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At Leitner-Wise it has always about the small details.
At the beginning of 2021, we acquired Forscher Watch Company, a long defunct European watch component manufacturing company dating from the turn of the 20th Century.
The concept was to have some fun and initially develop a few, highly accurate historical homage watches, and then if successful, a line of modern automatic tool watches which embody the ethos of these types of timepieces from the 1950’s onwards. We figured that we knew enough similar minded individuals who would take these off our hands.
To start with we decided to take on a difficult project. As we trace our defense roots to the formation of LWRC in the United Kingdom in 1998, we figured our first piece should be a homage to the most famous military dive watch of all time, the Rolex 5513/5517 “MilSub”.
Combining the words “Military” and “Submariner”, MilSub describes any of the four different references that were modified to meet the requirements of the British Armed Forces, going back as far as 1957.
Between 1971 and 1979, British Special Forces would take delivery of around 1,200 pieces, split across three references based on the Rolex 5513. Practically identical, they all incorporated the design changes first seen in the 50 1957 modified Rolexes, along with a couple of further tweaks.
The bezel, made of stainless steel, included hash marks on its aluminum insert that continued round for the full 60-minutes rather than just the first 15, as on the commercially available Submariner. The handset was switched on most from the trademark “Mercedes-style” to a pair of large “sword” or “gladiator” hands, and a seconds hand with an arrow-shaped tip. The Spring Bars were soldered between the lugs to prevent failure. Additionally, unlike virtually every civilian Rolex, the case backs were engraved – those destined for the Special Boat Service (SBS) designated with “0552” before their individual ID number, their counterparts for the SAS marked with “W10.”
In addition, they retained a special symbol on the dial carried over from the initial MilSub from the 50s. A small letter ‘T’ in a circle above the six o’clock denoted that the original, and highly dangerous, radium lume used on hands and indexes had been stripped by MOD subcontractor Burford and replaced with the much safer Tritium.
The real difference between the last three MilSubs is based on their dates of release. The early 70s saw the 5513 reference used, followed by models issued as 5513/5517, which are known as double stamped and the model we wished to base our homage on.
The ref. 5513/5517 is the only reference with no civilian equivalent. Although in reality it is not a particularly heavily modified 5513, the fact it has a unique number, and a backstory very few watches can match, make it among the most grail-like pieces in the Submariner range. Issued only to the military, every example of the 5513/5517 came with broad arrow hands and of the approximately 1,200 MilSubs supplied, only around 180 are still in circulation. That is 180 over all three examples from the 70’s. With Special Forces soldiers not famous for taking it easy on their kit, most of the watches have been either lost or destroyed.
In order to recreate this watch, we extensively researched the history and development of the reference, the unique adaptations and the vendors involved with its production. In consideration of the remaining 180 originals, we decided to limit the homage watch to a total of 180 pieces.
We wanted this to be the most exact homage of the 5513/5517. This started with the choice of movement. It was important that we utilize a true workhorse automatic movement in the spirit of the Rolex 1520. Rather than use a Swiss movement we selected the Seiko NM38, a true tool watch powerhouse and similar to the 1520 although with a faster BPM which improves accuracy. Regulated by our in-house watchmaker, it provides at least the same, if not better accuracy than the original. The case and caseback material is the same as the 1970’s original, as are the bidirectional bezel construction and dial markings. The Spring Bars are soldered, the original domed acrylic crystal is used and the G10 NATO band is supplied by the original MOD vendor; Phoenix of Wales, UK. The signed crown was created by us to work with the dimensions of the Oyster case as Seiko signed crowns will not fit.
The 5513/5517 MilSub Homage tool watch will ship with our Certificate of Authenticity, Certificate of Regulation and our reproduction Service Pouch which is how the originals were shipped to the MOD by Rolex, built, designed by us and sewn in the USA.
5513/5517 MilSub Homage
NATO ballistic nylon band produced in the UK by Phoenix