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HomeWatchesA Complete Collector’s Information To The Rolex Explorer I

A Complete Collector’s Information To The Rolex Explorer I



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A Complete Collector’s Information To The Rolex Explorer I

Mapping the ascent of Rolex’s go-anywhere watch.

With its three-hand simplicity and discreetly wearable measurement, the Rolex Explorer is, greater than any of the Crown’s sport watches, the one which skirts the road dividing the instrument watch from the gown watch. And but it’s additionally a Rolex most plainly made for legibility in adversarial circumstances and publicity to the weather.

image of Rolex Explorer

Born for high-altitude Himalayan climbing, the Explorer arrived in 1953, the identical yr because the Submariner and the Flip-O-Graph. To say it was a serious yr for Rolex, and for watches extra broadly, can be an understatement. It formed the watch firm that Rolex would develop into, the game phase as we all know it, and the watch-collecting pyramid that Rolex sits atop.

Explorer, Turn-O-Graph, Submariner
“A WATCH FOR THE NEW ELIZABETHAN AGE”
Rolex Ad

Due to Advert Patina for sharing pictures of adverts with us for this Reference Factors article and video.

Nineteen fifty-three wasn’t simply the yr during which Rolex launched the Explorer, it was additionally the coronation yr of Queen Elizabeth II, the monarch nonetheless reigning over the UK some 69 years later.

A Rolex commercial from the time locations the Explorer on this historic context whereas talking of particular Arctic oils used to lubricate the all-new go-anywhere watch. “The Rolex ‘Explorer’ will perform completely beneath water to depths of not less than 300 ft. and, within the air, to the unbelievable top of 12 miles.” As if that wasn’t sufficient, the advert additional boasts of the watch being as much as the duty of going to uranium mines and atomic power vegetation.

The Explorer has come to embody what many see as the best “one good watch” to personal. Its simplicity and basic design enable it to go wherever, not solely far-off mountaintops. And the reference 1016 specifically, which spanned an unimaginable 29 years of manufacturing, from 1960 to 1989, stands as a real classic hall-of-famer. With its refined 36mm measurement, no-date simplicity, and crisp black dial – whether or not gilt or matte – it’s the game Rolex that doesn’t flip heads – the anti-hype Rolex, if you’ll. The “if you recognize, you recognize” Rolex.

At public sale, high quality Explorer examples usher in respectable sums, however nothing just like the Submariners or the Daytonas of the world. In truth, if you happen to search on-line for Explorer information at public sale, you’re prone to return many outcomes for Explorer-dial Submariners bearing the 3-6-9 dial. The Explorer is a humble look ahead to a Rolex skilled mannequin launched 69 years in the past. And but it was the Rolex worn by Ian Fleming, and the one he was probably considering of when he determined which watch James Bond would put on.

Immediately, the Explorer is one thing of an outlier inside the trendy Rolex sport watch lineup. Its compact dimensions have hewn to the midcentury design of its delivery with solely occasional detours, resembling when it was briefly beefed as much as 39mm in 2010 with the reference 214270. Since then, the Explorer has returned to its 36mm roots, albeit with one other sudden curveball thrown at collectors, the choice of a two-tone case and bracelet. Because the smallest, easiest, and most constant of the Rolex skilled watches, the Explorer isn’t actually right here to shock or wow us – so when it unexpectedly does simply that, the impact is phenomenal.

I’ve supplied manufacturing dates for the references on this article wherever I might. However it is very important perceive that the numbers on the within caseback inform us about case manufacturing. Usually, watches weren’t assembled till a yr later after which offered after that, in some circumstances a few years later. Within the mid-’70s, Rolex stopped placing case manufacturing dates on the within casebacks of their watches. Serial numbers printed between the lugs provide the very best perception into when these watches have been made, however that is additionally one thing of an imprecise science.


Origins In Exploration

Simply because the Rolex Explorer itself requires no introduction to look at lovers, neither does the story of its genesis. In late Could 1953, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary grew to become the primary alpinists to overcome the world’s highest peak, and located themselves immediately catapulted into the historical past books. On their expedition they carried the Rolex chronometer, under, as we speak thought of a Pre-Explorer, which now lives in Zurich’s Beyer Museum under a multigenerational family-owned watch store. You should purchase a ticket and see it for your self.

Rolex Chronometer

The watch from the Hillary-Norgay expedition is at present on show at Zurich’s Beyer Museum.

We have a look at Rolex’s associations via the years – with business aviation, diving, militaries, and the humanities and extra – and see a deft marketer’s contact, a propensity to be early or first, and fairly often merely current when nice individuals achieved nice issues. In supporting Hillary and Norgay as they climbed to historical past, Rolex established itself as a maker of watches that might go the additional mile and be taken into the world’s most harrowing circumstances with confidence. And so they have been well-prepared for the watches that might come subsequent. The Crown registered the trademark for the Explorer identify in January of that yr.

Hillary and Norgay

Hillary and Norgay. Supply, Wikimedia Commons.

Now, it bears mentioning that whereas Hillary and Norgay certainly had a watch from Rolex of their equipment, in addition they had one other, from the English model Smiths. Each manufacturers sponsored the bid to succeed in the height of Everest. Citing interval proof, an article in Outside Journal concluded that it was a Smiths watch, and never a Rolex, that made all of it the way in which to the summit. No matter whether or not a Rolex made it to the highest, there could be little question that it was Rolex and its Explorer that capitalized most on its affiliation with the expedition.

