Vanessa Redgrave’s Rolex Reference 5513 Submariner With Explorer Dial: Could It Be The Female ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona?

When it comes to a watch model distinguishing itself from the rest of its family thanks to a famous namesake, the world’s most well-known example is the Rolex “Paul Newman.”  This dial design variant is found in vintage Rolex Daytona Reference 6239, 6241, 6263, 6264, and 6265 models.

The now iconic dial was nicknamed after legendary actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, who wore a Reference 6239 Rolex Daytona with what’s now known as an “exotic dial.” That exoticness was due to the fact that it had contrasting color combinations and art deco fonts in the chronograph subdials as compared to the plainer dials found in most Daytona models of the period.

Newman’s name got attached to this model after collectors noticed his 6239 Daytona had this exotic dial, and the nickname has stuck to this day. In 2017, Newman’s personal 6239 Daytona with “Paul Newman dial” sold for $17.8 million, further enhancing its status.

Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona (photo courtesy Phillips/Bacs and Russo)

Paul Newman’s personal Rolex Daytona sold for $17.8 million (photo courtesy Phillips/Bacs and Russo)

This got me thinking: are there any special watch dials named after a notable woman?

Famous female contenders

There are a few watches that have been given monikers due to associations with the women who wore them: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in the third James Bond film, Goldfinger sported a Rolex Reference 6542 GMT-Master; Nina Rindt, wife of Formula One driver Jochen Rindt, and her Universal Genève chronograph; and Raquel Welch wearing a Breitling Reference 765 AVI chronograph in the film Fathom all spring to mind.

Those watch models, however, became well known as whole watches and not as particular dial variations.

Blackman gets the most attention for being the first woman to wear a Rolex on film in 1964, which didn’t look out of place on her wrist at all.

A photograph I unearthed from four years prior highlighted that a tool watch looks good on a feminine wrist. The photograph above from 1960 showing a woman in world-record deep diver Hannes Keller’s team wearing a Rolex/Tudor Submariner stood out to me. Browsing other photographs in the same collection, I realized she was looking after the watch for another member of the dive team. Regardless, the timepiece suited her.

Vanessa Redgrave and the Rolex Submariner Reference 5513

English acting icon Vanessa Redgrave attracted some watch collecting interest when she wore a Rolex Reference 5513 Submariner in the 1966 film Blowup. Redgrave wore the Submariner on a leather strap instead of its stainless steel Oyster bracelet. And over the sleeve of her shirt.

A Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 with Explorer dial, circa 1964, auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2019 for £150,000 (photo courtesy Sotheby’s)

You might be wondering why am I bringing up this timepiece now, 55 years later. Firstly, a Rolex was an interesting choice for the lead actress to wear in a 1960s film. Secondly, the watch’s whereabouts are unknown. And thirdly, the watch was “hiding” one very special detail publicly unknown until now.

A small few Rolex Reference 5513 Submariners were fitted with what has become known as an “Explorer dial.” Instead of the usual baton and round markers for the hours on a stock Submariner dial, the markers here were replaced with solely baton style markings and Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock in addition to the usual triangular reference marker at 12 o’clock.

Vintage advertisement for the Rolex Submariner (photo courtesy Ad Patina)

This type of dial was usually fitted to the Rolex Explorer model, hence its nickname.

After looking through several photographs of Redgrave on the set of Blowup, one in particular caught my eye. It captured Redgrave during a discussion with director Michelangelo Antonioni, showing a clear view of the Submariner on her wrist.

And I realized that she was wearing a Submariner with a rare “Explorer” dial! Zooming in revealed the Arabic numerals 9 and 3 standing out clearly along with the baton markers against the black dial.

Considering that Redgrave was already famous at the time, if this dial been noticed earlier the watch might have been coined the “Vanessa Redgrave.”

And then the auction catalogues would have described it as a Rolex Submariner with a rare “Vanessa Redgrave dial,” which in my opinion sounds way cooler.

Quick Facts Rolex Reference 5513 Submariner with Explorer dial
Case: 40 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 1530, introduced in 1957, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, sweep seconds
Price: one sold at Sotheby’s in 2019 for £150,000

* This article was first published February 17, 2021 at Vanessa Redgrave’s Rolex Reference 5513 Submariner With Explorer Dial: Should It Be The Female ‘Paul Newman’ Daytona?

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