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Early Explorer 1016, with a Twist

  1. t_swiss_t Feb 10, 2021

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    Over the weekend I was lucky enough to acquire this well-preserved 1960 Explorer 1016, serial 517xxx.

    IMG_6771.jpg
    [Spots on the left side of the dial are from dust on the underside of the plexi and are not on the dial]

    This piece came from the family of the original owner, the founding director of the United States' first pediatric cardiology program at Johns Hopkins. His family had retained the watch unworn since his death in 1976.

    5BFCEEF4-FA6A-45F0-BB85-0DC707E6BC43.jpeg

    As you might have noticed, the 3, 6, and 9 plots, as well as the hands, are of a slightly different hue than the other markers, which gets more interesting when you highlight the watch with UV.

    [Macro with slight UV light exposure:]
    IMG_6786.jpg

    [Immediately after UV:]
    IMG_6830.jpg

    [20 sec after UV; all lume fades off after around 30-40 secs:]
    IMG_6829.jpg

    It appears that the watch left the factory with two different lume mixtures (possibly one radium and the other tritium), which I suggest as original because of their correctly sunken appearance in the plots, the mirror dial without scratches,

    IMG_6864.jpg

    the slight radium burns at the edges of the line plots [see 6 o'clock macro, three pictures above] -- but not 3/6/9 plots or on the dial where the hands sat stationary for decades, and the relatively low 0.6-0.8 muSv/hr Geiger reading.

    The originality is also supported by the unpolished lugs without spring bar marks,

    IMG_6814.JPG

    the preserved outer case back with the lightly etched and uncommon, but known to be factory applied, “stainless steel” engraving,

    IMG_6834.jpg

    the inside case back without service marks and melted gasket,

    IMG_6843.JPG

    and movement with perfectly preserved rotor and screw heads without evidence of prior opening (and "ROW" US import mark).

    IMG_6844.JPG
    IMG_6850.JPG

    It's an interesting piece, and one that bucks the frequently repeated information about when/how Rolex began experimenting and installing newer lume compounds. Though, in conversation with a number of seasoned collectors and dealers, there have been a number of other interesting mixtures of lume on dials from 1959-1963 before radium was phased out altogether. I hope it will foster some conversation.

    Andrew
     
    Edited Feb 12, 2021
  2. sleepyastronaut Feb 10, 2021

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    Wow, quite a catch. I was not aware Rolex had dials with both Radium and Tritium.
     
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  3. t_swiss_t Feb 10, 2021

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    That’s my supposition, given the difference in appearance, the radium-like burns at the edges of the line plots but not 3/6/9, and the low but measurable particle emission, but they are for sure different lume compounds.
     
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  4. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Feb 10, 2021

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    Congratulations on the nice acquisition! One question, though:

    "factory applied"? Surely that cannot be accurate...

    [​IMG]
     
  5. t_swiss_t Feb 10, 2021

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    Haha I was waiting for someone to ask about that. It is accurate, though I very much understand people being flabbergasted that the engraving quality then was sometimes, well, abysmal. It is the same quality and font that you see for model and serial number engraving on these cases. Will try and find a picture of another “stainless steel” like that but in the meantime, here is another factory engraving from the early 1960s which is similarly printed (FYI the font shown is not a 1:1 match but just gives you the idea).

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Feb 10, 2021

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    I admit to not being anything like an expert on these watches, but can you please provide some kind of authoritative source material to support your claim(s)? What I mean is that showing another example of an absurdly bad engraving, and characterizing it as supporting evidence of factory originality, is, to put it kindly, not compelling.

    What you are essentially suggesting is that one of the most successful watch manufacturers in the world not only chose to have such engravings done by hand, but also by people who were unfit for the job.
     
  7. t_swiss_t Feb 10, 2021

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    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Not sure if you’ve collected Rolex from this period but the wonky engraving isn’t really something debated since it’s common, so didn’t know I needed to compel. I’d say a good 10-20% of engravings in that period are terrible. Maybe they just started drinking early. Engraving the same thing over and over has to be boring.

    There’s no authoritative guide to the terrible QC of Rolex. My 1016 website each has a page on the cases/engravings of the period, so I’d like to think I’ve seen a few of them (https://explorer1016.com/components/case/); there’s also a link there to Jose P’s original guide on the font themselves. Though any guide to cases or fonts probably isn’t going to highlight terrible QC examples since they’re trying to show you what the fonts “should” look like when the engraver was paying attention.

    Here are another 4 examples of terrible engravings from a 5 min review of HQ Milton just for kicks.

    F2C7C0FE-2F21-4D1E-B420-67677477A086.jpeg DD2B5440-0FF0-4AA5-B12E-D657F7DBD05A.jpeg C4B697E7-EDFD-4671-9789-B84D0D7D018A.png 55235FCA-3E02-45FD-951B-965E01240876.png
     
  8. vibe Feb 10, 2021

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    Stunning condition, congratulations!
     
  9. cvalue13 Feb 10, 2021

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    While not exactly on topic, here’s a detailed analysis of Rolex typefaces that, incidentally, shows a lot of different engravings ...

    https://perezcope.com/2018/07/05/the-secrets-of-rolex-case-number-engravings/
     
  10. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Feb 11, 2021

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    You obviously aren't under any obligation to convince me, and I understand that the issue is, in your view, settled. But I remain somewhat skeptical. Why? Well, here are some related questions:

    1) What possible reasons might one of the world's leading watch manufacturers have had to choose to employ such a crude method, when there had long been machine tools available to accomplish the same thing? Other manufacturers (e.g. Mido) had been stamping numbers accurately between the lugs for years.

