Auction News: Rolex Military Submariner Issued to British Army Diver Could Fetch Tens of Thousands

Fellow's Auctioneers Rolex Auction packAn historic Rolex Military Submariner (MilSub) issued to a diver in the Royal Engineers is set to cause a bidding frenzy at the forthcoming Fellows Auction. The watch was worn during military operations throughout the 1980s, including diving missions in the Falklands and the raising of the Mary Rose in 1982. Additionally, it is being sold alongside the diver’s log book, certificates and service photographs. Furthermore, a Royal Engineers diving jumper belonging to the current owner, Peter Melhuish, is also being sold with the lot.

Rolex Military Submariner (MilSub)

It is believed that around 1,200 Rolex MilSub watches were issued. However, only a few hundred have surfaced to this day.

The watch for sale sports a 5513 reference and was issued in the mid-seventies by the British Ministry of Defence. The diver acquired it a few years later.

The MilSub’s automatic movement still works. Also, there is evidence on the watch of a bracelet being fitted. It is currently fitted to a dark green nylon ‘NATO’ style strap. The Rolex was designed with luminous hour markers to aid with underwater use.

Royal Engineers Diver

Fellow's Auctioneers Rolex Auction pack

Peter Melhuish, from Tunbridge Wells, completed his course at the Royal Engineers Diving School in 1978.  He received a further diver’s certificate of competence from the Royal Engineers in 1981. Enlisted by the Army in 1979, Melhuish requested one of these watches from the Royal Engineers in 1980. He then spent the following decade travelling around the world, diving in various military operations.

Melhuish’s full list of diving operations is documented in his log book, which is also included in the lot. In September 1982, one of Melhuish’s operations included the Mary Rose prior to it being raised, which is currently on display at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Fellow's Auctioneers Rolex Auction packFellow's Auctioneers Rolex Auction packFellow's Auctioneers Rolex Auction pack

After leaving the Royal Engineers in 1990, Melhuish continued to wear the Rolex until recently. It has sat in a sock drawer for the last five years.

Fellows Watch Auction

Featuring as Lot 148 in Fellows’ Luxury Watch Sale, it will go under the hammer alongside just under 300 lots. Viewing takes place in London and Birmingham on selected dates. The auction will take place in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter on Monday 16th August. It has an auction estimate of £18,000 – £26,000. Furthermore,  Fellows is offering free shipping on the purchase of the timepiece.

The company previously broke their house record for the sale of a watch when a Rolex MilSub sold for a full price of £174,800 in August 2020.

Steven Yambo, Senior Watch Specialist at Fellows Auctioneers, said:

“We rarely see watches with military history as fascinating as this. The Rolex would have been worn during diving operations around the globe and we will undoubtedly see a high demand to view it.  It is hard to imagine the sheer scope of the diving operations where Peter would have worn this timepiece. The log book details his fascinating period in the Royal Engineers throughout the 1980s and we are grateful to Peter for selling his watch with us. This timepiece has the potential to spark a bidding war at auction.”

Auction Details and How To Bid

The Luxury Watch Sale is on August 16th. The auction will take place as a live, behind-closed-doors sale at Fellows’ Birmingham Jewellery Quarter saleroom. Customers are able to book virtual viewings on the watch with Fellows.

Click here to view the MilSub in the auction. View the full catalogue for the Luxury Watch Sale here.

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