Finds Vintage

‘Space-Dweller’ 1016 Rolex Explorer


Yes, this post falls outside our regularly scheduled programming, but I have been waiting for literal years to be able to write about a Space-Dweller. When I saw this 1016 appear on the market, my jaw fell through the floor. I felt compelled, possibly even by some higher power, to get this watch to you all before it shifts. The Space-Dweller is a Rolex with a remarkable story, and it may be another five years before the next one comes to market. Therefore, I’m breaking protocol to share with you one of the quirkiest, most subtle, and most mythical Rolexes ever.


Rolex famously lost the NASA moon mission contract to Omega and the Speedmaster. The Cosmograph, named perhaps a bit optimistically, never touched the cosmos. In 1963, the same year as that rigorous competition began, however, a different space-related Rolex was born. Back in the early 60s, Astronauts were heroes as famed as any movie star . . .how we’ve fallen from grace. I digress. When astronauts from the Mercury program visited Japan to much fanfare, Rolex decided to release a tiny edition of the 1016 to commemorate the event. This was done both to test the Japanese market and in the hope of further NASA affiliations down the road. The branding never continued past this one event, after Omega took the bid. The Space-Dweller was produced in infinitesimal numbers for this one outing. This rarity and its bizarre background of shattered space-related dreams from the coronet make it one of the most highly collected Rolex ever today.


One or two of these may come to auction every five years or so. In 2008, Antiquorum sold one for 48K USD. Christies sold one two years ago for 135K USD. Ben Clymer recently wrote about his own for the Hodinkee mag. There, he speculated that few dozen examples are known to the market. There are so few in fact, that I believe this watch may be the same which was featured in Hodinkee’s Bring a Loupe many years ago, from the well-regarded @gisringhausen. To be clear, this is based purely on speculation and the pattern of patina, I may be incorrect. But when you get into markets as rare this, it is not uncommon for the same watch to say hello from many different locales. The word rare gets thrown around a lot, but for the Space-Dweller, it could not be more accurate. This is a discreet, uber-rare Explorer which belies a story of ambition and broken dreams, known by only the most enthusiastic set of watch collectors. It will not hang around.


This example’s whole value is in its dial and luckily it is quite strong. There is a tiny bit of corrosion around the chapter ring area, but on the whole very strong. There is a very light tropical tone to its hue. Tritium is matched in golden tones across the dial and handset. Its case has full lugs, which I suspect have seen a polishing wheel, but nothing egregious. It comes on a rivet Oyster bracelet from a well-regarded retailer.

Find this Space-Dweller here from Amsterdam Vintage Watches for 135000 EUR.

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