It's the start of a new year. Everyone's resolving to slim down, get things together, be better in 2016. The Rolex Explorer is a handsome vintage watch to go along with your restraint. And it will definitely outlast those resolutions—sorry.
The Explorer has pretty lofty origins. In 1952, a few prototype watches were made for Edmund Hillary's historic first ascent of Mt. Everest. The watch Hillary wore, which has a white dial, triangular markers, and alpha-style hand, is sitting in the museum of a watch store in Zurich. It doesn't look like the one here because a year after the Hillary watch was made, Rolex reconfigured the aesthetics. In 1953, it issued the first watches with "Explorer" on the dial.
A few models of Explorer were made in the 1950s, but it was in 1963 that the ref. 1016 came out. This is, without a doubt, the most iconic Explorer watch. It's the one most collectors look for. (And it's the most direct predecessor to today's Explorer.) Unlike other vintage Rolex sport watches, the Explorer doesn't have a colored metal bezel that can fade and change over time, giving it a cleaner (if slightly less charming) look. At 36 millimeters, it's also smaller than something like the Submariner or GMT , making it a little more versatile. On a leather or crocodile strap, it can easily do double-duty as a dress watch.
The Explorer's style of case also differs from other Rolex sport watches. Instead of the thick lugs with curved bevels along the edges, the 1016 has a case with softer swooping lugs. They should be polished on the sides and evenly brushed on top, with the holds sitting right in the middle and not too close to the edges. If they're off to one side or too near the edge, you know the case has been overly polished. This example is near-perfect, a great example of what this watch should look like.
The dial, too, is great on this example. The luminous stick markers, triangle, and 3-6-9, are all even and original, with a soft creamy hue. The hands are also original, although they have faded to a shade darker and slightly yellower than the markers. The contrast is nice looking, though some collectors prefer everything to look perfectly even. The movement inside this 1980s Explorer has hacking seconds, meaning that the seconds hand stops moving when you pull out the crown to set the time. This lets you set the watch more accurately.
As a bonus, this watch comes with the box and paperwork it originally sold with. This might not make the watch more fun to wear, but these little accoutrements add collector value, and they're certainly nice to have. Over the long term, they should improve the watch's value.
This Rolex Explorer is available from 10PastTen and is priced at $9,500.
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