‘Frog Foot’ Dial 1016 Rolex Explorer

This is a 1016, which as we all know is the answer to every possible watch question. However, it’s a very peculiar sort. It’s the sort of 1016 for a collector who has already owned a 1016, who then looks down one day and thinks, ‘Yes, this is lovely, but I wish the Rolex coronet looked a little more like a frog’s foot.’ This is the Mark 1, a matte dial very early into matte dial production where the points of the coronet splay. And yes, people do care. Not most people, not sane people, but we care. And this one is quite obviously beautifully aged.


Much like all vintage professional Rolex, the earliest 1016s featured gloss gilt dials. Then, somewhere around 1966-67, Rolex transitioned to matte dial Explorer production. In that transition, the 1016 adopted a few curious characteristics. Its coronet had its five points splayed much wider than printing before or since, not continuously arcing or crowned. The dials were so distinct that collectors eventually termed this the ‘frog foot’ for its wide, webbed appearance. It is estimated that most will appear between serial number 1.5-3.5m and, curiously, 4.4-5.1m cases way later on. Apparently, the entirety of that first dial batch was not cased right away. But the bulk of that production is in the earliest matte dial 1016s. This one is a ’72, so bang in the middle of that first production. There are inter-mark variations too, a fat-lume Mark 1 is arguably the most desirable matte 1016 dials ever, though what you’re looking at here is classic flavor.


But the great thing about early matte dials is that they don’t trouble one for 1/5th the ask of a honeycomb 6350; they’re relaxed. Not trying too hard. And that attitude suits the Explorer, which is possibly the sole most adaptable Rolex there’s ever been. To all intents and purposes, this a watch which is never out of place. It’s a bit like a meters-first 5513. It’s not gilt, no, but special in its own way as the harbinger of decades of matte dials we all love. And if vintage character is made by life on wrist, just look at this tritium. 3-6-9 does not always look this tan. But it’s better when it does. This is an Explorer that someone loved, or perhaps did some actual Exploring, god forbid. And it shows.

The case on this example rocks. Its dial, too, is undamaged to my cursory inspection with no serious damage visible. The handset is a touch deeper orange than the dial, which is totally normal and we’re talking very slight shades of grey. There are a few hairlines in the hour hand lume, so I’d definitely stabilize this handset before shipping far or wearing hard. Also, the description on the listing notes, ‘Rolex’s self-winding calibre 1570 is waterproof to 60m’, which is likely a simple mistake but amusing to read. Don’t take your movements to 60m people. It comes from a well-regarded London retailer.