Rolex Explorer
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Rolex Explorer

Jacques Cousteau had a Rolex Submariner. So did Chuck Yeager, who obtained a Big Crown model (Reference 6538) some time after breaking the sound barrier in his Bell X-1 airplane (although he wore an Oyster Perpetual during that historic flight). Countless pilots and astronauts wore GMT Masters when taking to the skies; Jack Swigert wore one during the fateful Apollo 13 mission, and sent a thank-you letter to Rolex director René Jeanneret after returning to the loving embrace of Mother Earth.

All this goes to say, that when it comes to make watches for icons and heroes, Rolex has long lived up to the task.

But for those who did not venture into uncharted depths or sail to the stars, but chose to scale the unscalable and stand at the very roof of the world, there was this watch: the Rolex Explorer.

The Explorer existed before it even had the name. It had its genesis in watches that members of Sir John Hunt’s expedition to Mount Everest in 1953. Two of them, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, would go down in history as the first to step on the powdery snow at the summit of the world’s tallest peak.

At least one of them—most likely Norgay—was wearing a Rolex with a distinctive dial layout, with 3, 6, 9 in bold Arabic numerals at the poles. This was, in essence, the ancestor of the Explorer. Rolex, as caught up in the feat as anyone back on terra firma, would rechristen it in honor of the two intrepid mountaineers.

For collectors looking to delve into the history of this model, there is a lot of it. Rolex still produces the Explorer to this day, in some shape or form, although the shape and form have changed somewhat over the years. As with many watches made by Rolex, it’s the vintage versions that resonate the most with collectors.

Of these, the Reference 1016 is the one that many collectors dream of strapping to their wrists.

Produced from the late 1950s to the late 1980s, the 1016 enjoyed one of the longest production runs of any Rolex. Ours dates from 1965, at a pivotal time in the model’s history. The model was first offered with a gilt, glossy dial, but in 1966 these transitioned to matte dials with painted-on numerals.

As a result, early gilt examples like this one are especially coveted. What makes it even more special is the color—a gorgeous tropical hue that calls to mind rich chocolate. Looking at it, one wonders what adventures it might have seen, or to what heights it might have scaled, on the wrist of its previous owners.

Perhaps you can surpass them—with a watch like this, who wouldn’t?

Details

SKU: AS02457

Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Reference 1016. Calibre 1560 Self-Winding Movement. Circa 1965.

Overall Condition: Case is in good condition overall, showing some signs of use and previous polishing. Dial is stunning, with heavy tropical patina throughout. Luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands show signs of patina as well. Rolex crown.

Includes one 20mm brown leather strap.

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