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Rolex Military Submariner ‘smashes’ Fellows’ house record with $216k sale

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Fellows Auctioneers has set a new house record for the most expensive watch it has ever auctioned, with the sale of a 1978 Rolex Military Submariner (‘MilSub’).

The timepiece more than doubled its upper estimate, selling for a full price of £165,200 ($216,700) yesterday morning.

The MilSub was estimated at £50,000-70,000 ($65,600-91,800), but a five-minute bidding war saw the auctioneer’s previous record for a watch sale surpassed by more than £55,000 ($72,100).

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The previous record was set in November 2017 when a Rolex Milgauss went under the hammer for £110,000 ($144,300).

The stainless steel Rolex, reference 5517, featured as Lot 129 in Fellows’ Luxury Watch Sale, which took place at the company’s Birmingham Jewellery Quarter saleroom.

Around 1,200 of the model were produced in the 1970s, none of which were sold to the public.

Instead the MilSubs were made for the British Special Forces, while only around 200 have resurfaced since.

The “MilSub” was fitted to a grey nylon ‘NATO’ style strap with a stainless steel pin buckle.

Measuring 39mm, it was taken by a telephone bidder in an auction that saw 1,000 people register to take part.

Stephen Whittaker, managing director of Fellows Auctioneers, who auctioned the Rolex MilSub, said: “We are overwhelmed to have sold this magnificent Rolex Military Submariner for over £160,000. This is the most expensive watch to have gone under the hammer in the history of the company, and our watch department have worked hard to ensure we held another successful sale.

“This watch is incredibly rare and we had a feeling it would be sought-after but for it to break our house record is a huge delight.”

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Sam Lewis

The author Sam Lewis