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This week on #VintageWatchFridays we’re bringing you not one but two classic Rolex Explorers, both Ref. 1016’s but from very different eras.

The Rolex Explorer

It’s no secret that the humble Rolex Explorer often gets overlooked in favor of its more popular siblings the Submariner and the GMT Master. Now admittedly at 36mm it doesn’t have the most pronounced presence on the wrist however that’s one of the things that makes it such an attractive option as an everyday watch. It’s a subtle classic that you can wear anywhere with just about anything without attracting too much unwanted attention.

Plus it’s seriously cool. As the name suggests it was originally developed as a ‘tool’ watch for explorers and was actually used by members of the successful 1953 Everest expedition as well as other expeditions before and after.

Rolex Explorer 1016

Rolex Explorer 1016

The Rolex Explorer 1016 was the most common series made and was in production for over 25 years, which is why today we can show you two different versions from two different eras. The first an absolute classic from 1965, the second a pristine R-series from 1987, possibly one of the last pieces ever made of this now iconic series.

Rolex Explorer 1016 Gilt Dial Circa 1965

As you have just heard Reginald Brack – Director of Private Watch Sales for Christie’s – explain in the above video, the first Rolex Explorer we have for you today features a gorgeous gilt dial in excellent condition. Honestly, I could stare at this thing all day it’s so nice.

As I have discussed in previous articles a ‘gilt dial’ generally means all the markings on the dial are coated in gold, although sometimes a single line may be left in white. As the dial fades over time it takes on its own unique character.

As Reg points out in the video however, this dial of this Rolex Explorer is particularly attractive because it has not been ‘burned-out’ by the radioactive radium used at the time to provide luminosity. As you can see in this photo it still looks almost as fresh as the day it was made.

Rolex Explorer 1016

On the wrist it is a thing of beauty. Presented on a non-original leather strap, this is a classic dress watch you can wear just about anywhere, with the golden dial giving it just that little something extra.

Rolex Explorer 1016

Rolex Explorer 1016 R Series Matte Dial Circa 1987

At the other end of the scale we have this stylish Rolex Explorer 1016 from 1987, with a more subdued matte dial and original steel bracelet. This particular model is an R Series, the last series of 1016’s ever produced and as you can see not much has changed in the 22 years or so that separate these two models.

Rolex Explorer 1016

The dial is easily readable, with large luminous triangle at 12, pronounced Arabic numerals at 3, 6 and 9 and Mercedes style hands, like the Submariner. The R-Series is more subtle on the wrist though thanks to its matte dial and is really the type of watch I could see myself wearing every day.

Rolex Explorer 1016

So there you have it, two versions of the awesome Rolex Explorer 1016, both very similar in appearance but both with their own unique details that really make them stand apart in the eyes of a true connoisseur.

Make Them Yours

Available for sale right now from Christie’s Private Watch sales, the 1965 Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016 with gilt dial can be yours for US$12,000, whilst the 1987 Rolex Explorer 1016 R Series can be yours for US$11,000.

Which one will you choose?

Tom Mulraney
Tom Mulraney
Founder & Editor
Tom likes to write about luxury watches. So much so, that he created The Watch Lounge just so he would have an outlet for his passion. Together with his team, he is dedicated to bringing you original, entertaining (and maybe even a little educational) luxury watch and lifestyle content.

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