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The built of my Franken Rolex Explorer I Ref. 1016


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Explorer project



It all started when I was looking for an ETA movement on eBay. I stumbled across a listing containing a 2846,

DJ case, bezel and a rep Explorer dial. That was my very first encounter with the vintage Rolex Explorer.


In the end I successfully won the auction and soon had the parts. I sourced a few things I needed for assembly

here I posted it on RWG



When I got my first 1016 I realised that a 36mm watch fits my small wrist (16,5cm) so much better then a

Submariner or GMT. It is way more balanced out, it’s more subtle, less blingy and lighter.

And during the following weeks I started my research on the 1016.

I became fascinated with its history, the fact that Ian Flemming wore an Explorer 1016 and could be Bond’s

“real” Rolex in the novels.



Ian Flemming with his Rolex Explorer




Ian Felmming’s 0.59mil  Explorer, unfortunately it was serviced in the 90ies



But other famous people like the Rolex Explorer too.



like f-king Matt Damon



Badass Jon Hamm



or Mr. Bloom, a known Vintage Rolex collector


About one year later I realized that I had to improve certain things. The bezel was bothering me since it was

shaped incorrectly, so whom do you call? JMB! But then I found more things that were incorrect so I ordered

one of his 2836 and 2824 cases as well.





I had great difficulties finding a correct movement for the case in the first place. Most people simply use a 2824

but since that is a high beat movement it was no option for me. LHOOQ told me I could use a 24** series ETA

but since that is very old parts getting more and more difficult to source.


I ended up using an ETA 2789, it is a lowbeat movement and the predecessor of the 2824. Also during service

(done by myself) I added a hack lever since this was introduced in the early 70ies and I prefer hacking movement.


When I was ordering parts for the movement I realized that some parts are obsolete, e.g. getting a fourth wheel

with the correct height was not possible anymore.


So I ended up finding another donor watch, this time with a 2782 movement with has the correct height of cannon

pinion, hour and forth wheel. And it has the same KIF shock absorber Rolex uses, so now it should be up to Rolex

standards in regard to shock resistance.


You might ask why not a gen 1570? I thought about that but in the end I decided against. In general I don’t prefer

gen movements in vintage Franken (there are exemptions). You have high acquisition costs, the service is more

expensive and the main reason: parts are getting more and more difficult to get.





I decided to use the 2824 case since it has the higher crown position and a better caseback.



here JMB compares the 2836 and the 2824 case


Against other people’s believe I think that the JMB case is the best option out there. I don’t like the 16000 cases

and especially not the 1601, they have a different caseback construction with a flat gasket, the 1016 has a groove

in the case with a O-ring gasket, just like the JMB case.



LHOOQ’s splendid comparison of the different cases


For me his case was a good starting point but needed a good mount of modding since it is a replica of a sapphire

16220 Datejust. Compare the cases and you will see that the sapphire DJs have much thicker, beafier lugs and

shoulders which is a huge tell for not only me.



top to bottom: modded JMB case, standard JMB case (prototype nr 2), genuine 16014 case


The JMB has a 18kt punch on one lug which can be easily remove with a bit of sanding, then its crown is a bit

recessed in groove. I sanded down the sides but you have to be careful because when you remove too much

metal there your crown will sit to far in and touch the bezel.

The case tube was removed, the hole drilled out and tapped with the correct M3X0.35 thread. I installed a new

24-6020 tube with the proper tool for that – I had to learn the hard way why you should get the appropriate

tools for that  . I had plenty of crowns to choose from.



collection of 6mm crowns some are rep and some gen


I picked out a nice example with the nice crimping marks on the back that only vintage one have. And another

note here: guys please remove the old gasket on these old crowns and treat it with a nice new one. Mine had

a gasket that was like hard plastic; do you believe that will make a watch waterproof?



can you see the fine crimping marks on the inside?


After I had one case done as a prototype I knew how to file the lugs so they become thinner. This is a very

difficult thing, because when you file down the top of the shoulder it’s angle and twist of the surface will

change. If you are not very careful it will look awful.








Best way to do this is trying out on a spare case you have and always comparing to good high-resolution

reference photos.


Now the lugs have a far gentler curve, don’t have that sudden drop like the 16220 has, are pointier but not

like the 1601. And also the lugholes are better centred and closer to the tip, like the original.


During my research I noticed small changes in the case proportions, mine is correct for a late 60ies to mid

70ies model.

Also the caseback was turned on a lathe, the brushed part is supposed to be smaller in diameter.


