The Rolex Explorer
The watch that witnessed the first ascent of the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest, is the Rolex Explorer. Even today, this watch is one of the most widely sought after Rolex models. In addition, its successor--the Rolex Explorer II--has done very well in its own right in light of its improved functionalities.
Currently, Rolex offers a 36mm sized case Explorer in steel. This model features a polished bezel, Oysterlock bracelet and a black dial engraved with numerals 3, 6, and 9. It is known for its high visibility dial, an extremely strong case, and the ability to withstand temperatures from -20 degree to +40 degree Celsius.
History of Rolex Explorer
The Rolex Explorer was designed to suit the extreme conditions of a variety of different expeditions. It is evident from the fact that the two prototypes of the Explorer, numbered 6098 and 6150, were given to the members of the British Himalayas expedition team on May 29 in 1953, when they set out to conquer Mt. Everest's 29,035 ft. The soon to be released Explorer, model 6098, was given to the expedition member Tenzing Norgay, and it performed without fail. The name “Explorer” was adopted for the model after the widely publicized success of the expedition.
An attribute that makes the Rolex Explorer one of the most recognizable models is its dial. The earliest Explorer, model 6098, featured a white dial with arrow-shaped hour markers and hands while model 6150 looked exceptionally distinct with its black “Quarter Arabic” dial with only the 3-6-9 marked with numerals. In addition, it featured large Mercedes style hands. Later, model 6098 (renumbered as the 6298) was equipped with the famous black Quarter Arabic dial, although retaining the arrow shaped hands. The name “Explorer” appeared for the first time on the dial of model 6150 (renumbered as the 6350), positioned just above the numeral 6. In addition, these models used the “big bubbleback 10-1/2” A.296 movement. The early 6350 dials had a honeycombed texture with “Officially Certified Chronometer” signed just above the number 6. However, the popularity of model 6150 overshadowed the look of model 6350. The former was larger than the latter by 2mm and was only available as a precision model.
Essential Changes and Advances Over the Years
Many changes have come about since the inception of the Rolex Explorer. The first major change came in the form of model 6610--which looked almost identical to model 6150. However, it could be recognized by its flatter back due to the new 1030 calibre movement. In addition, its dial bore the sign "Chronometer." In all the new models of Rolex Explorer, the most visible change was a shift from the pencil shaped hands to the more popular Mercedes-style hands of today. By the late 1950s, the dial began to read "Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified". In addition, the bottom of the dial bore Swiss T<25 from Swiss. This was done to demonstrate the switch from Radium to Tritium as the luminous material.
Later, Rolex used certain attributes of the Rolex Explorer with a few other models, not easily recognizable as Explorers. For instance, in the late 1950s, Rolex introduced a version of the Air King with model number 5500 which had an Explorer dial. These watches were believed to be targeted at British military officers. This dress watch had a slightly smaller size and featured a 19mm bracelet instead of the 20mm in standard Explorer models. In addition, the dial was marked "Precision" or "Super Precision" above the number 6. Rolex also released the standard Oyster Perpetual in steel or gold with white or black non-Explorer dials. These were signed "Explorer".
One of the most sought after collectible models of the Explorer line has been the Space-Dweller with the model number 1016. The words Space-Dweller were marked clearly on the dial below 12. These watches were produced in limited numbers that were primarily sold in Japan. This decision was on account of the model being introduced in 1963 to commemorate the visit of NASA's Mercury Astronauts to Japan. It featured a new 1560 calibre movement. The second version of the model 1016 was equipped with a "hack" feature in movement. It stops the hand at the 12 position when the winding crown is pulled out to the hand setting position. This makes it easier to synchronize your time with a known source. With a change in movement, Rolex introduced the new Oyster bracelet for its Explorer model, made from solid stainless steel as opposed to the previously folded steel sheet links. This revised form continued until 1989.
A New Explorer Introduced in 1990
At the beginning of 1990, Rolex rolled out a brand new version of the Explorer with model number 14270. This completely redesigned model sported a new movement, case, dial and sapphire crystal. Only the hands and the name were identical to that of model 1016. The attraction of this revised model lies in its white gold skeleton markers with luminous Tritium fillings. It boasts of the very powerful 3000 caliber movement.
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