In the world of vintage watches, it goes without saying that some of the most coveted, storied, and documented pieces were originally produced by Rolex. Their iconic and historically significant collections have undisputedly transcended the watch collecting community, and have now surely become household names. Now, while watches like the 6263 Daytona, 5513 Submariner, and 1675 GMT Master may be laudable, beautiful works of functional and durable art, they often overshadow some seriously intriguing and downright gorgeous references. For this edition of Face Off, we’re shedding light on the unsung and underappreciated vintage Rolex references, that you really ought to take a closer look at.
Rolex Turn-O-Graph Ref. 6202
First up is a watch that’ll have you checking your glasses, and second guessing yourself: the Rolex Turn-O-Graph (also released in smaller quantities as the “Monometer”), reference 6202. Although it may at first appear to be an early no-crown guard Submariner with a funky looking aftermarket bezel, the truth of the matter is that the 6202 precedes the Sub, and ultimately had a large influence on the dive watch we know and love today. Rolex originally introduced the 6202 in 1953 at Basel World as their first watch to use a rotary chronometer bezel, which was aimed at businessmen wanting something a little more on the sporty side. It would then be overshadowed by the first Submariner Ref. 6204 later on, which was for the most part identical.
Assessment: It’s an overall more interesting piece than a Submariner, and while it doesn’t share the Sub’s rich history, it’s influence on what is now arguably the most iconic dive watch ever made is astonishing. Today, examples can be had for far less than shockingly similar Submariners, with beautiful details like honeycomb dials. Pictured above is an excellent example from Rolex Passion Market: Rolex Turn-O-Graph.
Rolex Explorer Ref. 6610
The Rolex Explorer is without a doubt the king of all field watches. With it’s perfect proportions, extreme legibility, and impressive history, you’ve got a recipe for success. When looking into vintage Explorer references, the 1016 (the most well known Explorer reference produced for the longest amount of time) will always surface. It’s a terrific choice, but if you’re after something that little bit rarer and more unique, the 6610 is the one for you.
Assessment: The 6610 introduced what is now the most recognizable form of the Explorer, and while slightly pricier than a 1016, you’ll getting a much more interesting reference, that you’ll be sure to see less of in the wild. Just be careful if on the hunt for one, as redials and frankens are abundant — stick with the most trusted dealers.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref. 6028
Lastly, the popularity of early model Datejusts and Bubblebacks have significantly increased over the past 10 years. Collectors have taken a particular liking to “Ovettone” (Italian for big egg) variants, and have been paying in excess of $20,000 for especially exceptional examples. One reference that is often overlooked is the 6028, and being a no-date reference, it wears extremely well on the wrist, with symmetry, simplicity, and legibility galore.
Assessment: It may not be as popular as it’s date-bearing cousins, but we here at Wound For Life can definitely see it’s desirability and value increasing down the road. Plus, it’s a watch that will play nicely in nearly any situation, from daily wear to special occasions.by