The case got a bit of vintage treatment, it was treated with coins, steel wool and a steel brush and then

buffed a few time in a row. But some scuffs are already genuine scars that tell a story.



scuffs and marks are scars that tell a story


The brush of the lugs were done like described in an official RSC manual.


With the new greased gaskets it was no problem to have the watch pressure-tested to 100m.

And yes, I’ll go swimming with it.





For me no case is complete without decent engravings. I’ve spoken to a few engraving firms in my town about

how I could get this done and unexpectedly I good very good response one even told me that he already has

done similar jobs (hm…). Great help from a fellow RWG mate to get the font 100% correct (the font was

achieved with photos of the correct era engravings, again here you will find a lot of differences).



the 2841*** serial number puts it into late 1971



no long E middle stroke


The fantasy markings on the case were removed and then brushed. In the end the engravings were done on a

machine from the 50ies that was used for this kind of job. Contrary to some people’s believe the lug engraving

is not stamped nor is it done with a rotating graver.



the engraving process





There is only one choice: JMB. His bezels are precisely machined to gen specs. During my built I went to a few

vintage dealer and watch fairs here and studied gen 1016s. The bezel is spot on for a polished model.


The bezels on eBay that are listed as genuine… I would not buy them.





I keep this short… I machined a superdomed T22 which looks nice, but unfortunately superdomed plexis are

prone to scuffs because of their shape, and mine has fine hairline crack around the bottom. Maybe one day I’ll

make one again.

For the meantime I have mounted a genuine service T22 I got for little money. And let me tell you, there is no

obvious difference between the GS and a genuine service crystal, I have both here and maybe I can do a

comparison one day. In the end it fits the serviced look.



comparison: left 1016 case w/ service crystal             right 16014 case w/ superdome T22





At the beginning I wanted to use the MBW dial I had but soon I had to realize that it was simply too big. I tried

to sand it down but eventually the SWISS MADE text was covered partly by the rehaut.
So now I needed to find

a decent dial.


A good read is LHOOQs “1016 dials I have know”


almost all rep and gen dial listed


Soon I learned that finding a nice dial was a real challenge. At that time Yuki only offered the dials with the

awful numeral’s spacing, Ingod only had the Spacedweller dial, NDT is overpriced imho as well as MQ.


I started to search on eBay and VRM almost every day. As there almost no dials available I convinced myself

to spend a little more money on a genuine Luminova dial which I ordered at a known vintage spare part dealer.

Sadly this one went missing in the mail, last status of it was in the dispatch facility only 50 miles away L even

though I got refunded it was anther setback and the project was stored away for a few months.


On day I got in contact with mahand, he got in a few new dial with the better spacing so I placed an order.

After a few weeks I had his dial but it simply fell through the rehaut opening, it was too small. So I sent it

back and got a refund, but still no dial in sight.


Then I heard that Ingod could get his 1016 dial without the Spacedweller text, so I ordered my next dial.

During the next week a “reprint” dial surfaced on eBay from India, I won that one two, having such a bad

experience I knew I couldn’t let that go. It was very nice example and I gave it to Denimhead:





So now I had 3 rep dials at home and I thought I’m happy to use one of these when one day a low priced

supposed-to-be genuine dial appeared on eBay. Instantly I shot an email to my friend LHOOQ to get a second

opinion on it, I did not want to burn cash on that. When I got a position reply from him even with a reference

photo of a genuine dial I bought it only 2 hours after the auction was uploaded to eBay.


You now might think that I was lucky… one day later the same vendor uploaded another Explorer dial, which

I instantly bought as well. After a short conversation I heard a satisfying story and that he still had 3 dials left.

I can’t tell you much, but the parcel came from Geneva.



it’s all about the dial


There are a few non- gilt dial variations: FFHS, Frog, long crown, modern crown and two service dials.


Service dials might not be the most sought after dials in the vintage world as most collectors believe in Tritium,

however in an early stage I thought that a white Tritium dial or a Luminova dial would be cool, but I don’t like

vintage trimmed and lumed watches that have the glowing “vintage lume”. I like the idea of having a nice vintage

watch that is still fully functional and the lume is great, after hours of darkness I can still read the time in the early

morning hours without any problem, thanks to genuine Tritec SuperLuminova and fineDD.




I believe they are the current service dials as they are already have the Rolex engraving on the back which

tells me that they were produced after Rolex started to do them in-house.



Rolex engraving and ref. number on the back


And given this fact I don’t believe that there are any genuine 1016 service dials with “SWISS” or “SWISS MADE”.





