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The Rolex that scaled Mt. Everest is also one of the best buys in vintage watches today...
While it can be argued that in the age of smartphones a reliable watch is no longer a necessity, we believe this is one more reason you should have one on your wrist, and it should probably be a good one. Along with being an amazing piece of machinery (and the only piece of jewelry many men will ever sport) a proper mechanical wristwatch is an elegant throwback to an analog era. It’s also something that will last forever, so if you don’t have one you’ve inherited from your own father at a milestone moment in your life, it’s fine time to start the tradition.
We’re partial to vintage watches. As with classic cars they’re just infinitely cooler, though luckily they’re less expensive to maintain. There are few better places to start than with a Rolex. While the venerable Swiss brand needs little introduction, the various models which make up its history are a much more complex subject. In general, they break down into two categories: Dress watches – the Dates, Datejusts, Day-Dates, and Oyster Perpetuals often seen under suits in any combination of steel and gold, and what are known as “Tool” or sport watches. It’s these Tool watches that have captured the interest of the most fervent collectors, as their histories are often as interesting and complex as the gears that make up their movements. Rolex’s four most famous tool watches were made for very distinct purposes. The GMT was made for flying, the Daytona for racing, the Submariner for diving, and the Explorer for, well, exploring. As Ghurka embraces exploration of all sorts, we’re particular fans of the latter.
The Explorer was specifically designed, to be a rugged watch that could withstand all sorts of conditions, and earned its title when it was worn by members of Sir Edmund Hillary’s team when they first summited Mt. Everest in 1953. While most of Rolex’s other tool watches are somewhat chunky, the Explorer is quite subtle, measuring at the 36mm typical of most Rolex dress watches, as opposed to the 40mm of their sportier cousins. It is most recognizable by having just the “3” “6” and “9” marked by Arabic numerals on the dial, with a triangle marking the 12, as well as it’s “Mercedes” hour hand.
Explorers have recently been seen on the wrists of Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, and Brad Pitt. Bernie Madoff’s was infamously auctioned off with the proceeds going to his victims. Don Draper was also shown sporting a 1960’s Explorer in the fourth season of Mad Men, and Ian Fleming once wrote that James Bond’s Rolex was an Explorer, likely a nod to the author’s own 1954 model.
Surprisingly, Explorers still represent a relative bargain in the vintage watch world. While many early Rolexes can easily pull in thirty thousand dollars or more, a little reseseach can yield a gem of an Explorer for just a tenth of that. Though with one important model recently selling at auction for $182,000, those days may soon be behind us. Regardless, it’s still the perfect sort of thing to keep safe on your bedside table in, our suede-lined Raj Box.