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Vintage: Rolex Submariner Meters First

Meters First Submariners are increasingly rare finds. But what is a Meters First Submariner in the first place?

Meters First refers to how the depth rating is written on the dial. On a Meters First Sub, the depth is first expressed in meters followed by feet. This is the opposite of what you’ll find nowadays which would read something like “1000 ft = 300 m“. 

The submariner featured in this post is a fine example of a matte dial Meters First 5513. It being a matte dial with Meters First indicates that we are dealing with an early production of the matte dial. Prior to the matte dial, they used the glossy gilt dial before. The gilt dialed 5513 should in principle all show Meters First.

As a side note, gilt dials are essentially a black lacquer, glossy dial with gilt (not white) printing on them. There is in principle nothing printed in white and the dials shouldn’t be matte (there are exceptions to this rule). The quickest way to tell if you are dealing with a gilt dial is to look at the color of the printed text. For reference, Rolex used Gilt dials for the Submariners generally speaking during the Fifties and Sixties, and just before the turn of the Seventies they switched to the printed matte dials.

Now back to that matte dial 5513. While the gilt dialed 5513’s are standard Meters First, this is not the case for the Matte dialed ones. The early years of the 5513 matte dials exist in a variation, you guessed it, with meters first which were then changed into the feet first dials we still know today. The matte dial Meters First dials are a rare breed and therefore more collectible than their ‘Feet First’ brethren. Meters First Submariners exist across various models and are not limited to the 5513. For a more in-depth look at the Submariner’s history, make sure to check our in-depth Submariner Buyer’s Guide.

For the watchful reader, the splash image on this post is that of a Vintage GMT. Simply to point out that there is no such thing as a Meters First GMT 😉

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Cool information, I didn’t know about Meters first vs Feet.

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