Rolex Fat Font inserts explored MK1 through MK3

Jan 14, 2020,16:55 PM

The Rolex insert is one of the most recognizable aspects of a Rolex Submariner.  Often imitated but never duplicated.  The Rolex insert is a mark of distinction across the world and the Rolex Submariner is the most recognizable when it comes to dive watches.  It was an essential tool for divers to safely calculate their dives long before computers and other sophisticated tools took over.





Some of the very early inserts from the 50's had no markers between the 0-15 they just had individual marks every 5 minute increment.  Also we have the famous Red triangle that adorned the Rolex big Crowns in the 1958 – 1959 period.  And of course the later Military insert for the 5517 issue with marks at every minute. 


source:internet credits unknown .. will credit if noted.  pic for reference only



The focus here will be on the inserts that were fitted to the 5512, 5513, 1665 and the 1680.  As always with Rolex I must preface this exposé with the fact that we are talking about Rolex and nothing is definitive so please enjoy this review as a guide of an opinion formed by experience.  I will use the nomenclature of MK1-3 as it seems to be widely accepted.  I will also sneak in a Mk0.5 as one that may have come just before the MK1 but still not stepping on the red triangle insert.  However as there are possible variations please feel free to add your comments.  Also the inserts are prone to fading and come in an abundant array of shades of gray/black but again I am focused on the base models.  They also have a range of pearls that would be affixed tritium and luminova among the most common.  I will not covet these  accoutrements just the inserts here.




First and most important is to cover main buzz word "Fat Font".  What the hell is it with Rolex and fat this and fat that.  First the lugs now the fat inserts.  Well, when dealing with the time period of the late 50's to early 70's the standard was fat font which I will describe in a minute.  Actually I will let the pictures describe it in more detail.  The rage on inserts MK1 through MK3 are all fat font with only the service insert being skinny.  Again of the vintage period in question.  There are degrees of fat which again will be illustrated.


Rolex 5512/5513 Insert - Fat Font MK1


The fat font insert on the above is the early "kissing 40 font". Very rare to find holding the position just after the early Subs after with the red triangle. Here I will present the reference model which is widely accepted as the MK1.  This model would have been present on the early 1960's submariner like the 5512 from the gilt era.  This would include most likely the 5513 of the same period i.e. a gilt Swiss only ending around 1963/64.  Not very common to find these intact on many watches of the period. Key elements to observe is the shape of the five which has a small square with think font.  The number forty have the "kissing distinction".  I think we can all agree to call this one the MK1.  If we then assume the the variations we call MK2 and MK3 as simple slightly less "fat" i.e. the font is from fattest to fat we can draw the distinction.  However, I don't have a solid theme to say which watch had which of the inserts exactly what year but you can also assume that the period late 50's through maybe 1961 could be mk1 ans then 1961-63/64 as the MK2 period and then from the 1965 period onward to be the early MK3 variety.  But this is only an assumption.


The Characteristics are clear as you can see the fonts are so thick that they are almost touching each other with the exception of the forty which is touching "kissing Forty".  The index markers are also very thick.  They do appear to be somewhat sloppy but this is a correct feature.  You will also notice the shape of the five in the fifty where you can see a small square shape with a slight serif at the tips.  The numbers in general have a small serif features to them all not in a traditional sense but like little feet protruding at the ends.

Rolex MK2 fat font - Long 5


The key tell on this one is the long five feature in the 50 marker.  It is the interior of the five that is elongated vertically rather than in the MK1 which is square.  The exception is of course the MK0.5 or MK1.5 which I will expose later.  The fonts are without serifs and fat but not touching in anyway.  There is a slight bit more breathing room between the fonts but still very fat.  I imagine this one to have been fixed on the 5512, 5513's through the late 1960 up to early 1970. It was probably also the model you would have found on the 1680 "Red Subs".  It still remains a highly desirable insert for all vintage submariners.





Rolex 5513 Insert - Fat Font MK2




Rolex 5513 Insert - Fat Font MK3"





The MK3 fat font seems to be the last of the fat fonts and seems to exhibit some sort of serif in the font style.  It appears slightly thinner that the other two. It is the one on the bottom.  You can see the little tails on the forty as well as on the 20.  The number fifty is again more square but not as small as the MK1.


