09 Jan Explorer 1: The Alphanumeric Connection
The Rolex Explorer is a current wrist watch sports model that has been in production (and continuing) since 1953. Let’s take a trip back to the month of October 1953 when Rolex officially produced Rolex Explorer 1. On the caseback dating back to the first Explorer reference 6150 in a cream or black dial variations and stainless with stainless steel cases, it is often seen and recognized by the alphanumeric imprint “IV 53” with a “Geneva, Swiss” layered by “Montres Rolex S.A” engravings. In the very same year, Rolex was experimenting with a batch of 6150 references before a more permanent-styled Explorer dial which illustrates a “3-6-9” with ref 6350, which will ultimately be responsible for the visual distinction that Rolex has established for future Explorer models.
For 57 years, the Rolex Explorer 1 had always been manufactured in the 36mm diameter. In this age of the rising wrist watch sizes, Explorer model reference 214270 has deviated traditional measurements by 3 points up to 39mm at Baselworld 2010. By a comparable contrast that of the 2008 Baselworld highlight “DeepSea Sea-Dweller” (DSSD), this up-sizing trend has been continuing throughout Richemont’s Officine Panerai with their base at 40mm Luminors up to 47mm Radiomirs since their world horology conquests begun. It is imperative to shake up the system, break the rules in accordance to demand fluctuations – by a disruptive approach. Rolex collectors who have been fond of the 36mm Explorers are in a situation of perpetual adaptation of resizing approaches.
Vintage Rolex collectors who happen to be avid Explorer 1 enthusiasts, will understand that explorations were happening rapidly between 1953-1956 – production years of reference 6350 honeycomb gilt dial. On 29th May 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquered Mount Everest with a possibility of wristing Rolex Oyster Perpetuals. In this same year, Rolex launched the first ever Explorer series with ref 6150 and later ref 6350. In 1954, a formal introduction of the Submariner by Rolex at Baselworld watch fair in Switzerland was hosted, and the Milgauss Anti-magnetic for scientists in process. Royal Navy divers were officially issued with Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches by Rolex in 1955. With the world’s first release of Rolex Milgauss Anti-Magnetic wrist watch reference 6543 in the horology history in 1956, these milestones were (and still remain as) the work of this great watchmaking company founded by Hans Wildorf.
Japan is known to be a highly concentrated geographic location in which Rolex Explorer models are traded and collected in abundance – both modern and vintage. It must have either been the dial, case, size and other specifications that unified in these Explorer wrist watches, empowering the wrist-wrist wearer since half a decades ago. Rapid expansions in design, research and manufacturing capabilities have transcended across borders, races, languages with symbols of successes embedded within time instruments.
A Rolex Explorer is still very much a result of extrapolated experiments in progress – an exploration beyond the tangents of known and unknown. This alphanumeric system of categorizing horological instruments is one of well-connected dots, in branding by association through alphabets and numbers, will enable a collector to identify and relate to a particular watch model by physical and digital cross-examinations.
This is a joint-project by Modani Editore and VintageHour featuring the Rolex Explorer 1 in a chronological order, as per illustrations and specifications below.
(For further visual illustrations, a printed book by Mondani Editore entitled “Milgauss, Explorer I, Explorer II, Turn-O-Graph and Yacht-Master” is now available online at VintageHourWatches.com.)