There is a reason why the Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016 was one of Rolex’s longest production watches. Spanning a run from 1963 to 1990, with a few updates here and there, it is, without doubt, one of the purest Rolex sport models that underpin the entire Rolex ‘tool watch’ ethos.
The Explorer, named so after famously summiting Mount Everest in 1953, its design in my opinion is as perfect as it gets. Perhaps one of the most beautifully proportioned and understated Rolex’s, utility was always taken into consideration. A simple yet reliable three-hander, a highly legible dial with a great 3,6,9 layout, no date, and housed in a muscular 36mm stainless steel case, today the Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016 is a vintage lover’s dream.
This particular example is an early production 1016, most obvious through its glossy gilt dial. The gilt dials have always been more coveted than the later matte dials and with this Explorer, it is made even more special as it is in excellent original condition with a stunning dial.
As well all know, when it comes to vintage Rolex, it is always about the details as, throughout the ’60s and ’70s, there were many different dial and case variants, even within a single reference. With this 1016, it is made special by the fact that it comes with an ‘exclamation point dial’. If you look closer (which is always the case), you will see at 6 o’clock there is a dot of lume beneath it, resembling an exclamation point. It is a mystery as to why Rolex only did this for a very short period in the early ’60s, but rumor has it that it was to signify the transition from radium to tritium as the luminescent material.
All of these features are what makes collecting vintage Rolex so scary and rewarding at the same time, as each little detail tells a bit about both the history of the brand and the period that it was made. With this example, you get both rarity and condition, within a watch that certainly has to be one of Rolexes’ most iconic.