The identical yr as Norgay’s and Hillary’s expedition witnessed the introduction of the reference 6350, the primary watch to characteristic the identify Explorer on the dial for all examples. In lots of situations, its predecessor, the 6150, says Precision rather than Explorer, inflicting many to check with it as a pre-Explorer, as nicely. However we occur to have a 6150 Explorer for this version of Reference Factors (it’s additionally within the video, above, co-starring gentleman-dealer Eric Wind), so we’ll start our climb via the historical past of the world’s most well-known go-anywhere watch proper there.


Reference 6150 (1952-1953)

Reference 6150 (Explorer Above 6:00, Lengthy Hour Hand)
image of Rolex Explorer

The Reference 6150 is the instant predecessor to the reference 6350, the watch that many collectors argue is the primary Explorer. Traits that can typify the Explorer via the years are already right here. Produced from 1952 / 1953, the Reference 6150 has the identical  36mm measurement we see via all the remainder of the Twentieth century and far of the twenty first, as much as and together with as we speak’s present Explorer fashions. The reference 6150 is much like the 6098 and 6298. Whereas it options the 3-6-9 format that might go on to be known as the Explorer dial, just some characteristic a line of textual content above six o’clock studying “Explorer.” The remainder, and certainly the bulk, say “Precision.” The instance we see right here is likely one of the former, and it additionally includes a lengthy hour hand. One factor you’ll discover is that there is no such thing as a OCC textual content on the dial. That’s as a result of this watch will not be a chronometer, additional separating it from the remainder of the Explorers. The actual fact it’s not a chronometer and that not all of this reference say the phrase “Explorer” on the dial has meant that some collectors don’t think about the reference 6150 a real Explorer.

image of Rolex Explorer

Reference 6350 (1953 to 1955)

Reference 6350 (Pencil Fingers, Waffle Dial)
image of Rolex Explorer

The instant successor to the 6150 is the reference 6350 – which everybody agrees is an Explorer, and that some argue is the primary Explorer I. This instance has a textured waffle dial, often known as the honeycomb dial, named for its patterned floor. Whereas the waffle dial could be discovered on different Rolex watches from the interval, the 6350 is the one Explorer reference during which it figures. Our instance has pencil palms, although there are additionally 6350s with Mercedes hour palms, typically with a syringe minute hand. Many of the examples we see have an inside caseback quantity that signifies the case was produced in 1953; nevertheless, it appears they have been assembled over a interval of a number of years after that.

image of Rolex Explorer

The 6350 is an formally licensed chronometer, a worthwhile level of distinction from the 6150, one watch earlier. When one talks in regards to the Rolex Explorer, one is basically speaking a couple of chronometer. The Explorer has no problems, it has no fancy bells and whistles. Till simply final yr, it had solely a single steel to its identify – chrome steel. It’s about as primary as a Rolex skilled mannequin will get, and telling time precisely and legibly is the secret.

image of Rolex Explorer

For probably the most half, the watches we will probably be as we speak are chronometers: Formally Licensed Chronometers within the first grouping, and Superlative Chronometer Formally Licensed as soon as we get to our first 1016 on this article. We’ll see just a few further non-chronometers, however these watches aren’t technically Explorers. Learn on to study extra.


Reference 6610 (1955 to 1959)

Between 1955 and 1959, Rolex produced the reference 6610, the final of the older batch of Explorers that might finally give approach to the 1016, one of many longest-running Rolex watch references ever. We now have 4 particular examples of this reference, which is way rarer than the 1016 because it was made for a dramatically shorter time period. You’ll discover that the textual content above 6 o’clock on every of the next 4 watches reads “Formally Licensed Chronometer” just like the OCC textual content of the 6350 earlier than it.

Reference 6610 (Purple Depth Ranking): 1955 to 1956
image of Rolex Explorer

A few of the earliest Explorer reference 6610 examples characteristic a really refined pink depth score (50m = 165ft) slightly below the phrase Explorer within the higher half of their dial, a method of marking seen in different Rolex sport watches from the interval, together with the GMT-Grasp reference. 6542, Datejusts, and even 34mm Oyster Perpetuals, reflecting advertising efforts to share their water resistant traits extra broadly throughout the early days of dive watches for business buy.

image of Rolex Explorer    image of Rolex Explorer

Listed below are two very good examples of early Explorers with depth rankings offered by Phillips, one with a pink depth score and the opposite with a gilt depth score.

Reference 6610 (Albino)
image of Rolex Explorer

Subsequent now we have a white, or “Albino,” model of the 6610, one of many rarest and most beneficial Explorer variations. There are additionally GMT-Grasp reference 6542s with white “Albino” dials from this period, in addition to Submariners. Later “Albino” reference 1016s have come to market. This explicit Albino 6610 dates to 1957.

image of Rolex Explorer Albino   image of Rolex Explorer Albino
Reference 6610 (Lollipop Seconds Hand, Chapter Ring): 1957
image of Rolex Explorer 6610

This brings us towards the top of the 6610 run. The Explorer has historically been a watch made for optimum legibility in low-light circumstances, and right here we see a big white luminous seconds hand, much like the lollipop seconds palms on some Submariners with a case manufacturing of 1957.

Rolex Explorer 6610   Rolex Explorer 6610
Reference 6610 (Smaller Lume Circle On Seconds Hand): 1959
image of Rolex Explorer 6610

Lastly, now we have the final model of the 6610, the place the luminous circle is smaller than within the earlier model. This model additionally has a uncommon “Large Emblem” bracelet.

image of Rolex Explorer 6610   image of Rolex Oyster Bracelet

The Rolex Explorer Reference 1016 (1960 to 1989)

The conclusion of the 6610 brings us to the beloved reference 1016, the one most classic lovers consider when their thoughts goes to the Explorer I.

