Finds Vintage

Tropical Gilt 1016 Rolex Explorer


Despite often speaking about striving to feature a diverse range of interesting wristwatches, here I am presenting another Explorer simply for the fact that I love its patina. Yes, there was a lovely 6150 here just last week. But I’m a simple man, and when a level of perfectly honest patina mixed with harsh UV exposure I often have a hard time saying no. In my defense, within early 1016s, the level of tropical tone achieved can range from dark chocolate to the most milked-down cappuccino you’ve even seen come out of Starbucks. The is some (minimal) diversity. Besides, I fundamentally distrust people who don’t love the 1016.


The 1016 was introduced to the world in 1959. Like many period Rolex, it evolved in small changes throughout its production, which ran until 1989. There is nothing before or since that has so definitely influenced dial design, in my humble opinion. 3-6-9 cut its teeth in this reference. That harmonious arrangement may be one of the most legible numeral and baton mixes of all time. This is all not even to comment on the fact that Tenzing Norgay undoubtedly wore it to summit Everest, the first of two remarkable humans to do so in 1953. Sir Edmund Hiliary, well he may have. I don’t want to inflame any opinions here but the weight of the evidence seems to point toward a Smiths. I make no comment. What matters here is that this is the definitive, original flavor tool watch. Much like all metal music can trace its lineage to the Led Zeppelin crowd, all steel tool watches stem from this source (or more accurately the 6150/6350 before).


For all their storied history, 1016s are not exceptionally rare. In age, most simply yellow a bit on the tritium. What is not often seen is the kind of delicious coffee tones the dial on this example sports. In the range of tropical patina, this example aligns most closely with 85% dark chocolate. But it’s even. This is a tone a certain subset of collectors are willing to sell life and limb for, and will command a market premium. I can think of few things more absurd than tropical watches, particularly with my left brain. But then you just look at it.


This example has a lovely dial and handset. All original lume, all intact. The hands have just enough dirt at the intersection of metal and lume to make me believe it. Its case is full, lugs retaining factory proportions. The whole ensemble is singing on a proper 7206 rivet bracelet. It comes from a well-regarded retailer.

Find this tropical 1016 here from Bulang & Sons for 29500 EUR.

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