The Ocean line by Steinhart is a group of Rolex homage divers. There are various models that cover everything from GMT Masters, to Sea Dwellers to a particularly well-done Explorer II 1655 (the Steve McQueen model), but the bulk of the Ocean series are Submariner homages. Of the plethora of models Steinhart makes, the Ocean Vintage Military really stands out as a unique offering. This is because the OVM refers to a very specific, rare and interesting model of the Rolex Submariner, the ref. 5517 Mil-Sub. The 5517 was a military issue Submariner for the British Royal Navy in the early 70’s. As a non-civilian model, it had some special design details that make it truly unique in the Sub family. The two most noticeable differences are in the hands and bezel insert. The 5517 lacks the iconic Mercedes hour hand and instead has a broad and stubby sword hand, and the bezel insert has individual minute markers going all around the bezel, rather than just from 0-15. The other more subtle details are a capital T in a circle on the lower half of the dial, indicating that the watch contained Tritium, fixed lug bars for use with nylon straps and unique serial numbers.
One could imagine given the popularity of vintage Submariners, original 5517’s are highly sought after, ultra-rare grails within the group. Considering around 1000 were ever issued, and they are legitimately parts of Naval and watch making history, it is not surprising that they go for around 100k at auction. This leaves most of us with little to no hope of ever owning one. Of course, there are a lot of watches that the same could be said for, the problem is that this one is really great looking. It takes the classic Bond-approved styling of the Submariner and tacks on some sportier and more aggressive features designed to maximize visibility for military usage. So, when the OVM first came to my attention I knew I had to have it. It takes the historical looks of the 5517, some contemporary features like a 42mm case, and combines them into a very affordable and damn great looking package. This is not to say that I don’t like the other Ocean watches, far from it, but being able wear a watch I’ll never own, in a matter of speaking, is very appealing to me.
That being said, the OVM is not just a beautifully executed and drop-dead gorgeous 5517 homage; it’s probably the best deal on a great watch you can get. At around $400 (price might fluctuate do to currency exchange rates) you are getting a terrifically built watch with an ETA 2824-2 25 jewel automatic movement, a domed sapphire crystal with double AR internal coating, a good quality oyster-style steel bracelet and generally superb finishing all around. Simply put, you wont be able to find a better deal on a Swiss made watch with these features. With that in mind, if you are looking to get a watch with an ETA movement now is the time to do it. It’s hard to say exactly what the future holds for brands like Steinhart with the ETA withdrawal, so considering the price tag and value here, I’d highly recommend one.