With the 1016, we see the introduction of “Superlative Chronometer Formally Licensed” textual content on the dial, which accompanies the transition from the caliber 1030 to the brand new caliber 1560 microstella-adjusted motion. Later, within the mid-’60s, Rolex will improve to the high-beat-for-its-time caliber 1570, which runs at 19,800 vph in comparison with the 18,000 vph caliber 1560. Within the early Nineteen Seventies, Rolex added a hacking characteristic to this motion, which might proceed to energy the 1016 till the top of its manufacturing run in 1989.

We’d prefer to thank collector Andrew Hantel for his detailed analysis into this reference, which could be discovered on his glorious and aptly named web site dedicated to the reference, Explorer1016.com.

After we chart the lengthy and storied course of this fan-favorite reference, we’ll hear from distinguished collectors who will inform us why they love the Rolex Explorer reference 1016.


Gilt Dials (1960 to 1967)

The entire black dials we’ve seen up till this level have been gilt-gloss, produced utilizing an costly galvanic coating course of leading to stark, crisp textual content set in opposition to a black floor. With gilt dials, the textual content and markers are masked out earlier than a layer of black paint is adhered to the dial. It’s then lacquered over to create a shiny sheen floor, which we start to see with the shiny dials that’ve survived up to now, from 1957 and later. Pre-1957, most, if not all, gilt Rolex dials had extra of a flat and fewer shiny black look. We’ll start our exploration of the 1016 the place it picks up from its gilt-dialed forebears and proceed our examination of this long-lived reference into the following matte dials. As we’re overlaying each gilt and matte dials, we’ll check with the gilts with the designation “sort” and mattes with the designation “mark” to distinguish 1016 variations. However notice that in frequent parlance, “mark” can be used to check with gilt dials, as talked about within the video.

Reference 1016 (Chapter Ring, No Exclamation Level): 1960 to 1962
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

A small variety of the earliest 1016s retain the OCC textual content seen on the reference 6610 (these are generally known as 1016 gilt Kind 0 dials), however quickly after, now we have examples just like the one right here, which says Superlative Chronometer Formally Licensed, in recognition of the transition to Rolex’s caliber 1560 motion with microstella adjustment. The chapter ring encircling the outer portion of the dial that characterised the reference 6610 remains to be there, and if we glance down on the very backside of the dial, we see that it’s signed Swiss, however there aren’t any exclamation factors or underlines. Ian Fleming wore an early gilt-dial 1016 with a case manufacturing of 1960 on the within caseback. It seems to be the watch he referenced within the James Bond books in line with analysis by Dell Deaton, so you would say it’s the unique Bond watch. That is acknowledged as a reference 1016 gilt Kind 1 dial.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016   image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Exclamation Level Beneath 6:00, Chapter Ring, Tall Coronet): 1962 to 1963
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

Right here, now we have reference 1016 with an “exclamation level” in reference to the small dot of lume immediately under the 6 o’clock numeral, supposedly to point that the lume will not be as radioactive because it was in earlier generations of the Explorer. Exclamation level dials aren’t unique to the Explorer. You see them on Submariners and GMT-Masters from round this time, as nicely. One other distinguishing characteristic of this dial is its tall Rolex coronet – this is named a gilt Kind 3 dial with exclamation level.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016

The unique proprietor of this watch was a cartographer and a member of the Corps of Royal Engineers. It noticed greater than 30 nations on surveying journeys world wide. Whereas within the northernmost constantly inhabited place on the earth (Altert, Nunavat), successful to the hull of an icebreaker left a dent on its left facet.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016  image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Underline and Exclamation Level, Tropical Dial, Chapter Ring): 1962 to 1963
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

Right here’s one thing a little bit uncommon, a watch with each an exclamation level and an underline, two markings typically understood to point a discount within the radioactivity in lume. This mixture of the 2 dial options is one thing that you just’ll solely see in just a few examples of the Explorer 1016, and never in GMT-Masters or Submariners. This instance got here out of Mexico and has a slight tropical tone to it, a chapter ring nonetheless encircling the seconds/minutes monitor, as we noticed within the earlier fashions. That is an instance of the gilt Kind 2 dial with exclamation level and underline.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016   image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Underline, Chapter Ring): 1962 to 1963
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

Additionally from 1963 manufacturing, with a serial quantity very near the 2 earlier fashions, this watch marks the top of the chapter ring within the gilt 1016. The exclamation level is gone and we now have simply the underline on the dial under the SCOC textual content. This marking was a sign that the lume is tritium. This is named a gilt Kind 2 dial with underline.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016   image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Gilt Kind 5, Open Chapter, Textual content Seems Handwritten): 1964 to 1965
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

Right here, now we have the primary of the open chapter dials on this article, during which there is no such thing as a circle encompassing the hash-marks for the seconds/minutes. We’re drawing towards the top of the 1016’s gilt dial period, with this gilt Kind 5 instance. The stylized, virtually handwritten nature of the textual content on these Kind 5 dials beforehand led some to take a position that that they had been reprinted. There may be additionally a Kind 4, the very first of the open chapters, which is related to an earlier serial vary.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016   image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Gilt Kind 4, Gilt Fingers, Open Chapter, Shiny Black Dial): 1963 to 1964
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

This can be a gilt Kind 4 that has retained its shiny black dial. Our instance has stunning gold/gilt palms. The Kind 4 dial has been positioned inside a reasonably slender serial vary putting examples with a case manufacturing of about 1963 to 1964. In accordance with Explorer1016.com., there are two sub variants of this dial sort. Early examples say “Swiss” on the backside and are sometimes seen with underlines. Later examples, like the instance now we have right here, characteristic T<25 and shouldn’t have underlines. With a view to spot a Kind 4, search for a gilt dial with the absence of a chapter ring. If it has simply Swiss written at 6:00, it’s an early Kind 4. If it has T<25 showing on the decrease portion of minutes hash marks, it may be recognized as a later Kind 4.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Gilt Kind 6, Open Chapter, Darkish Brown Tropical Dial): 1964 to 1967
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

