Swiss replica watches | replica watches | Audemars Piguet Swiss replica | Breitling Swiss replica | Rolex Swiss Replica Watches The World of Rolex: History of Rolex Explorer Series

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

History of Rolex Explorer Series

Following part is from "The Best of Time: Rolex Wristwatches: An Unauthorized History" by James M. Dowling and Jeffrey P. Hess, Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 0-7643-0011-3

After the two-tone Rolex Datejust, the Explorer is one of the most easily recognizable of all Rolex models. With its black dial, large luminous triangle marker at 12, and luminous arabic numerals for the other quarters, it is the perfect mixture of a sport and a dress watch. It seems to have been around as long as there have been Rolexes, but that is not exactly true. However, as with most legends, finding the truth is never simple.

Before we get into the history of the Rolex Explorer it is perhaps first worth defining the watch itself. The generally accepted definition of an Explorer is that it is any watch with the dial described above. Unfortunately, one often encounters watches with the word "Explorer" proudly printed on their dial, which bear no resemblance to this description. More rarely, one sees an Explorer dial on other Rolex models. In this discussion of the Explorer we are exercising our writers' prerogative and choosing to include all of the above as Explorers.

The generally accepted origin of the Explorer is that it was first designed and made in honor of Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay, who, on May 29, 1953, were the first to reach the summit of Everest and who did so wearing Rolex wristwatches. The only problem with this hypothesis is that it can not possibly be true. The climbers on Everest were, in fact, wearing Explorers. so the watch had to have been introduced before the climb and not after. One of the watches worn on that expedition was auctioned by Sotheby's London on July 19, 1988 as lot 117, (see photograph on page 243). As you can see the watch was a classic early Explorer down to the "Mercedes" hands, except for the absence of the word "Explorer" on the dial. The shape of the watch land the description by Sotheby's as a "Bubble Back" Explorer) leads us to believe the watch is in fact a model 6350. This hypothesis is strengthened by the photograph on page 246 which shows another model 6350 with art almost identical dial. The main difference between the two is that the Sotheby watch lacks "Explorer" but has the word "Precision" above the 6, whereas the other watch has the word "Explorer" but lacks either "Precision" or "Officially Certified Chronometer" above the 6. Instead it has a British military marking in their place, as well as on the case back. In the early 1950s, the period these watches were made, Rolex often stamped the in- side of the case back with the date of manufacture. The military 63,50, marked Explorer, shows the manufacture date as IV 53, meaning the 4th month of 1953. As stated above, Everest was conquered on the May 29, 1953. Using these facts, it seems likely that Explorers were in production prior to the conquest of Everest. It is also worth noting that the name "Explorer" was registered in Geneva on the January 26, 1953, obviously well before the conquest of the world's highest mountain.

While it is true that many of the members of the successful Everest expedition were issued with Rolex watches (see the advertisement on page 243), the embarrassing fact for Rolex was that only one of the two climbers at the top was wearing a Rolex. This watch, worn by Tenzing Norgay, is now in the Rolex Museum in Geneva. Although Rolex was an official supplier to the Everest expedition, so was the English watch company Smith's and Edmund Hilary chose to wear a Smith's watch (see the advertisement below). In the end it was the Rolex publicity machine that triumphed. Interestingly, due to a pact made by Tenzing and Hilary, we will never know which watch was first at the summit; both climbers have always said that it mattered nothing who was first.

The real origins of the Explorer are revealed by its name. It was designed for explorers and so it had a high visibility dial. an extra strong case, and, on request, it could even be lubricated with a special oil which could withstand temperatures of between -20°C and +40° without changes in its viscosity. As such it was used by many expeditions both before and after the successful Everest expedition.

The look of the Explorer is all about the dial, which is a mixture of a number of previously used styles. The large triangle at "12" was first used by the company on the mixed Roman and Arabic dial of the early 1940s. The large arabic numerals for the Quarters and bars for the remainder are seen on many of the very first model cushion Oysters. Despite this somewhat mixed parentage, the dial has taken on an identity of its own and can never be confused with any other.

These first Explorers (6350 models) used the "big bubbleback" 10-1,/2"' A296 movement. Most of the other 63,50 models to have surfaced do not have the classic "Mercedes'' hands. In- stead they have heavily luminized versions of the standard parallel hands of the period. While the sweep seconds hand is very strange, it looks similar to the current hand having a large circular luminous insert. Closer examination reveals that this circular insert is at the tip of the hand, not 4 mm from the tip as now. Most of the early 6350 dials are also unusual in that they are "honeycomb" textured (how the company managed to print on this surface is a mystery) and are signed as "Officially Certified Chronometer." It is difficult to know how successful this model was, for it is not exactly a common piece and seems to have been replaced by the 6150 model within a year or so. Powered by the same movement, the 6150 was distinguishable from the 6350 by being 2mm. larger and was only available as a Precision model. Not all the 6150s were classic Explorers. The one shown in the photograph on page 249 is unusual in that. while it bears the normal reference number, the dial is previously unknown. The 61,50 was made until 1959 when it was replaced by the 6610, which appears identical, but in fact can be identified by its flatter back. a consequence of using the newer 1030 calibre movement". The dial of the 66 ill is signed "Chronometer. " The simplest method of recognizing any of the early Explorers is by looking at the dial. Although they are all steel watches, all of the printing on the dials (the minute track, the Rolex logo and the model name) is in gold.

During these early days of the Explorer, Rolex was unsure of the model's potential. As a result the name was affixed to a number of watches not immediately recognizable as Explorers. Today the name and the look are so intimately entwined it seems ridiculous to apply the name to watches which were so obviously not what we would call Explorers. But it happened, and the results are some of the rarest Explorer models known. 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. There has been some doubt that these watches are real, for, if we examine the watch closely, we can see that the dial is smaller than a normal Explorer dial. But the receipt from Rolex, shown on the previous page, lists a 5500 Explorer. With this information we think we can validate these as genuine Rolex pieces. A closer examination of all of these models which have turned up with original paperwork reveals one further interesting fact. All of them were purchased from N.A.A.F.l. (the British equivalent of the PX) in the middle or far east. Whether or not the model was made as a comparatively inexpensive military style watch for officers to purchase with their own money is just one more question waiting to be resolved.

No comments:

Post a Comment