Friday, April 04, 2014

Rolex explorer 5500

According to many experts,  during the early days of the Explorer, Rolex was unsure of the model's potential. As a result the Explorer name was affixed to a number of watches not immediately recognizable as Explorers. 

There were many Rolex white or cream dial watches with the word Explorer but not having the 3,6,9 dials. There were two distinct variations on the theme and they seem to have been aimed at two distinct markets. The first was the so-called "Air-King" Explorer. This was an Explorer bearing the 5500 model number usually applied to the Air-King, but with an Explorer dial that is marked "Precision" rather than the "Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified" we would expect to see from the Rolex 1016 (and 6610)

There has been some doubt that these watches are real but with the internet infomation sharing and the various catalogues from Rolex which listed, everyone now accepted the 5500 Explorer now. With this information we think we can validate these as genuine Rolex pieces. In addition, some expert has mentioned that these 5500 Explorer were purchased from N.A.A.F.l. (the British equivalent of the PX) in the middle or far east. However, Ref 5500 Oyster Perpetual models are freqently offered for sale with matte black Explorer dials that are not original to the watch, and are misrepresented as Explorer 5500's. In short, there are many who uses reprinted dial for the normal 5500 Air King.

Catalogue below showing the 5500 Rolex Explorer Precision ( and not Cumulative officially certified chronometer)

Having acquired the gilt dials 6610 and 1016, I am extremely lucky to find this Rolex Explorer 5500. Initially, I was torn between the Omega Sppedmaster cal 321 or this. In the end, my heart went for this little brother of the 1016. One reason why it has taken so long for the 5500 Explorer to arrive is my fear of fake Rolex Explorer 5500 Airking using reconditioned dials. As this is a gilt 5500 Explorer dial, my heart felt more at ease...

One thing I must mentioned is that I used to own a 5504 Explorer but owing to the ill informed Rolex Center in Singapore during the 1990s (where information was scare with no internet) claiming that it was fake, I have returned to the owner. Now after many years, I finally found the 5500 gilt dial and one day my 5504 shall unite with the Explorers...

Some interesting comments from Philip Bowes, found in the forum which I would like to share:

1) 5500 Explorers are basically Air Kings factory- fitted wih a classic gilt 3,6,9 Explorer dial.
2) 5500 Explorers came as two variants: Precision and Super Precision
3) I'm 95% confident that all original (not redialled) Precision variants were fitted a 1520 movement and that all Super Precisions had the 1530 movement.
4) The 1530 movement was also used in Rolex chronometers e.g. the Explorer 5504
5) No 5500 Explorers were ever certified Chronometers (one wonders why those fitted with the 1530 were not).
6) Genuine examples were produced only from 1958 to 1967
7) Some 5500 Explorers have the notorious "underline" and whilst I accept that the current "registration mark" theory for their existence is probably correct, I have seen an example with an underline but no overprinting which does tend to question it.
8) Most 5500 Explorers have tritium activated lume (I think that some very early ones may been radium activated) and the tritium types have the T<25 marking - but some have this marking in duplicate, symmetrically placed either side of the SWISS marking. Does anybody know why this duplication happens as I think it is only apparent in about 25% of cases?
9) I think that all examples were originally fitted with the 6635 expanding-link link bracelet, although most will long since have had this replaced with something else. Can any one confirm that 6635s were universally fitted as original equipment?
10) There is a widespread belief that 5500 Explorers were only sold through the NAAF ( British equivalent to the PX) to British serving officers. I do know for a fact that this is incorrect - though I am willing to agree that some of them might have been marketed that way.

Below examples of the Explorer 5500 I found from the net...all gilt dials..


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