Right here, now we have a darkish tropical model of the Kind 6, the place publicity to mild and warmth has turned its jet-black dial to a wealthy darkish brown. To identify a Kind 6, search for the absence of a chapter ring on a gilt dial. Then search for diagonally formed serifs on the “E” in Rolex. The T<25 writing replaces the higher portion of the minutes hash marks at 6:00.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016
Reference 1016 (Gilt Kind 6, Open Chapter, From Rwanda): 1964 to 1967
image of Rolex Explorer 1016

And shutting out the gilt-dial 1016, now we have one other instance of the Kind 6, during which the dial has gone utterly tropical, its mild brown dial probably owing to the truth that it got here to us after a life spent in sun-drenched Rwanda.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016

Matte Dials

Proper round 1966-1967, we see the transition from gilt-gloss to a brand new matte sort of dial that trades its predecessor’s gilt textual content for white printing. The matte dial has a textured look that appears better-suited to the game watch aesthetic that Rolex was aiming for with the Explorer. It was additionally produced in a far easier, and certain more cost effective, course of that eschewed the advanced galvanic means of the gilt dial. We’ll witness an evolution within the matte dial 1016 over the course of greater than 20 years, till it’s lastly retired to make approach for the brand new reference 14270, in 1989.

Reference 1016 (Matte Frog Foot Mark 1, Fats Numerals, White Printing): 1967
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

Collectors have nicknamed the Mark 1 dial the “Frog Foot” due to its odd, broadly splayed Rolex coronet, which resembles the animal’s webbed digits. Whereas all Mark 1’s have an amphibian-like brand at 12 o’clock, variations inside the Mark 1 are decided principally by the looks of the luminous numbers 3, 6, and 9. First up, now we have this instance with puffy luminous numerals.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.   image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.
Reference 1016 (Matte Mark 1 Mega Fats): 1967
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

Shut in serial quantity to the earlier instance, now we have one other Mark 1, solely right here the numerals are a little bit bit flatter but additionally wider.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

That is the precise watch awarded to cowboy Gary Leffew for profitable the bull using competitors on the 1969 Calgary Stampede. To commemorate his victory, Rolex even made a print advert that includes this very watch. A few years later, Leffew left his Explorer in his gear bag at a contest when a bull stepped immediately onto it, smashing the crystal. It stayed like that for a few years, till it was just lately changed.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

I can’t consider one other Rolex watch that’s appeared in a print advert and made its approach to our workplace, and it’s undoubtedly the one watch I’ve ever dealt with to have survived mauling by a bull.

Reference 1016 (Matte Mark 1 Regular): 1967 to 1974
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

Right here’s our third and ultimate Mark 1, solely on this case the lume is thinner than the fats ones seen on the sooner Mark 1’s. With these final numerals, we see the Matte dial 1016 settling right into a balanced look that will probably be carried ahead into the longer term, slightly than the puffy numerals of the earliest Matte dial examples. The Mark 1 is the primary of the matte dials, nevertheless it’s additionally typically seen in later circumstances, although it’s unclear if these are unique. This watch has a serial quantity relationship it to 1972.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

The Mark 1 had a long term, and is present in watches produced from 1967-1974, and even some later than that, with case manufacturing putting them as just lately as 1978. It’s unclear whether or not these are unique to the watches, nevertheless it displays the considerably haphazard approach the 1016 had completely different dial variations seem after which reappear later all through its manufacturing run.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.
Reference 1016 (Matte Mark 2): 1969
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

The Mark 2 1016 was produced inside a decent serial vary in 1969. Within the short-lived Mark 2, we see that the coronet has a extra balanced and symmetrical look, calling to thoughts those that we noticed in late gilt dial examples. Differentiating this model from different matte dials, the T<25 textual content is above, not under, the minute monitor. One other approach to determine a Mark 2 is wanting carefully on the prime and backside serifs within the E in Rolex, which have a particular outward diagonal slope. There was as soon as some hypothesis that the Mark 2 was a reprint and never an unique dial, however the amassing group has come to the conclusion that it was initially made by Rolex and they’re in a reasonably tight serial vary. If this watch appears acquainted, it’s as a result of it was featured in our 2018 Speaking Watches with Fred Savage.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.   image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.
Reference 1016 (Matte Mark 3): 1974 to 1976, 1984 to 1989
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

The matte Mark 3’s time on the stage is split into two acts. The primary of those watches have manufacturing dates of roughly 1974-1976. They then choose again up in about 1984 and proceed till the top of the 1016’s manufacturing in 1989. Whereas the script and markings on each of those dials are equivalent, older examples from the primary batch are likely to have yellower lume than more moderen ones, which are typically whiter. In accordance with Explorer1016.com, the simplest approach to determine a Mark 3 dial is by the absence of the discernable “tells” that allow recognizing a Mark 1 (frog foot coronet), a Mark 2 (slanted serifs), a Mark 4 (tall coronet), or a Mark 5 Matte dial (E’s in Explorer).