When compared to a fat font insert it is quite evident but when sitting alone it appear to have a solid bold font feel.  The fonts are also non serif. This is the insert that graces most vintage subs up to the early 1980s.  Maybe even later but it can be considered the last variation.  The last sequence of pictures allows you to really see the difference of the MK1-2-3 as compared to the thin font.  There are a few other variations which I have not really classified as I am actually not completely sure. First a couple of picture with a broader range on Fat and not so fat inserts.



These last two I really did not know how to classify. As promised a MK 0.5 not sure what else to call it. They look like they would have had a red triangle.  I had some doubts but they are real and as I always say this is Rolex.











More posts: 16651680551255135517GiltSea DwellerSubmarinerSubmariner Date

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A Reference post I will save with your permission, Bill.

 By: amanico : March 10th, 2013-23:33
You wrote it very well. Inserts may look futile, but like a good piece of Art, the devil is n the details. And a Vintage Rolex needs its own insert. If you add the patina to the graphics, a nice and correct insert is not tha futile. We are two damned soul... 

Every piece of art needs a frame

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-09:07
The insert is the frame for the Rolex. Best Bill

Great and informative thread my friend!! Cheers,

 By: SteelerFan1965 : March 11th, 2013-03:16
I think this should also be a sticky or saved--Well done Bill! Cheers, Ken

great research report Bill!

 By: MattS : March 11th, 2013-03:39
Rolexmania at its best! Will you do the same with the pearls! LOL, just kidding! Matt

Pearls are a little more simple

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-09:06
Just a question of tint but so many are refilled and you can't tell. Tricky stuff but not one I attach much importance to draw concern. Best Bill

Great Post Bill

 By: i_am_Sam : March 11th, 2013-07:40
Thank you for sharing your extensive knowledge about the submariner inserts... I certainly learned a lot from your post but definitely still need to learn more.. So much to learn about Vintage Rolex Thanks again for sharing... Best, Sam

Very informative

 By: Suboc : March 11th, 2013-07:50
Excellent post. Here is a "Skinny 4" similar to one in the center of the third to last photo of inserts you show. Notice how the numbers and hash marks are pulled to the outter edge of the insert, as well as the skinny 4. I have been told these were produ...  

I have observed the insert in question

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-08:52
To me the one mounted on the watch is due to a error in the printing. The position was too close and the paint is actually visible on the outer edges of the insert. The format of the printing is consistent with the early fat font series. The fonts of the ...  

Here are some better images of the insert in question

 By: Suboc : March 11th, 2013-09:46
Thanks Bill. There are certainly a number of other inserts, and figuring out how they fit into the chronology is a little confusing. I believe this insert is correct however not sure what period its from. I appologise for redirecting this thread from Mark...  

I think it is safe to say based on the 5

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-11:08
That it does not really fit in the MK1-3 "Fat fonts". Even the 40 with the tail appears to be a little more skinny both the #4 and the 0. I personally don't know how to classify beyond the Mk1-3 and even in the fat fonts there are many variations which ar... 

Your insert is worth a deeper review.

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-11:16
I will see what I can come up with and as you pointed out to me you may be on to a new classification "Slim 4". I need to do some review at my end but all comments are welcome. Best Bill

That does shed some light on the time period for that format

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-13:39
But 1968 is a bit later than the examples put forward as "Slim4" which had been associated with 1963. Looks like we need to do some more work on the slim 4 qualifications. The two ads below have that format but these don't fit the time period with the dia...  

Funny thing is...

 By: Suboc : March 11th, 2013-14:23
I've yet to see this insert on anything other that 1963 5513 's I'm sure other years are possible. Perhaps Rolex was using older images in their adds. Do you have dates on those? Daniel

Hi-res of the 1967 ad

 By: blomman Mr Blue : March 11th, 2013-23:37
Hi Bill, Thank you for a great post - a newbie like me can only sit backk and enjoy the ride! :) Here is a hi-res of the second ad (1967) you posted, maybe there are some details that can help? Best Blomman ...  

Thanks for the Hi-res image.....

