1967/68 Rolex Explorer Gloss Black Gilt Dial Ref. 1016

Price on request


The Rolex Explorer needs no introduction with its much coveted history. This example being a reference 1016 with gilt dial is arguably one of the most desirable and sought-after of the different versions to have been produced over the years. It features its original glossy black dial with gilt font in excellent condition. The original luminous on the dial showing some patina and glows bright (as it should for tritium from this year) and slowly fades away. The Mercedes hands do not glow the same under UV but are still tritium. These gilt dials came just before the matte dials that were introduced in 1968/69.

The 36mm case is in excellent condition and showing no signs of recent polishing. There are light scratches to the case and plexiglass but with very little wear overall which is rarely seen for these ’60s Explorers. The serial number is in the 1.59 million range and has the original case back dated VI.66 with various Rolex service markings. The calibre 1570 automatic movement is clean, fully functioning and keeping excellent time. The movement number corresponds to the Chronometer Certificate paperwork. To add to the overall originality of this watch it comes with its original Rolex stretchy rivet Oyster bracelet reference 6636 with 80 end links. The clasp is dated 4th quarter of 1964 which is slightly earlier than the watch but we feel is original to the watch. The bracelet is remarkably tight and in excellent condition with light scratches consistent with the case. There is a letter from Rolex that accompanies the watch from 1994 that details how Rolex could not repair the original bracelet (a spring was needed for one of the links) and provided a quote for a new bracelet instead.

Now we get to the paperwork…. Firstly this watch comes with its original Chronometer Certificate with hole-punched serial number and dated 1967. Secondly, it comes with its original Rolex guarantee booklet also hole-punched with serial number and showing the sale a year later in 1968. The icing on the cake for collectors is the original purchase receipt from John Bull retailers located in the Sheraton British Colonial Hotel Arcade in the Bahamas. Finally it is accompanied by a 1966 Rolex Explorer pamphlet detailing the history of the Explorer model.

Overall this is not just an excellent example of a gilt 1016 but also has the added rarity of all the original paperwork.










Summit of Everest
Released in 1953, the Rolex Explorer is often overlooked as a historic model thanks to the launch of the Rolex Submariner in the same year. While the Submariner is indeed an important timepiece with a rich history, the Explorer has a unique story that separates it from the vast majority of watches out there. Tracing its origins to 1952, the Rolex Explorer was inspired by the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Bubblebacks that Rolex gifted to John Hunt’s British Expedition of Mount Everest. In 1953, the Expedition made its way to the top of Mount Everest, and the first recorded successful summit of the highest mountain in the world was made by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, with Tenzing wearing one of those Rolex Oyster Perpetual Bubblebacks.

The watches gifted to the Expedition Team were the Pre-Explorer ref. 6098 and were known by their nickname, the Ovettone, Italian for ‘Big Egg’. These watches had large domed casebacks and crystals to facilitate their large movements. They became instrumental in building the Explorer as a stand-alone model as Rolex took design cues from the watch and lent them to the later references. Chronometer tested before they left for Everest, Rolex were fascinated to see how the trials and tribulations these original ref. 6098s were put through would impact their timekeeping ability.

References and Dial Variants
Following some transitory models like the ref. 6298 and ref. 6150 (both released in 1953), Rolex released the ref. 6350 shortly after (still in 1953), introducing the “Explorer” moniker to the collection’s dial. As such, all references from before the ref. 6350 are known as Pre-Explorers and feature various dials using wedge-shaped triangular indices and various Arabic numeral patterns. The ref. 6350 harmonised the collection with its black 3-6-9 dial, which would become the Explorer’s signature design cue.

Following the ref. 6350, Rolex released the ref. 5500 in the late 1950s, which shared the Air-King’s 34mm case – a noticeable step down from the 36mm cases Rolex had used previously. Rolex then followed the ref. 5500 with the 36mm ref. 5504 and the ref. 5700 Explorer Date. Unique in their size, the ref. 5500 and the other 34mm Explorer variants are sought-after as unusual models within the Explorer’s history. Featuring gilt-inscribed dials with tritium luminescent paint, these Explorers broke from Rolex’s conventional luminescent paint, which was typically radium-based, and remained in use until 1963. With these peculiarities in mind, collectors have come to cherish the ref. 5500 as perhaps the most unique Explorer variant.

In 1959, Rolex released the ref. 6610, which truly set the collection aside as an individual offering free from the rest of the Oyster Perpetual and Air-King collections. Its black dial featured gilt inscriptions and lost its domed caseback thanks to its newer and thinner movement; the cal. 1030. Some rare models would even feature 50m depth ratings in either red or white inscription.

Following the ref. 6610, Rolex released the Explorer ref. 1016 in 1963, which would run until 1989 and become the most well-established reference within the entire collection. With its improved 100m water resistance and new cal. 1560 movement, the ref. 1016 brought the entire collection up to scratch alongside the rest of Rolex’ fully-fledged sports offerings. The early ref. 1016 examples feature glossy black dials with gilt inscriptions, like the earlier models. By the late 1960s, these dials were swapped for matte black dials with white inscriptions – a decidedly more modern aesthetic.