, just like for many other models on the market at the time (a.k.a “ovettoni”) is rounded as well and features a concentric finish inside with the logo, typical as well for the models produced in the 50s with the reference engraved at the bottom.

Finally: the strap, which can be the rivet non-extensible 7206 or the rivet extensible 6636.

The Rolex SUB-AQUA 6204

England’s first diving club was established by ex soldiers in 1953: the British Sub-Acqua Club. It encountered such enormous success that today it is the most important diving club in the world and its president, since 1974, is Prince Charles himself.

Rolex dedicating some 6204 models to the British Sub-Aqua Club with the “SUB-AQUA” writing instead of “SUBMARINER”. 

Rolex Sub-Aqua 6204

The dial is “gilt” (translucent, galvanic finish) with golden graphic elements, minute track, baton hours and minutes hands, and the seconds hand has a luminescent dot at the tipAll indices “in this case commonly called pallettoni” are outlined with gold around the luminescent phosphors, in a triangle shape at 12, rectangles at other cardinal points and rounded for the rest.

Rolex Sub-Aqua 6204

For SUB-ACQUA, the strap is made in England with the “Rolex made in England stainless stell WAB” writing engraved on the clasps. The final ones are part of the group 80.

Rolex Sub-Aqua 6204

What is there to add about this iconic model? The Rolex SUB-AQUA 6204 is one of the rarest Submariners – we know only of a handful of them – with its value which certainly tops the 100 thousand euros, would be a great show if it was ever to be auctioned!

By Stefano Mazzariol