Get ready to to reach for the stars, Rolex lovers.
A rare Rolex “Space-Dweller” will be offered in Phillips’s The New York Watch Auction: NINE, taking place in December. The Swiss watchmaker lost a contract to Omega for outfitting NASA’s astronauts on missions to the moon. But shortly after Project Mercury astronauts visited Japan in 1963, Rolex unveiled its special ref. 1016 Explorer watch, a.k.a. the Space-Dweller to capitalize on the publicity. It’s unclear how many examples were made, but the lone model headed to the auction block is expected to fetch between US$50,000 (HK$389,343) and US$100,000 (HK$778,681), according to pre-sale estimates.
The watch features a 36 mm stainless-steel case that houses a glossy black dial, complete with gilt graphics and golden luminous material on the hands and indexes. The display also includes text that reads “Space-Dweller,” alluding to its otherworldly inspiration. Experts believe that Rolex produced the timepiece in limited quantities for the Japanese market. According to the auction house’s website, this initial run of ref. 1016’s did not gain traction, resulting in the brand abandoning the Space Dweller as a model name going forward.
Few models bearing the moniker have appeared publicly since then, so the example headed to auction is is indeed rare. The well-preserved watch runs on calibre 1570, an automatic movement that includes 26 jewels and provides a 48-hour power reserve. The winning bidder will receive two service receipts from Rolex Japan dated June 19, 2003 and August 5, 1998 with the wrist piece that confirm its authenticity.
If you want to own a piece of Rolex—and space—history, you can place bids on the Space-Dweller in Phillips’s The New York Watch Auction: NINE from December 9 to 10. The auction house is also accepting advanced bids for the watch via its website.