 By: Suboc : March 13th, 2013-20:43
Anyone recognize what 5513 dial variant(year) the add shows. Does it look like a 67 dial when the add was printed or a 64 dial? Reason I ask is that "Skinny 4" inserts have been seen on early 1964 watches and perhaps the image although in a 1967 add is th... 

At first my guess was Bart Simpson 1965-66

 By: Bill : March 13th, 2013-21:27
It is impossible to tell but if we assume it is gilt and we look at the shape of the coronet it looks more like a Bart than 67-68 meters first because the coronet is not short and stout but skinny and tall. But if you observe the position of the FT on a b...  

So your saying it doesn't look like a 1964 Swiss-t<25 dial? [nt]

 By: Suboc : March 13th, 2013-22:04
My question was regarding 1964 Swiss-t<25 dials

Yes it could very well be a 1964-65

 By: Bill : March 13th, 2013-22:23
The ft is uneven and the coronet from what I can see is consistent with a gilt 1964-1965 5513. Sorry I was all over the place I was hung up on the slim 4 and the 1963 model. Best Bill


 By: Suboc : March 13th, 2013-22:31
Well that may narrow down the "skinny 4" to for sure swiss only 1963 watches and perhaps early 1964 Swiss-t<25 watches. Daniel

Thank you Bill!

 By: Mike1066 : March 15th, 2013-06:29
Bill: Awesome and informative post. Thank you for educating all of us here. You are right - every piece of art needs a frame. I just got a 10x loupe and have been looking at my 1665 and 16600. The bezels are really a piece of art, and the variations in th... 

The art of Rolex

 By: Bill : March 15th, 2013-08:16
As you noted so much details so much history in the details. You never stop learning at Rolex school of hard knocks. Best Bill

But if I was a betting man I would say non gilt MS 1967

 By: Bill : March 13th, 2013-22:34
like this one. It has all the attributes of the ad and it is non guilt consistent with a 1967 + dial. But from the ad it is hard to tel just going by what Rolex would be advertising in 1967 more likely the mat dial. ...  

Perhaps, but the L in Rolex....

 By: Suboc : March 13th, 2013-23:00
On the matt dialed watch seems more centered under the crown than does the L in the add which looks set to the left. Could just be the photo.

Super hard to tell for sure.

 By: Bill : March 13th, 2013-23:03
This is a tough one. Unless we can confirm the date stamp on the ad we are still guessing. We also don't know if Rolex used old photos in new ads. Could be. And there is no way to really tell if the dial is gilt or matt. Actually in your first ad it does ... 

Looking at the shape of your 4 it does appear to be Slim4

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-13:51
It looks like a NOS bezel which is pretty rare but always a possibility and you look to be the lucky owner. Bill

great review, Bill...

 By: gensiulia : March 11th, 2013-08:05
...i'd like to show you some details about the 40, the most interesting number on this insert series (imo) MK1 MK2 MK3 Milsub Thanks & credits to my friend M. Pisani. p.s.: more detailed pics on request ...  

Very nice selection

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-09:05
The details tell the story. Best Bill


 By: gensiulia : March 11th, 2013-14:37
...i think it was a long and painful divorce ;) ciao chris

Maybe a slim 4 candidate

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-13:48
I always thought it was just an odd fat font but chose not to label it. It is an insert associated with a 1963 submariner. You can see it next to a mk3 fat font it has a tail on the 4 and the 5 has a square body. You can clearly see position 3 has a 4 tha...  

Another look at the "Slim 4" Rolex insert MK3/4

 By: Bill : March 11th, 2013-21:20
I am not sure where to position the slim 4 before or after the MK3. The slim 4 is clearly illustrated below. ...  

Reference post...! [nt]

 By: hans_jorgen_1968 : March 12th, 2013-11:52

Hello Bill! Thank you so much for this most interesting...

 By: Subexplorer : March 14th, 2013-06:51
... and informative post. Will keep as a fantastic reference source! Enjoyed very much reading and looking at these photographs! Receive my best cordial regards, Abel.

Rolex 101 it never ends

 By: Bill : March 14th, 2013-07:26
Just when we thought it was safe and we had a good handle on the MK1-3 the slim4 shows up. And back to Rolex 101 learning. Best Bill

Yep, it seems like...