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.
Reference 1016 (Matte Mark 4, Tiffany & Co, Bunny Mellon): 1975 to 1981, 1989
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

Eric introduced an actual deal with to this version of Reference Factors within the type of a very particular matte dial Mark 4. The watch now we have right here was bought, together with seven others, by the American horticulturist, philanthropist, and artwork collector Bunny Mellon, for a cocktail party she supposed to carry. Every of her eight visitors was to be gifted a Rolex Explorer 1016 with a Tiffany & Co. stamp on the dial, with six of them bearing private engravings on the caseback along with her initials “R.L.M.” (for her full identify, Rachel Lambert Mellon) and two with out engravings. When the celebration was canceled, some say as a result of she was sad with the ultimate venture the visitors have been engaged on, it’s stated the watches went right into a drawer, solely to emerge when objects from the Mellon property have been offered publicly at Sotheby’s on November 21, 2014, after she handed. All however considered one of these eight Tiffany-stamped classic Explorers offered for beneath $20,000. It was just a bit over seven years in the past, nevertheless it looks like a lifetime in the past primarily based on the costs. Sotheby’s additionally offered just a few different Rolex watches with Tiffany & Co. stamps, as a part of the Mellon property public sale.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

The matte Mark 4 dial is most simply recognized by its exaggerated, elongated coronet, which appears oh-so tall and skinny in comparison with those on the opposite matte Explorers. On Explorer1016.com, collector Andrew Hantel calls this one the “Gumby” for a motive. He positioned 1016 examples with the Mark 4 dial within the 4 million to six million serial vary, and likewise throughout the ultimate L sequence in 1989.

Reference 1016 (Matte Mark 5): 1981 to 1987
image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

The Mark 5, the final model of 1016, is definitely not the final dial configuration seen within the 1016. That honor really goes to the Mark 3, of which examples have been noticed within the L sequence. For the Mark 5, you’ll need to search for watches from the serial ranges correlating with, roughly, 1981 to 1987. The “Explorer” textual content on Mark 5 variants options E’s with central bars that aren’t precisely symmetrical. They’re up increased, nearer to the highest bar.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.   image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

Explorer-Like Watches

Let’s take a short detour on our chronological journey and discover 4 Rolex watches that play on the Explorer theme. Through the years, Rolex has made watches that look the a part of the Explorer and channel its ethos, however inside references that aren’t historically thought to be belonging to the Explorer. Whereas one of many following watches is in all however its dial an Explorer 1016, the the opposite three are really one thing else.

First, there are a selection of different Rolex fashions that additionally say Explorer on the dial – these are most sometimes from the early Nineteen Fifties, when Rolex seemingly had not settled on precisely what the Explorer I might be. There are additionally different fashions (just like the obscure Explorer Date reference 5700 from the Sixties) value a point out, however which don’t comply with the usual design cues of the Explorer I.

Reference 5500 (34mm): 1966 to 1967
Air-King Explorer

First up, now we have a reference 5500 Explorer. At first look, it’s obtained what you’d anticipate from a classic Explorer, resembling a mid-’60s reference 1016: The three 3-6-9 gilt dial, the three stacked strains studying Rolex / Oyster Perpetual / Explorer, the Mercedes hour hand and lollipop seconds. But it surely’s a bit smaller, 34mm to be exact. And the phrase Precision graces the decrease half of the dial as it’s not a chronometer.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

That is an often-faked Explorer-like variation, owing to the truth that it makes use of the case of a comparatively frequent and inexpensive reference, the Air-King reference 5500. All {that a} would-be faker would wish to do is place a faux Explorer dial into the case to create the looks of one thing a lot rarer.

image of Rolex Explorer 1016 with matte dial.

In our video, Eric talked about that he typically receives messages from individuals who have or need to buy 34mm Explorers and marvel if they’re actual. Most of the time, he has to ship unhealthy information. Right here’s what an actual one appears like. The instance now we have comes from 1966-67 and has a good looking gilt shiny dial.

Reference 1016 House-Dweller
Space-Dweller

Very like the Blueberry insert for GMT-Grasp 1675, there’s a number of lore surrounding the Rolex House-Dweller, an otherworldly Explorer-like variation with a unbelievable dial that dispenses with the Explorer identify altogether.

The House-Dweller is in each approach a Rolex Explorer reference 1016 however for the silvery House-Dweller textual content on the gilt dial. Whereas not a lot is thought in regards to the House-Dweller, one of many tales surrounding it was that it was launched within the Japanese market to commemorate the arrival of American astronauts within the Sixties. There may be some variation inside the serial vary of House-Dwellers, and a few have longer or shorter minute palms.

Space-Dweller

 In 2008, Sotheby’s auctioned off 4 of those dials, and considered one of them subsequently made it into this very watch.

Rolex filed a trademark for the House-Dweller identify in 1968, which signifies the identify’s first use was in 1967. Rolex utilized for the trademark in Switzerland in 1966. In accordance with Watchistry, who kindly lent us this watch, the House-Dweller case numbers he’s conscious of date from 1963 and 1968. One must query the originality of a House-Dweller dial in a 1963 case, given the relationship of the trademark utility information.

Reference 6429 Commando: 1969
Rolex Commado

Likelihood is, when you consider Abercrombie & Fitch and its mid-Twentieth-century Swiss watch associations, Heuer is the model that involves thoughts. And that’s right, as a result of Heuer did make quite a few Abercrombie & Fitch-branded watches that have been offered via the legendary outside clothing store. These have been the times earlier than the corporate pivoted to promoting graphic tees to teenagers in a cologne-soaked suburban mallscape.

