5513 Maxi Dial

Matte Dials of the late 551x Submariners: A Multitude of Maxis 

by tomvox1

With the explosion in popularity of classic Vintage Rolex Sports models, it is not surprising that even references formerly considered too “common” to explore in detail have begun to be examined for minute variations. A perfect example of this is the Maxi Dial phenomenon. Meaning different things to different people, the term “Maxi Dial” was actually first used by Rolex at the 2003 Basel Watch Fair to describe the larger luminous plots of their newly introduced 16610LV "Anniversary" Sub. That term was then "borrowed" by vintage enthusiasts to differentiate a certain type of British Royal Navy Military Submariner dial from the preceding generation due to its larger luminous. Shortly thereafter, collectors began referring to a completely different style of late matte Submariner dial with no known military connections as a “Maxi” dial. In fact, if one looks at all of the matte 551x dials made after 1975 or so, they all share two common characteristics: larger lume plots than earlier Sub dials and generally bolder graphics emphasizing the depth rating and particularly SUBMARINER. This trend reached its logical conclusion in the final iteration of the matte 5513 dial, which has SUBMARINER not only on top of but wider than the depth rating, the same format as today’s so-called “no-date Submariners.”

The point of this article, therefore, is to catalog the different variations of these late matte ref. 551x Submariner dials in a logical manner. Which one is the “most” or “truest” Maxi or is worth paying a premium for, if at all, is completely subjective and is not the concern of this piece.

Type I:



A transitional dial produced for perhaps only 1 year (probably in civilian watches in the mid 4 million to low 5mil Serials originally, ca. 1976-77), the Type I Maxi is found not only on refs. 5513 & 5512 (the latter pictured above) but also a small number of RN MilSubs delivered in the late 1970s, usually double reference 5513/5517s. The lume plots are larger than on the previous generation of 551x dials but the depth rating and SUBMARINER are also “bolder” and the fonts have changed as well, with less serif. However, during the brief run of the Type I dials the depth rating remained on top of SUBMARINER, the last time Submariner dials would have this configuration.

Here are two RN MilSubs, a 5513 with the previous generation of dial (right) and a 5517 with the Type I Maxi dial for comparison (left):


(Photo courtesy of KevinO)

The Military Type I dials were the first to be dubbed “Maxi” because of their noticeably larger lume plots.

5517 KO

The Military Type I dials were the first to be dubbed “Maxi” because of their noticeably larger lume plots.

(Photo courtesy of KevinO)

It is also interesting to note that the Type I 551x depth rating & SUBMARINER fonts are extremely similar to one very special date model, the COMEX 1680.


(Photo courtesy delgado)

This could lend credence to the theory that Type I Maxi dials were produced for special orders first and then the surplus fitted to standard civilian watches. But without stronger evidence from Rolex itself, this will remain just a theory.

Type II:



(Photos courtesy of maverick)

After the brief run of Type I dials, Rolex decided to position SUBMARINER on top of the depth rating for their next batch of dials, which debuted on Subs during the 5 million case serials (ca. 1978). The SUB-on-top format continued until the end of the ref. 5512 (ended ca. 1978) and the ref. 5513 (ended "L" series, ca. 1990) and indeed on all "no-date Subs" up to today.

Aside from the inversion of the SUB/depth format, very little changed between the Type I & Type II Maxis: extremely similar sans serif font on the depth rating & SUBMARINER, narrow based coronet, the strokes of the “f” & “t” in"ft" essentially on the same plane.

Type III:



(Photos courtesy of Maurits)

The Type III dial, which ran concurrently with the Type II (originally from some point in the 5 million to perhaps the mid-6mil SNs), is the one that many collectors, particularly in Germany, began to call "Maxi" although it has no relation with the "Maxi MilSub" (Type I). However, the Type III does claim the distinction of having the largest lume plots proportionally and the ones closest to the 5-minute tick marks, leading to another nickname for this particular Maxi: "Lollipop." One can also note the abundance of serif on the depth rating and the slightly smaller printing of SUBMARINER & the depth, almost a throwback to the subtler pre-1976 printing style. These dials are also occasionally but infrequently seen on the last of the 5512s with the added SCOC text.

Type IV:





(Photos courtesy of Clayton)

The Type V is the very last style of matte 5513 dial usually found in watches from the late 7 to 8mil+ SN range, immediately before the change to gloss/WG surround dials. For the first time in non-date Sub history, SUBMARINER is printed wider than the depth rating, a characteristic that Rolex would make permanent with its glossy successors:


(Photo courtesy Robbe1675)

The wide SUBMARINER of the Type V (left) is clearly apparent when compared to the preceding Type IV dial (right):


(Photo courtesy of Clayton)

It must be assumed that the Type V dials had a fairly short run at the end of the matte dial period, perhaps as short as 5-700,000 serial # places. They were probably not used frequently as replacements because of the availability of the new Rolex-standard gloss/WG dials for that purpose immediately following Type V production.

A note on Maxi chronology:
To some degree, Maxi dials resist strict chronology. In addition to the usual overlap in periods when dials were being used concurrently, as is particularly the case with the Type II & III dials, these dials were frequently used as replacements by Rolex, especially the Type II, III and IV. They were the last matte 551x dials produced and the supply would have been ample for this purpose. So they were used not only for the current models being manufactured in the late 1970s until the beginning of the gloss/WG era but also as default service dials for a 7-8 year period depending upon whatever 551x dials a particular Rolex Service Center had in stock. In fact, Luminova versions of matte Maxi dials are still used today as replacements for the 5512, for which no gloss/WG surround dials were ever made:


(Photo courtesy problemchylde)

So while the different types of Maxi dials were produced from 1976 on and fitted to Subs sold new during that period in a somewhat sequential manner, they are also found on 5513s & 5512s from the very beginning of those references' production to the end of the matte dial era (and sometimes beyond). This makes defining a "period correct Maxi" somewhat problematic, much as we would wish to have a clean chronology.

Acknowledgments: Special thanks to the generosity of all of those who contributed their photos to this project, as well as Chin and ets23 for their excellent observations, jedly1 for his thoughts and coining "Lollipop," Daniel Bourn for the origins of "Maxi," girk & wizir for their help confirming the Type V, and Ed Delgado for the usual support. Extra special thanks to the Great Gatsby who started me trying to make sense of the whole Maxi mess months ago and who has done more to introduce the term "Maxi Dial" into the lexicon of the average Vintage Rolex collector than anyone else.

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