 By: Suboc : March 14th, 2013-07:33
Everyone agrees "Skinny 4" is an early version around 63 and then those later adds show what seems to be the same insert. My bet is that the adds back then weren't always accurate reflecting the exact dial/insert version being sold in a given year. Perhap... 

Fat Font Slim4 = 1963 + is a good assumption

 By: Bill : March 14th, 2013-08:38
I think we have enough examples of watches around the 1963-1964 era to confirm that regardless of the ad. Best Bill

1963 + 1965 ads

 By: blomman Mr Blue : March 14th, 2013-13:01
Here is another example from my library... 1963: Note the PanAm reference. 1965: Best Blomman ...  

GReat ads none appear to support the slim 4

 By: Bill : March 14th, 2013-15:49
based on the dates you are presenting. I love the second ad "Where did you get your Rolex". Looks to be very early 1959-1961 as it seems to feature a big logo on the bracelet you can see the inside and how the logo fills the blade. Do you know the year of... 

There is no doubt taht the Slim 4 has claimed a position

 By: Bill : March 14th, 2013-15:53
in an among the Mk1-3 reduced view of the fat fonts 1959-1967 ish. I would not bet the house on it as we know Rolex can always throw a curve ball. However as noted based on the various examples as seen on the watch and my direct visual confirmation of a 1... 

Thanks Bill

 By: Suboc : March 14th, 2013-16:37
I guess I have excuse now to get a nice 1963/5513 in need of a period correct bezel and insert. Daniel

Skinny 40 Rolex insert another firm reference from 1962 - 1963

 By: Bill : May 5th, 2013-17:06
Seen here on a 5512 from 1962 ...  

5513 mark 2

 By: Tiziano : January 30th, 2018-16:20
Do you think that my 5513 mark 2 from 1978 has the right insert? Thank you ...  

Looks like a very nice 5513 - It looks like a maxi dial where the lume plots are almost touching the index markers.

 By: Bill : January 30th, 2018-19:22
On the insert it looks like it may be an original Rolex service insert but I could be wrong. Bill

My 5513 meters first , 1969 ...

 By: leopold : February 1st, 2018-11:44

Thanks, 1,96... [nt]

 By: leopold : February 2nd, 2018-00:30

Thanks for this.

 By: S.Song : January 14th, 2020-17:07
A very useful tool as a buying guide. What many people don't realise is that the insert can really make or break a watch. For me, if I buy a 1680 or 5513 and it has a service insert, I can't stand the thing stumpy fonts and it doesn't do the overall desig... 

Yup! [nt]

 By: S.Song : January 14th, 2020-21:28

Great post!

 By: Mary Anny : January 15th, 2020-00:54
So much interesting information! So, forget about dial, hands and bracelet, could be my 5513's bezel a Rolex MK2 fat font - Long 5? ...  

I'll do that, Thanks!

 By: Mary Anny : January 16th, 2020-02:01
Now saving money for a decent meters-first dial (got the hands but need relume). I would try to sell the glossy dial and the 93150 bracelet (still have the 7206). Cheers

What a fantastic research and effort you have presented us, Bill!

 By: AlexSunrise : May 4th, 2020-09:53
Chapeau! I have a question pertaining the 1680/8 bezels... Is there any guidelines as to which years came with silver print and which ones came with gold print numerals? Wishing you all the best, Alex

That is a tough one.

 By: Bill : May 4th, 2020-10:21
If i was going to guess i would say the early 1680/8 meters first would be a candidate but that just means it could share the same black and silver bezel which standard to steel models. But as a rule i think they all have gold print if they are a gold wat... 

Thank you, Bill

 By: AlexSunrise : May 4th, 2020-11:26
Your thoughts make a ton of sense. Take care, Alex

Rolex 5513 insert

 By: dazza1210s : March 16th, 2021-09:32
Afternoon Bill/Everyone Im so glad I found this thread! I have a 5513 Sub year 1968. Long story but sent the watch to a highly incompetent watch maker for a service and the watch was returned to me with the bezel and insert badly damaged/butchered. As you...