    2) The quality of the engraving was apparently significantly better on some other early 1016 Explorers, and '50s Submariners. Why would Rolex quality control have allowed such drastic variations?

    3) Can you produce any other examples of similarly crude "Stainless Steel" engravings on 1016 case backs?

    4) Has anyone actually received and published official confirmation from Rolex that such engravings were "factory original"?

    5) Are there any 1016 that have no engravings at all between the lugs?


    The best related reference that I have found thus far is here:

    https://explorer1016.com/components/case/

    From it, this is an example from a case from the early '60s:

    [​IMG]

    And an earlier one (from a different site):

    [​IMG]

    And a 1956 6610 from Milton:

    [​IMG]

    Here is a 1959 Submariner case:

    [​IMG]

    So, assuming that those examples are accurately represented, how might it be possible that a company as successful as Rolex would have produced engravings of that (reasonably good) quality, yet around the same time, or perhaps a couple of years earlier, have allowed vastly inferior, almost cartoonishly bad ones to have been produced?
     
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  11. JwRosenthal Feb 11, 2021

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    To offer a counterpoint here:
    Years ago I collected Dunhill pipes (still have a bulk of the collection). They were the Rolex of pipes. Their quality control was incredibly high and consistent for decades but they went through a dark period in the early 70’s. The company was changing management and the employees were less than happy, with many of them moving on and starting their own shops or working for competitors. Although the quality of their pipes didn’t change, the stampings, date codes etc fluctuated wildly.
    There is rumor that some of the employees stole some of the stamps and briar on their way out the door and were selling fakes- but that has never been confirmed. For years this era of Dunhill was the red-headed stepchild of their golden era- but they have now become collectible as they speak to a part of the companies history.
     
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  12. Eve Feb 11, 2021

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    if i follow your link above.
    I see these two images for the early SN:
    upload_2021-2-11_15-18-59.png
    if i zoom in the photos, i see pretty badly written wording:
    upload_2021-2-11_15-21-16.png
    upload_2021-2-11_15-19-13.png

    doesnt answer the question why? and the caseback question.
    but it seems there were indeed some quality issues.
     
  13. cvalue13 Feb 11, 2021

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    And not to beat a dead horse that no one wants to ride, but again, the article above by @pereztroika with known Daytona’s comparing different typefaces used by Rolex (with dozens of examples from known watches) can be incidentally perused to find less-than-stellar engraving ... including even in the typeface comparison created by @pereztroika

    ADF7F9DF-A227-4FF0-ABF7-2C5F651679D0.jpeg 8F4906D2-21EF-450D-AF7C-24641835CFC3.jpeg

    As @Eve concluded, it doesn’t answer everything but does generally support the possibility that “one of the world's leading watch manufacturers” did not at all times throughout history have exacting standards for all facets of their product
     
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  14. kelev_ra Feb 11, 2021

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    No no no, please stop it!

    Do not try to make this legit. This is a well known but shady way of some sellers to deal with pitting or wear in general and has nothing to do with "factory engravings" etc. I've seen examples with almost not readable serial numbers before the watch got in the hands of certain sellers - and mysteriously "gaining" readable - but wacky numbers when offered for sale (I could name at least 4 or 5 of those shady sellers immediately).

    Also your "stainless steel" "engravings" are not legit as well.

    I always found it funny how people jerk off on a period correct fat font insert - but don't care for pitting or manipulated serial numbers...!
     
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  15. kelev_ra Feb 11, 2021

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    You are absolutely correct. Sellers are always glad to offer some mega fuchsia or blueberry inserts at a premium as well as they love to sell the beloved prototype watches but - of course - do not want debates about shady or crooked serial numbers their watchmakers engraved in the back room after getting rid of pitting.

    That is why it never was a topic on any of the forums. But "factory made" - gotta be joking.
     
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  16. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Feb 11, 2021

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    Ah, now this is interesting, and it gets to the heart of my skepticism. Rolex was arguably the first brand to be widely collected around the world, and if pressure developed early on to show "original" engravings between the lugs, it is a certainty that at least some cases were refinished, and crudely (re-)engraved. That would, to my mind, be a far more logical explanation for such terrible quality, than the claim that they originated in the factory.

    Thanks. I appreciate your input, as I have never collected Rolex, so my perspective is more general.
     
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  17. kelev_ra Feb 11, 2021

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    Well isn't is ridiculous to think of 50s/60s/70s/80s/... Rolex to perfectly stamp like 80 % of the cases - and badly/wacky engraving the rest of them? And quality management be like: alright, good enough...::screwloose::::screwloose::::screwloose::

    I've never bought watches with those shady engravings... BUT: I once owned a nice 5513 with little pitting between the lugs and hardly readable serial which - after the dealer bought and sold it - now has very readable serial numbers (saw the pictures on the dealers homepage)... well, not my business I guess...
     
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  18. sleepyastronaut Feb 11, 2021

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    Back room re-engraving of serial numbers doesn't explain the lightly engraved 'Stainless Steel' on the case back in question. Arguably, there's no reason anyone would add 'Stainless Steel' text to a case back where it's not seen as an authentication. This engraving isn't, to my knowledge, known to add any value, so what's the advantage of someone adding it to case back after it left the factory?

    TLDR; if the caseback engraving isn't real, why TF is is there?
     
  19. Tony C. Ωf Jury member Feb 11, 2021

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    I would argue that the case back engraving is the easiest to dismiss as a forgery. Are there really other examples? Why on earth would Rolex have done something like that, when "stainless steel" is stamped on the inside of the case back? Why would they choose what was an originally high-polished surface?

    Complete nonsense, in my view.
     
  20. Shabbaz Feb 11, 2021

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    ::popcorn::