I love the Rolex Explorer model. Over the last weekend, I was lucky to have found a Rolex reference 6298. This model is known by collectors (along with its slightly older sibling the 6098) as the Everest Explorer or Pre-Explorer. These watches were the prototype watches used by explorers in the early 1950s that led to the development of the Explorer line.
This model is also known as Big Semi ‘Bubblebacks’ or ‘Ovettones’. These large case watches (36mm) have a real presence on the wrist and are truly versatile and appealing. The normal bubbleback model size is 33 mm and other semil bubbleback 6084/5 is size 34 mm.
In 1952, the Rolex semi Bubbleback came in models 6098 and 6150 and became the prototypes of the Explorer. The watches had white dials and leaf-shaped hands. In 1953, they became the 6298 and 6350, displaying the famous 3-6-9 Arabic dial which is typical of Explorers. Later, the Mercedes hands were also added. After the Everest expedition of 1953, the name Explorer was inscribed on the dials of the 6350. The watch was made to be especially strong and able to withstand extreme temperatures, as a dangerous mountain climbing adventure would require.
According to Collecting Rolex Wristwatches by Patrizzi, this model 6298 had a production run of less than 1,000 and one wonders how many is still around after so many years? As mentioned, this model was taken on the Everest Expedition in 1953, that was highly promoted by Rolex in magazine ads to show how rugged this watch was
In 1959, Rolex replaced the Explorer 6150 with the 6610, which had a more flattened back than the previous model and has the current 3,6,9, black dial look. Then in 1963, this model was in turn replaced by the 1016. The 1016 was more water resistant than the 6610 and also had a new movement, the Cal. 1560. The 1016 stayed in production for 26 years, in which time it evolved quite a bit from having gilt dial to matt dial and eventually became the 14270, the Explorer in 1971. The history of Rolex Explorer II ref 1655, 16550, like that of the Explorer, are laden with stories of adventure seekers using the Explorer II during their journeys. The Rolex Explorer always bring joy to me...