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Rolex Explorer I Ref. 1016 - 'Frog Foot' W/ Box & Papers

Sale price$18,500.00 USD

May 29, 1953

After an arduous journey starting on March 10th of 1953, and an extremely difficult assault on the summit, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary became the first people to successfully summit Mt. Everest. On their wrist? NOT a Rolex Explorer.


Well, to be fair the Rolex Explorer wasn’t created yet. So why the hullabaloo about Sir Edmund Hillary? Well - he was wearing a Rolex. A Rolex Oyster Perpetual. After hearing of the success of this expedition and ruggedness of the watch - the decision was made to replace the Oyster Perpetual with a new model named in Hillary’s honor - The Explorer. Or so the story goes.

Either way, the Rolex Explorer I was introduced in 1953 but like many Rolex models, the first series was not considered ‘the best’ reference. For many collectors - the ultimate Explorer I is the reference 1016. It’s clean, highly legible and still tough enough for use in modern day wear. While using the same case as a Datejust, the smooth bezel and applied luminous Arabic 3,6,9 lend a more rugged and utilitarian aesthetic to the watch. Early models, like this, were made with gilt dials. Gilt dials are when the lettering and fonts are punched out of the dial so that the brass ‘gilt’ color shows through creating a golden text appearance. These are not very easy to produce and were ultimately discontinued by Rolex in the later half of the 1960s as they couldn’t be produced in the same quantity as a matte dial - but nothing shines and glows like a Rolex gilt dial.

The particular example that we have here is a 'MK1' dating to circa 1972. It comes to us with a strong case that has seen a very light previous polishing and shows honest wear with a few very small blemishes on the bottom edge of the left case profile. It houses an early dial known to collectors as a 'Frog Foot' for the, well, frog-foot shape of the Rolex coronet on at the 12 o'clock position. It's Tritium elements have aged evenly to a light cream color, which matches the handset perfectly.

It comes fitted to a later Oyster bracelet with a signed blade clasp, as well as its boxes, punched papers, and serialized hangtag. It's not everyday we see a package like this!

All in all, a well-rounded example of what many consider to be a perfect watch!

Stainless Steel 1972 Box & Papers Automatic 36mm
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