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Rolex Explorer I Ref. 1016 - 'Gilt' Dial

Sale price$24,850.00 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.

Whoops.

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 case has been polished in the past, but was done so respectfully and evenly preserving those beautiful case lines we look for in the early Explorers. Finished off on a period Rolex Jubilee bracelet, this is truly a watch for discerning collectors - but we wouldn't take it to summit Everest!

Stainless Steel 1966 Automatic Sport

"As collectors themselves, Oliver and Clarke are on a mission to make buying vintage watches as painless as possible."

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From Rolex & Patek Philippe, to Cartier & Audemars Piguet. As collectors first, we love the small details that separate the Submariner from Daytona and Calatrava from Royal Oak. This is why you'll find our curated assortment spans decades of generations of models and brands. We believe that watches don't just tell time, they tell history - and life is too short to wear a boring watch.

Oliver & Clarke