Rolex Commando

Rolex, too, offered watches via Abercrombie. The one you see right here is the Rolex Commando, an inexpensive 34mm manual-wind watch with a gilt dial and tritium lume. Notice the squared-off handset, utilized in lieu of the customary Mercedes hand. The one now we have right here dates from 1969. The Rolex Commando offered for not far more than $100 in its day, reportedly the least costly Rolex Oyster watch of the time. It was a enjoyable and inexpensive reference, and collectors as we speak actually love these legendary watches. That is one other reference that’s now generally faked, with dials put into reference 6426 and 6429 examples, so train warning and carry out due diligence earlier than pulling the set off on considered one of these.

Reference 6429 No Commando: 1969
Rolex No Commando

And right here now we have a 6429 with out the Commando identify on the dial. As a substitute, it says merely Rolex Oyster. Apparently, it’s the earlier Rolex Commando that was the civilian mannequin. Concurrent with Abercrombie’s gross sales of that watch, U.S. army bases reportedly offered the marginally extra plain model of the very same reference, with out the Commando branding on the dial, to provide it a bit extra of a stealthy look. This one is inside a detailed serial vary to the Commando variation, relationship from 1969.

Rolex No Commando

Reference 14270

All good issues should come to an finish, even the reference 1016, a watch that appeared prefer it might simply go on perpetually because it carried the torch into 1989. Aesthetically, the 14270 is the desk on which the fashionable Explorer is about. Utilized steel numerals take up the cardinal positions of three, 6, and 9 for the primary time within the historical past of the Explorer, and on a gloss black dial that takes the place of the latter 1016’s matte floor. And a brand new automated motion is launched, the high-beat caliber 3000, which ticks at a completely trendy 28,800 vph, nonetheless the usual charge for Rolex calibers. The scale stays a compact 36mm in diameter, smaller than all the different Rolex sport fashions. Within the 14270, one senses a need to safeguard the Explorer DNA whereas acknowledging that it is a watch in want of being introduced as much as the fashionable requirements of a brand new period.

Rolex Explorer 14270

We now have 4 consultant examples of the 14270 in our Reference Factors, which take us from the primary and by far most collectible model, the Blackout, as much as the Swiss Solely, with its LumiNova-filled numerals. There was one ultimate model of the 14270, the “Swiss Made” variant, an outwardly equivalent bridge to the next reference, the 114270.

Following probably the most eagerly collected watches within the Rolex Pantheon, the 1016 hasn’t made issues any simpler for the 14270. As my colleague Danny Milton stated, it’s “caught someplace in wristwatch purgatory – not sufficiently old to be classic, and never new sufficient to be cool.” And but, it’s a long-tenured and attention-grabbing reference in its personal proper, with loads of variation, characterised by minute modifications which can be nicely value studying up on, particularly as, aside from the Blackout that we’ll talk about subsequent, the price of possession is way lower than any 1016 you’ve seen to date. If you end up eager to know extra about this reference after watching this video and ending this text, learn Danny’s opus on the 14270, which breaks down the minute variations, under, even additional.

The utilized numeral type related to this reference can be seen in Air-King and different smaller fashions which can be typically thought of to have “Explorer” dials.

Reference 14270 (First Model, Blackout): 1989 to 1991
Rolex Explorer 14270

Right here we’re with the primary 14270, the watch that took up the Explorer mantle upon the retirement of the 1016. The basic 36mm measurement that has outlined the Explorer since its early days stays, as do the 3-6-9 numerals. However whereas the 1016’s numerals have been painted on, the 14270 sees the introduction of higher-end utilized markers and numerals. The 14270 isn’t shy about the truth that it’s a luxurious instrument watch with a particular trendy aptitude. The Blackout’s namesake attribute is the black lacquer filling its utilized numerals, lending a considerably stealthy vibe to the dial (although the markers are nonetheless lume-filled). From the start, the Explorer had been considered as a no-frills, go-anywhere instrument watch, however this mannequin got here with a design that compromised low-light legibility for the sake of favor. As such, it’s one thing of an outlier. It’s additionally extremely collectible, costing far more than the remainder of the watches we will probably be inside the reference 14270 vary. The blackout is a really uncommon mannequin by Rolex requirements, discovered solely in late-E and early-X serial numbers, giving them a manufacturing vary of 1989 to 1991.

Rolex Explorer 14270  Rolex Explorer 14270
Reference 14270 T-Swiss (Drilled lugs): 1991 to 1994
Rolex Explorer 14270

Instantly following the “Blackout,” now we have the T-Swiss, the longest-running variant of 14270. Except for some very late U-series fashions, the T-Swiss has tritium-filled palms and indexes, because the nickname would point out. Very like the 14270 extra broadly, the T-Swiss inhabits a murky center interval in watches. Like all 14270s, the T-Swiss has a crystal of sapphire and its motion is the caliber 3000, however solely the primary three years of manufacturing have totally drilled-through lugs. Beginning in 1994, plain, or undrilled lugs grew to become the order of the day. The 14270 is a reference that manifests the method by which Rolex grew to become the fashionable watchmaker it’s as we speak.

Rolex Explorer 14270   Rolex Explorer 14270
Explorer 14270
Beginning in 1994, plain lugs grew to become de rigueur, yet one more trendy characteristic taking the place of a design ingredient related to the classic period. The 14270 is a reference that reveals the method by which Rolex grew to become the fashionable watchmaker it’s as we speak. From right here on out, all 14270s – and all Explorers, for that matter – will characteristic undrilled lugs.
Rolex Explorer 14270   Rolex Explorer 14270
Reference 14270 Swiss Solely: 1998 to 1999
Rolex Explorer 14270

And right here now we have the penultimate variation of the 14270, the Swiss Solely, made for a short time period proper on the tail finish of the ’90s. By now, photo-reactive LumiNova has taken over, and with the absence of tritium, the tenuous connection to classic watches is gone. Just like the later T-Swiss fashions, the Swiss Solely has plain lugs.
Explorer 14270
Rolex Explorer 14270

After the Swiss Solely, within the ultimate two years of the 14270 (1999 to 2001) we are going to see the Swiss Made, the watch that adopted the one right here. Its identify signifies the usage of Tremendous-LumiNova, which might proceed into the following Explorer reference, the nearly equivalent 114270.

