Important Watches

Important Watches

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 107. Reference 5510 'Big Crown Explorer Dial' Submariner | A stainless steel automatic wristwatch, Issued to the Australian Navy, Circa 1958 | The Hammer Collection.

The Hammer Collection


Reference 5510 'Big Crown Explorer Dial' Submariner | A stainless steel automatic wristwatch, Issued to the Australian Navy, Circa 1958 | The Hammer Collection

Auction Closed

December 7, 07:12 PM GMT


160,000 - 320,000 USD

Lot Details


Dial: gilt black, chapter ring, explorer dial

Caliber: cal. 1530 automatic, 25 jewels

Movement number: 18'857

Case: stainless steel, screw down case back

Case number: 362'153

Size: 38 mm diameter

Signed: case, dial and movement

Box: no

Papers: no

Accessories: vintage 1950's Royal Australian Navy uniform, three Royal Australian Navy Challenge coins, four vintage Royal Austrialian Navy plaques, an Royal Australian Navy field notebook, a Royal Australian Navy cigarette case, and a vintage pair of Royal Australian Navy nose clips

While all ‘Big Crown’ Submariners are incredibly special, the reference 5510 stands out as among the rarest of the breed. Produced for only the 1958 model year, it is estimated that only around 300 units were manufactured. Known for its screentime in James Bond, and nicknamed for its no-crown guard ‘Big Crown’ these tool watches have transcended from tool watches to proper icons of the silver screen.


The present example, however, is a very special version, of a very special watch. This is an explorer dial Submariner, that was military issues to the Royal Australian Navy. The ‘Explorer’ Dial is a moniker earned due to the luminous Arabic 3-6-9 dials that owe strong resemblance to the smaller brother Rolex Explorer I. While that alone would be worthy of a high place in the greatest watch collections, this watch is a proper milsub, issue to the RAN for use by its clearance divers. Military issued Submariners have a few telltale signs that separate them from their civilian stablemates, most notably the presence of fixed bars. Not only does our example retain its fixed bars, but it also survives in ‘A10’ specification with those fixed bars, secured by peening them over against the outside of the mid-case.

At the time of acquisition into Hammer’s collection, it was believed that only four RAN 5510s to exist – to give a semblance of the rarified air this watch lives in. Furthermore, the present watch has a fascinating and well-documented history having passed through just three people from new. According to available scholarship, these RAN 5510s have an internal military designation of 6645-66-010-8359, which allowed for meticulous inventory of this expensive piece of kit. In reviewing the watch, and its numerous case engravings, including underneath one of the lugs, it’s possible to determine that this watch was in constant Navy use from new till 1977. As was common with military watches, it was returned to naval department for servicing between December of 1977 and October 1978. Interestingly though, this watch was not sent out for repair or refurbishment. While there is no way to know for certain what happened, the watch was ultimately sold in government surplus auction with a box of “spare-parts” to a local Australian Reverend who retained ownership of the watch until 1981. Hammer acquired the watch from one of the foremost military watch collectors in the world, and due to its rarity, provenance, and deep Australian connection, has been one of the true trophies in his collection of military issued watches.

The watch presents as one would expect of a clearance diver used military watch with 20 years of heavy service. That being said, the case remains thick showing just the wear one would expect of an honest watch, and the gilt 3-6-9 “Explorer” dial, extremely rare for a big crown, has radium lume that has aged to a dark even color throughout. The gilt printing remains strong and legible, while the highly sought after ‘red triangle’ insert remains worn – but incredibly vibrant. Worth noting, is that Hammer collected an incredibly bevy of ephemera with this watch. In reaching out to RAN Clearance Divers, he collected a period late 50s RAN dress uniform, numerous challenge coins and RAN diving awards, as well as RAN patches and medals.