Rolex Explorer

Rolex Explorer

The summit of Everest and the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Only Rolex has sent watches to the the highest altitudes and lowest depths on the planet, and from these exploits they have created some of the most technically reliable watches ever produced.  

Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay began their final ascent of Everest on May 29, 1953, reaching the summit, 29,028 feet above sea level.  They checked the Rolexes on their wrists and marked the time: 11:30 a.m. 

We know that the watch on Hillary’s wrist was a Rolex Oyster Precision (see it HERE), but we’re not sure which dial was on Norgay’s Precision. The Oyster Precision was the precursor to the Explorer, and it was the Precision that introduced the 3-6-9 black Arabic dial that we all associate with the Explorer today. The facts may have been lost to history, but one member of the Everest expedition, if not Norgay himself, likely had a proto-Explorer on his wrist, and the 3-6-9-dialed Precision is the watch that Rolex chose to rechristen as the Explorer in honor of Hillary and Norgay’s historic accomplishment.

Production on what would become the Explorer began in the early 1950s. Since this watch would be used in low-light, the hour markers--with the 3, 6, 9 Arabic numerals that appeared in bubble-back Rolex Precision models--had to be highly legible, with tritium indicesPrototypes were given to explorers in late 1952--including mountaineers Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who wore a Rolex to the summit of Everest. 

The Explorer Ref. 1016 first saw production in 1963, and is to many the quintessential reference of this model. Its design language is timeless, still seen on Explorers to this day. The robust stainless steel case with screw-down crown is compact, the matte dial (gloss in earlier versions of this reference) with its signature 3, 6, 9 Arabic numerals spartan and easy to read, an exercise in legibility and balance. 

Rolex went on to produce the Explorer until 1989, but as is the case with most Rolex sports models, the earliest versions of the watch tend to be the best-looking. The triumph of the 1953 expedition and spirit of adventure and exploration that Explorer represents can be felt when this watch is strapped to your wrist. It is a memento of man’s ability to conquer the world through hard work, grit and determination (and a great deal of panache).


Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Reerence 1016. Circa 1973.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel case is in very good condition over all, showing minimal polishing but retaining factory brush finishing. Case shows some light signs of wear and use in keeping with its age, including some wear on the case back. Matte dial is in excellent condition, showing a lovely, creamy patina to the luminescent elements on the hour markers and hands. Signed crown; unsigned case back is in very good condition, showing minimal signs of use and wear.

Includes 20mm Rolex rivet Oyster Bracelet with signed Rolex clasp, and two 20mm nylon straps from Crown & Buckle

SKU: AS01529

More pieces you may enjoy

Rolex Daytona 'Patrizzi'
Reference 16520 Circa 1995
$ 41,500.00
Rolex Day-Date Baguette
Ref. 18238 With Factory 'Baguette' Diamond Indices Circa 1989
$ 33,000.00
Rolex Lady Datejust
Ref. 179160 Circa 2006-2007
$ 4,450.00
Rolex Datejust
Ref. 1600 Circa 1960
$ 6,950.00


Thank you for your interest in the Tudor Oysterdate Big Rose. Please fill out the form below and we will get back to you shortly.


Our Pledge

Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.


We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.


All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.

International Buyers

Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options