Rolex Explorer 14270

Reference 114270 (2001 to 2010)

Rolex Explorer 114270
Just like the final 14270, the 114270 makes use of Tremendous-LumiNova. And includes a 36mm case. And has “Swiss Made” written on the 6 o’clock place. What units them aside is that this watch’s use of the upgraded caliber 3130 and strong finish hyperlinks. That is one thing that we see now and again with Rolex. Adjustments are made incrementally, and typically which means the one upgrades in a brand new watch are hidden away behind a layer of metal.
Rolex Explorer 114270

The 114270 had a near-decade-long run, its refined enhancements over the 14270 having seemingly been sufficient to make Rolex see match to depart the Explorer be for some time, although there was the addition of an engraved rehaut late within the manufacturing of this mannequin. However after about 21 years of extraordinarily constant Explorer design, and 57 years of inflexible adherence to the 36mm case measurement, issues have been about to vary. Large time.

rolexexplorerreferencepoints09 05 20210371

Reference 214270

Reference 214270 Mark 1 (2010 to 2016)
Rolex Explorer 214270

In 2010, Rolex did one thing sudden. For the primary time within the greater than 50-year historical past of the Rolex Explorer, the Crown’s easiest and most discreet chrome steel sport watch, identified for bridging tool-watch toughness and gown watch dimensions, tipped the 36mm scale. Trying again, it’s shocking that it took this lengthy.

Rolex Explorer 214270

The 214270 noticed its personal motion improve, this time to the caliber 3132. The motion was primarily based on the 3130 we’ve already seen, however is endowed with Rolex’s in-house shock system and Parachrom hairspring. The primary six years of manufacturing featured a configuration during which the 3-6-9 Explorer numerals have been uncoated white gold, with no white paint to intensify legibility. The handsets appeared quick with respect to the dial’s diameter, and have been broadly panned by the watch-collecting group.

Reference 214270 Mark 2 (2016 to 2021)
Rolex Explorer 214270
The handset was redesigned in 2016 with a purpose to higher match the dial, and the numerals have been as soon as once more utilized steel, solely now they have been full of lume. With the Mark 2 variation, the design was improved, and there was no motive to imagine that Rolex had any intention apart from to methodically enhance upon the Explorer, because it had already completed for many years, in its new trendy sport watch measurement.
Rolex Explorer 214270

The Present Era

Final yr introduced yet one more shock. Really, two. The Explorer returned with an all-new reference, the 124270. Rolex upgraded its easiest sport watch to the present technology of automated actions with Chronergy Escapement and 70 hours of energy reserve. However that wasn’t a shock. The primary shock got here with a return to the tried and true, and beloved by watch fanatics, 36mm case. After an 11-year diversion, the Explorer was again the place nerdy watch lovers wished it. The second shock, an enormous one, was a second mannequin. A Rolesor mannequin. AKA the Two-Tone Explorer.

Reference 124270 (2021 to current)
Rolex Explorer 124270

As with each commerce present during which Rolex participates, the watch world had their eyes targeted on the Crown because the 2021 version of Watches & Wonders started. Everybody, it appeared, wished to know what they might do subsequent. The chatter that yr targeted totally on the Explorer I’s cousin, the Explorer II, which was celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. And although the Explorer II did certainly obtain quite a few incremental updates, it was what Rolex did with the Explorer I that garnered probably the most headlines. Returning its easiest Skilled watch to its earlier 36mm measurement proved well-liked with fanatics, a transfer that got here together with quite a few extra predictable and fewer thrilling enhancements. The motion was now the caliber 3230 with Chronergy Escapement and a wholesome 70 hours of energy reserve. This watch is remarkably related in look to the erstwhile 14270 and 114270 fashions. The quickest inform is the Rolex Coronet between Swiss and Made, on the 6 o’clock place.
Rolex Explorer 124270
Reference 124273 (2021 to current)
Rolex Explorer 124273

That is the shocker, and the piece that everybody nonetheless appears to be obsessive about almost a yr after its launch. From its early days, the Explorer was the no-nonsense instrument watch with chronometer-rated automated motion. Its precept perform was to ship the time legibly and precisely to a wearer who had extra critical considerations than the protection of his a treasured luxurious watch. And but, the Explorer has on very uncommon events gestured to type on the expense of sheer efficiency or sturdiness. Bear in mind the “Blackout” variation of the reference 14270, with its numerals in darkish lacquer set in opposition to a shiny black dial? What’s simply probably the most collectible 14270 variation isn’t the simplest 14270 to learn in low mild.
Rolex Explorer 124273

The brand new Rolesor Explorer is the watch that totally acknowledges that, regardless of photos like this viral one taken by Nims Purja, most of us are by no means going to climb Everest. Rolex is a luxurious model, and the Explorer is one other of the Skilled fashions which have develop into nearly unimaginable to search out at retail shops. Now that Rolex has taken the Explorer in an sudden two-tone route, the true query is whether or not there will probably be a completely gold Explorer. It’s a query solely time can reply. Our buddy and longtime colleague Stephen Pulvirent spent per week with the Rolesor Explorer. You’ll find his full assessment right here.

