The Rolex Explorer I may not be the most iconic watch in the Rolex collection, but this watch has something magical, at first glance it may seem boring, but as soon as our eyes look at it more closely, our whole perception of it changes. For many considered the perfect watch, it enjoys a deep admiration among the Rolex community, and we understand why, the whole story behind it, its unpretentious appearance, the right size and the perfect balance between a mix of sports and classic watches.
This remarkable model and its history started in 1952, with the name “Oyster Perpetual”, it was the pre-Explorer model and, probably contrary to what many might think, it was aesthetically different, with a polar (white) dial, without Arabic numbers but only small indexes and lifted hands.
From an early age, Rolex wanted to demonstrate the capabilities of this incredible watch by subjecting it to extreme conditions in the harshest places on Earth, and so the expedition on Mount Everest led by Sir Edmund Hillary, emerged as a unique opportunity, sponsored by Rolex that provided some 20 pieces with the reference 6098 “Oyster Perpetual” watches with big bubbles back, also known as “big egg”, were of monoblock construction (mid-case and bezel), a large pushed crown (not the screw ones as they are today day), with A296 perpetual movement and chronometer rated.
A year later (1953) the reference 6298 appears, this new model was already showing signs that it would be the future Explorer, the A296 movement was the same as the 6098, with a certified chronometer, but this watch left the monoblock structure behind and was updated to a three-piece box (mid-case and separate bezel) and inserted the screwed crown. Later, the successors of the 6298, the 6150 and the 6350 appeared, the 6350 was the first to appear the name “Explorer” on the dial, the traditional marks 3-6-9 in Arabic numerals on the dial, the inverted triangle at 12 o’clock and the “Mercedes” hands (however there were still versions with pencil hands). The main difference between these last two references concerned the classification of the chronometer, while the 6150 had painted on the “Precision” dial, the 6350 had “Officially Certified Chronometer” (OCC).
In 1959 these last references were replaced by the 6610 with a flat back, leaving the old bubble back, they came with a “gilt” dial, referring to the shiny black dials, and only 4 years later in 1963 the special 1016 was born. The holy grail for many, this model has been available for 26 years and the main improvement it has brought is greater water resistance. Another difference was the new matte black dial with printed text, where the old radio luminous material was replaced by tritium, for health reasons, and the text “Swiss” printed at the bottom of the dial was replaced by “Swiss T <25” or “T Swiss T”.
In 1971 Explorer II was born with the reference of 1655, a model that we will not talk about today leaving for another article. After more than two decades of service, 1016 was replaced in the 90s by the reference 14270 with 3000 caliber movement and with a different and more modern look, the old numbers 3-6-9 painted on the dial were replaced by numbers in white gold filled with luminous material, and the previous acrylic glass was replaced by sapphire glass. Ten years later, in 2000 it was replaced by the reference 114270 with a new movement caliber 3130 and finally, in 2010 a new reference 214270 was launched, which remains today, with a new case size of 39 mm, in relation to the original size of 36 mm.
Some interesting facts about this watch, over the years, many different variations of these watches have been released, some of the most interesting are “Tiffany & Co. 1016” and “Space-Dweller 1016”. There is another variation of the reference 14270 very rare that was produced only between 1990 and 1991, the 14270 “Blackout”, this version came with the numbers 3-6-9 in black, instead of the traditional whites.