Rolex Explorer I Gilt Dial
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Rolex Explorer I Gilt Dial

Rolex has long been the watch of exploration. Their timepieces have been worn into some of the most extreme locations on the planet, often at the behest of Rolex technicians who wanted to subject their timepieces to worst Mother Nature could conjure.

It wasn’t surprising that Rolex approached the 1953 Everest expedition with a run of simple Oyster Perpetuals, hoping that the mountaineers who had set their eyes on the monolithic mount would utilize them on their journey to one of the few places on the earth yet to be touched by man.

If you know the tale, then you know that Edmund Hillary (later to be knighted for his achievement) and Tenzing Norgay successfully planted their flags atop the behemoth, and that Rolex came with them to the summit. These simple, three-hand Oyster Perpetuals represented the cornerstone of Rolex’s engineering at the time – robust automatic movements housed in slim stainless steel cases designed to take a beating.

A few short months after the successful summit of Everest, Rolex unveiled the first ever Explorer model. Built on the trim 36mm Stainless Steel case with ‘Twinlock’ crown, it featured a Calibre 6298 automatic movement and a simple Arabic dial with luminescent numerals at 3,6, and 9, a layout which is now synonymous with the history of the model. Designed specifically for legibility in low-light conditions. In name and design, the watch was an homage to Hillary and Norgay and to the simple Oysters that they wore during the expedition.

Between 1953 and 1960, Rolex tried a handful of movements and case designs, keeping the overall appearance of the watch relatively unchanged. The successor of the earliest 6298s(which were produced in very small numbers) was the Reference 6610. It featured, among other small changes, a gilt dial with the same 3-6-9 layout, and a white lollipop sweep hand.

In 1960, the Reference 1016 Explorer was released and it would remain in constant production virtually unchanged until 1990, making the Reference 6610 just about the closest thing to an actual "Everest Watch" that you can find outside of a museum today.

Explorers like this one don’t come along often, and with a gorgeously patinated Gilt dial, original lollipop sweep hand and original stretch-rivet bracelet, it is a truly remarkable example of a collector-grade Explorer.

Details

Stainless Steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 6610. Circa 1958.

Overall Condition: The watch is in excellent condition overall, with light marks to the case consistent with age and use, but is devoid of any glaring scratches or dings. Original Gilt dial is in outstanding original condition with a tremendous matching patina. Outer chapter ring is sharp and clear. Original handset matches dial patination beautifully. Original case back and Rolex signed crown.

Includes Rolex Steelinox stretch Rivet Bracelet and 20mm nylon straps by Crown & Buckle.

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