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Watch Talks

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

In an amazing story involving years of longing for a Rolex and a watch brokered by a bullfighter, this original owner 1016 has witnessed alloy over the past fifty years. We were so excited to be contacted by the original owner of this stunning watch and when he told us his story, we loved it and had to share it with you here. There is nothing more exciting for watch lovers than finding these original owner pieces and we are fortunate here at Bulang and Sons to have found some great watches over the years; this one is no different. For us this is one of the main things we live about vintage watches – the stories and the magic from the years of adventures. Here is the story of our new friend Louis the original owner of a special Rolex.

The Story Begins…

Our story starts over a decade before Hillary conquered Everest and contributed to the naming of one of Rolex’s most enduring sports watches, the iconic Explorer. The adopted son of a commodities transporter, Louis was bought up in Sumatra. Ten years after the war, his father bought a Rolex and Louis was captivated by its beauty. This emerging love of Rolex was additionally fueled by the regular visits by wealthy Chinese traders who all wore gold Rolex Oysters. Later on the family relocated to the Riau Islands in Indonesia, to a Dutch speaking island. Each day he was collected by boast and sailed to Singapore for school.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Louis with his mother and father in Sumatra

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Riau Islands in Indonesia

Raffles & Rolex

Interestingly, the school he attended was based next to the Raffles Hotel. Today, the Raffles Hotel houses a large Rolex dealership…it was meant to be! Louis was spending a lot of time in a very prosperous region of Asia, where like Hong Kong, there were a large number of luxury goods boutiques. Here, Rolex was the ‘coroneted king’ of the post war luxury brands and the wealthy residents all wore Rolex wristwatches. The Rolex Oyster watch was the perfect choice for the humid weather and the annual monsoon seasons; its waterproof case and self-winding movement made it the de-facto choice for high quality timepieces.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Dreams in Print

Louis’s Father would often receive the National Geographic magazine, in English. Inside he would devour the Rolex print adverts. One that sticks in his mind was for a Submariner. The advert showed the watch on the wrist, entering the water and then six months later showing still perfect time. As a child he found these adverts exhilarating and Rolex had an almost mythical appeal to him. But it would be a while before he could make his dream come true.

The Spanish Years

In 1968 Louis set off for Spain, with a dream of opening a bar in the town of Sitges. To begin with Louis secured a job in the citrus fruit industry in Sagunto and part of his role he had to travel quite regularly to Holland, a 2000km drive which meant he needed a decent car. At this time he bought a new Alfa Romeo AR 1750 Berlinetta, which ignited his love for Alfa’s which he loved working on and maintaining.


One day his father visited and the pair went into Valencia where they looked in the windows of the watch shops and saw beautiful Rolex and Patek watches. Ones back at home Louis told his father that he needed a good quality watch…or at least better than the Tissot he currently wore. Agreeing with him, his Father gave him 400 Guilders and told him to go and buy a watch. Louis knew its wasn’t enough for one of the Rolex’s he’d seen in the widows in Valencia, but our story takes an interesting turn…


The Bricklaying Bullfighter

Louis chose to live in rural Spain amongst Spanish people as opposed to Dutch expats. This afforded him a good command of the Spanish language and also led him to make many good friends. One such friend was a local builder, who specialized in bricklaying, who had restored many of the houses in the enclave in which Louis resided. This man, Henrique, was also a part time bullfighter of some repute. The two were close friends and Louis told him about his desire to own a Rolex, but that he didn’t have quite enough funds. Henrique was due to visit Valencia for a bull-fighting contest and so encouraged Louis to take him in his car as he had a building client who owned a Rolex boutique. Once in Valencia, Henrique guided Louis toward a jewelers in the centre called Jiminez. Once there, Henrique was met enthusiastically by a salesman. The two men talked animatedly in the local dialect of Valenciano. Louis’s command of Spanish was enough to pick up the thread of the conversation. And it was about a Rolex…

The Explorer Moment

The three gentlemen entered the boutique and the salesman went and prepared a tray. He promptly returned with a green velvet lined tray that was laid out with a number of new Rolex sports watches. Henrique enquired of Louis which model he most desired and Jon confirmed that he wanted an Explorer. The Submariner was yet to be as popular as it is now…they were, after all, pre-Bond days! Louis knew though that he still could not afford the watch he longed for. The salesman then handed Louis an Explorer and he was smitten. At that point an older gentleman appeared from the rear of the shop who came over and hugged and enthusiastically greeted Henrique. The two men chatted in Valenciano. The elderly gent (who it transpired was the owner) looked over at Louis a couple of times before nodding his head. He told the salesman to fill in the paperwork and prepare the boxes and make the receipt our for 400 Guilders. That was it – the watch was Louis’s…as has been the case for the last 48 years!

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Louis working on his beloved Alfa Romeo in 1975…never taking off his beloved Rolex 1016 Explorer.

Gilt Dial 1016

And so the watch. Louis made a vey good choice that day in Valencia – a gilt dial Explorer reference 1016. His love for the watch meant that he treasured it and it remains in stunning condition. The dial is completely untouched and in amazing original condition. The glossy black dial is punctuated by the glistening relief printed text. The hands and hour markers are original too and have a period correct greenish hue (a lot like the gilt Explorer Precision we wrote about here). The case is in beautiful condition too, with strong lugs and the perfectly proportioned case dimension of 36mm. We decided that we would leave the case as we found it…maybe the next owner will want to refresh the case but we wanted to respect each and every detail of the watches travels and adventures and leave those marks of distinction.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Full gloss, deep black gilt dial in very fresh condition.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

The watch is fully original with matching bracelet, serial and caseback.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Louis also had his initials engraved into the clasp. Very easy to polish off, but for us its part of the great provenance. Which becomes such an important plus in todays watch collecting world.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Just such a fresh looking watch…you could get lost in its deep, deep dial.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016 An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016


Still today, Louis loves to work on cars…only now they are highly detailed, hand-built auromobiles that can take up to 20 months building time. He also still collects vintage pilot jackets and loves his art.

An Original Owner Rolex Explorer Gilt 1016

Thanks Louis

He was such a fantastic guy to meet and talk to during his visit. We had great talks about life with a man who has travelled and lived all over the world. And he sure hopes this watch will get a great new home and will enjoy many new adventures like it did with him.


Please help us…

We are always looking to acquire special watches from original owners. If you have a Rolex, Tudor, Omega or Patek Phillipe watch that you think we may be interested in buying, please get in touch with us on

We’d love to share the story of your watch also!