Rolex Explorer I

Rolex Explorer I

Why We Love It

Let's face it, Rolex is THE most widely recognized brand in the world. Among their greatest -- but perhaps least appreciated -- achievements is the development of the Explorer I.

It has only been recently that collectors have turned their eyes to the smallest member of the Rolex sports watch lineup, with early executions naturally drawing the most attention.

Of the original breed, the Reference 1016 captures the attention of most, and for good reason. For one, it enjoyed the longest production run of all Explorer I models, making it the most iconic.

Additionally, the trim 36mm steel case and matte Tritium dial hark to the original form-follows-function design; the simplicity is pleasing when paired with the complications (Bezels, date functions etc.) of the later models. However, this demand has made finding honest 1016s very hard today. Many examples have been over-restored and have lost their integrity from over-polishing and relumed hands and dials.   

The perfect adventure companion pictured here has gained an even patina on the tritium luminous indices and hands. Dating from around 1974 and showing signs of normal wear, this example falls perfectly in the realm of wearability - not too nice to wear and enjoy and not too overworked to fall for. 

Don't miss out on this opportunity to snag a great, honest 1016 from the classic era!

The Story

Few watches have captured the imagination the way the Rolex Explorer has. At its core, the Explorer has always been an understated tool watch, it's spartan appearance belying its hearty robustness. It is perhaps this, more than any other feature, that urges ever onward the spirit of adventure and humankind's unwillingness to accept defeat. In this way, the Explorer - in all of its executions - has formed a kind of cult status among watch enthusiasts and collectors, but for many, the story really begins and ends with the Reference 1016.

The Explorer traces its heritage back to the first successful summit of Everest. While we know now that the watch on Sir Edmund Hillary’s wrist was a Rolex Oyster Precision (see it HERE), facts remain sketchy when it comes to Tenzing Norgay’s - Hillary's sherpa/partner. 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. But with many of the details lost to history, some suspect that Norgay himself had a proto-Explorer on his wrist. Regardless, it was the 3-6-9-dialed Oyster Precision that Rolex rechristened as the Explorer in honor of Hillary and Norgay’s historic accomplishment.

Rolex went on to produce the Explorer for five decades (and counting, since it’s still in production), 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 (plus, doing so with timeless style and panache).


Available EXCLUSIVELY at Watches of Switzerland SoHo!

SKU: AS03017

Stainless steel case is approximately 36mm (excluding crown). Rolex Reference 1016. Rolex Automatic Movement. Circa 1974

Overall Condition: Case is in great condition, showing signs of normal wear with sharp lugs. Luminous black matte dial is in great condition with evenly patinated luminous indices. Luminous handset shows matching patina. Signed crown.

Includes 20mm Jubilee Bracelet with Rolex signed Clasp. Bracelet shows signs of normal wear

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