Two tone bracelet

From The Collector Group

Now you recognize the various references for the Explorer I. However earlier than we go, we need to circle again on the quintessential reference: The 1016. It’s so admired, and so vital to classic amassing, that we thought just a few further testimonials have been so as. So we requested a handful of distinguished 1016 house owners why they love the reference. Right here’s what they needed to say.

Fred Savage: Actor, Director, Watch Collector
Explorer 1016

The 1016 is what obtained me excited about classic watches. I used to be barely out of school, in all probability about 22 years outdated, once I first noticed one in individual at Wanna Purchase A Watch? I left the shop that day with an inexpensive Illinois mannequin, however the 1016 was fastened in my thoughts. As I realized extra about classic watches and began to purchase extra of them, the 1016 remained this factor that I might by no means personal. It was too stunning. It was too good. The proportions have been too nice. When my spouse and I obtained married, she purchased me a Bell & Ross 123, which grew to become our workingman’s 1016. I might by no means have purchased a 1016 for myself, however my spouse later gifted me one for my fortieth birthday. For me, it’s the quintessential Explorer, sitting alongside the GMT-Grasp reference 1675 and different nice Rolex watches. If you happen to’re a sports activities fan, you recognize that 56 is Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. It’s a storied quantity that wants no clarification. For me, within the watch world, the 1016 is a quantity that doesn’t want lots of clarification. If you recognize, you recognize, and you actually recognize it.

Dr. Andrew Hantel: Creator of Explorer1016.com
Explorer 1016

There are virtually too many causes to like the 1016, however “subtlety” is what encapsulates it finest for me. It has by no means been the showstopper of classic Rolex, nevertheless it arrests you with its simplicity, and the deeper you get into it, the extra nuance comes out. Particulars like recessed lume plots on the early variations are simple to overlook, and at 36 mm, it doesn’t abide by as we speak’s amassing zeitgeist of the massive and colourful. It wasn’t the diving watch, the pilot’s watch, or the racing watch, nevertheless it was the watch worn by individuals from all walks of life with refined however equally venerable lives. I’ve had 1016s owned by carpenters, medical doctors, and cartographers who wore them establishing elements of the Smithsonian, growing a surgical approach, and mapping the Arctic circle. They’re not the individuals you examine within the information, however they’re the individuals you need to have a beer with and study from. To me, the 1016 is a mirrored image of these individuals. It has an unimaginable quantity to supply the collector. You simply have to look.

Randall Park: Actor, Author, Comic
Explorer 1016

I’ve at all times believed that your favourite watch is a mirrored image of who you might be. My favourite is the 1016, as a result of in some ways, it’s identical to me: It’s not flashy. It retains issues easy, doing its job with out fuss. It was initially under-appreciated, however has grown to seize a substantial reverence, particularly from these within the know. It’s elegant, but additionally rugged. It’s on the smaller facet, nevertheless it’s additionally devastatingly good-looking. I’d go so far as to name it a horny watch. Most likely the sexiest of all of them. Method sexier than any Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, or any of these different white man watches. However what I like most in regards to the 1016 is that it’s humble, identical to me.

Stephen Pulvirent: Former HODINKEE Supervisor of Editorial Operations

For me, the Rolex Explorer is an ideal watch. It’s every part you want and nothing you don’t, however in a approach that also feels particular and indulgent. Easy issues are the toughest to do nicely, and Rolex completely nailed it with the Explorer.

Explorer 1016

Once I determined so as to add an Explorer to my assortment in 2016, I knew from the get-go that I wished an early instance of the reference 1016. The 1016 is the long-lasting Explorer reference, produced for nearly 30 years with only a few modifications. Mine is from the early Sixties and has a good looking gloss dial with an “exclamation level” under the “6,”  and the case is in sincere, worn situation. It’s a watch that’s in good condition, however not too good to put on. I smile each time I have a look at this watch and wouldn’t need an instance too pristine to take pleasure in. Additionally, if you happen to’ve by no means owned a Rolex with a shiny gilt dial, I can’t advocate it extremely sufficient – these watches have an entire different dimension to them that matte dials can’t contact.

One little element that sends this watch to the following degree for me is definitely the bracelet – it is a uncommon stretch bracelet, although it appears like some other rivet bracelet at first look. Whenever you’re on a protracted haul flight and get a little bit puffy (or, you recognize, eat too many bowls of ramen or no matter), that little bit of give makes the watch a lot extra comfy. It’s additionally an ideal “if you recognize, you recognize” factor for collector associates.

And, sure, I do know that the palms on this watch are service palms from just a few years later, however they match the dial completely and don’t trouble me one bit. The watch got here to me from the unique proprietor, through a seller buddy, and I do know it’s sincere.

Explorer Reference Chart
Explorer Reference Chart

Editor’s Notice: We’d like to increase an enormous because of Eric Wind, with out whom this installment of Reference Factors wouldn’t have been attainable. We’d additionally like to increase a really particular because of Dr. Andrew Hantel of Explorer1016.com, Nick Federowicz of AdPatina.com, Geoffrey Hess, @watch.me_watch.you, Adam Golden, Jacob Mace, Paul Altieri and Bob’s Watches, James Lamdin and analog/shift,  Eric Ku, Ken Jacobs, Wealthy Fordon, Grady Seale, Erwin Grose, @watchistry, Jeffrey Binstock, Danny Milton, Ian Cox, Charles Curkin, Dr. Joseph Nezgoda, Dr. Received Kim, Justin Vrakas, Fred Savage, Stephen Pulvirent, and Randall Park.

Videography: Will Holloway, Gray Korhonen, David Aujero

Images: Tiffany Wade

Video modifying: Alex Tyson, David Aujero

The submit A Complete Collector’s Information To The Rolex Explorer I appeared first on Crown & Caliber Weblog.

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