The Ultra-Rare Rolex Making Up for Lost Time

The Ultra-Rare Rolex Making Up for Lost Time

The “rare” label is overused in the watch industry, but this time it’s warranted. The Rolex Space-Dweller is one of the most highly sought-after Rolex watches ever, and only a handful of people have ever seen one in person. Luckily for us, that includes Trilogy Jewellers.

This limited timepiece was born from a model change when the Explorer became the Space-Dweller in 1963. It didn’t get the recognition it deserved in the 60s, but it’s now making up for lost time.

The history of the Rolex Space-Dweller

1953: The Explorer Debut

“Designed to accompany those who push back the boundaries of human knowledge”, the Rolex Explorer was made to cover new ground. As one of Rolex’s first tool watches, it was created to be “reliable and legible under all circumstances”. And it proved its capabilities. The Explorer reportedly reached the summit of Mount Everest and went to Afghanistan on the wrist of Prince Harry as he served in the British Army.

1959: Project Mercury

America’s first human spaceflight programme, Project Mercury, was announced six months after NASA was established. The seven astronauts chosen for the expedition were known as the “Mercury Seven”. Instantly, they gained almost movie star-like fame across the planet and the world watched their exploits with fascination.

1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis

During the depths of the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a time when the sides came close to nuclear conflict. The 13-day standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union happened because an American spy plane had spotted nuclear missile sites being built by the enemy.

This triggered a race for space exploration between the East and West. Each time the Mercury Seven came out on top, this gave America hope that the power balance would lean in their favour.

1963: John Glenn in Japan & the Release of the Space-Dweller 1016

A member of the Mercury Seven, John Glenn, landed in Japan. After becoming the first American to orbit the earth in 1962, he’d already achieved some celebrity status.

Glenn was tracking astronaut Gordon Cooper’s Mercury mission when the system failed and Glenn helped Cooper get through the ordeal safely. 

Hailed a hero across Japan, Rolex released a watch to celebrate John Glenn: The ref 1016, which looked like the Explorer but was named ‘Space-Dweller’. Despite the excitement around the event, the Space-Dweller didn’t generate the sales expected by Rolex.

Mid-60s: Space-Dweller is Abandoned

Rolex took a cautious approach to the roll-out of the Space-Dweller, producing very limited quantities and choosing to only make the release in Japan. 

A few years after its debut, when the watch didn’t sell well, Rolex stopped making the Space-Dweller.

The nuts and bolts of the Space-Dweller 1016

Created: 1963

Case: 36mm

Bracelet: Stainless steel

Dial: Black, glossy

Caliber: Caliber 1560/1570 

Movement: Automatic

The Space-Dweller is the Explorer ref. 1016 rebranded with a new name and new dial. Rolex also swapped the “Explorer” tag on the dial for “Space-Dweller”.

Other than that, the spec of the Space-Dweller is identical to its predecessor. Rolex has kept things simple and elegant, removing any unnecessary flashiness to focus on a reliable and handsome timepiece.

Wear a watch no one else has

Only the most enthusiastic and industry-ingrained watch collectors know the story behind the Space-Dweller. You won’t even find the watch on Rolex’s website.

The Rolex Space-Dweller might have failed to gain popularity in the 1960s, but that means it’s become an ultra-rare watch for just a lucky few to own. It rarely comes to auction or is available to buy, with some estimates saying only dozens exist.

But we at Trilogy Jewellers have secured a Rolex Space-Dweller. As one of very few in existence, we don’t expect it to hang around for long. 

To book an appointment or make an enquiry, call 0203 929 8227.


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