After I got this far with the dial I needed to get the best hands available so of course I placed an order with TC.

The hands are short and are not 100% correct for a 1016. Study pictures of genuine Explorers closely and you

will notice that they have longer hands. However often Explorers get fitted with 5513 hand that are shorter and

since I heard that 1016 are discontinued at Rolex SA they use the regular 1570 hands.





Early 70ies Explorers were supplied with a folded 7836 bracelet, it too was my choice since I already have a

modern bracelet on another watch.



the production year stamp you’ll always find upside down to the Rolex text


It does not have the fixed endlinks mounting, I decided to use WSO 580 since other like 258s are difficult to get.

Some people might say that a 7836 only goes with 280/380/258 endlinks, but according to a Rolex Service

catalogue 580s are correct as well.



a fresh and unpolished clasp


Nice and correct coronet on clasp, the 7 famous adjustment holes and of course the correct 32-20681 springbar

with the little holes on the tip.


Spring bars are 24-9293, the correct short type 2,0mm bars. I got them cheap but I would not spend a great

amount on these as the springs might be worn.



LHOOQ’s comparison of springbars for the Explorer 1016


I like how you can see the rounded tip on the edge of the lughole





However after quite some time now I am not sure if I really like the folded bracelet. When I look on my wrist

the bracelet appears very flat almost 2Dish, so I might source a gen 78360 or mount my gen 93150 (I’d prefer

its Fliplock clasp for swimming anyway). But I have to note that the watch is so comfortable to wear on a

Jubilee bracelet.





It was a great experience putting this watch together, I learned a lot about Rolex and modding.


Is there anything I can improve? At the moment couldn’t say what. A domed crystal might look sexy but I’ve

found it being a bit impractical.


The only thing would be a different bracelet.





Thanks to LHOOQ a guy who is willing to share his knowledge and who answered a lot of my questions. His

pictures inspired me a lot.


And many thanks to JMB, he sourced a lot of parts, did a great job and acted with such a patience, because

I had a lot of questions and helped me getting the parts to Europe. Without him this build would have been

a lot more difficult and expensive.


And special thanks to blue, without you this watch would be not like it is now.

Thank you automatico for your supply of parts and knowledge about servicing movements.

And thank you Jaques for your contribution, the meeting in Paris and your hospitality.

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Exceptional details, 1680! B)


I personally found two details that are for me a tell but that is only because I was involved partially and built one similar by myself using the same case!

As good as 99,99 % of us would not know about these.



I checked some DNA details of the JMB case. They were still present if not recognizable at first sight. But still, the JMB´s case is really well modded!

For those of us who have an eye for details and have a JMB case, looking at the inner side of the lugs, where they meet the case (upper side), there the stainless steel is filed down (from the manufacturing) a bit too much.

This is present on all JMB cases.

It does not disturb in any way, but it surely identifies the case as it can only be fixed by laser welding all four lugs and not all of us would do that on their builds.

nxo5.png 1680´s 1016 Super Franken


7wfn.png other 1016 Built based on the same case




Hands stack:


The choice of the ETA 2782 is excellent!

The distance of the hour hand to the minute hand and seconds hand is more like a hands stack of a 1520 Movement. They are at almost an equall distance to each other.

A 1570 movement has the minute and seconds hand closer to each other, where the hour hand stays much lower.


grsp.png1680´s 1016 Super Franken


2anr.png8z07.pngGen 1016


Personally have investigated a bit the cannon pinions heights.

Contrary to many believes I think the closest cannon pinion height to a 1570 is H3 for an ETA 2824. Though it still has all hands at equal distance to each other, but sets the hands stack at sufficient height over the dial. Height H4 would be too high above the dial, it works for Date complications as the dial need some distance to the date wheel.


Here is an example I have tested and currently have installed (ETA 2824 with H3 cannon pinions):


It is still a tell for those looking for that!

You can make the exact height a 1570 movement has by using H3 seconds pinion and H4 cannon pinions for the minute and hour, then precisely file down the heights of the minute and hour wheel to match the 1570 movement heights.


Great built, investigation, attention to details and write up, 1680!

Wear it often and in good health! :)

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Thank you for these two notes! Yes the gap in the case is present on a lot of rep cases and here they might be exaggerated by the unperfected fit of

the endlinks, but as Explorer enthusiasts know: there is no perfect endlink for the 1016.


I am in touch with a company that can do laser welding, it's even modestly priced but atm I don't want to send the case away for another few weeks.


The detail about the different cannon pinion heights is very interesting, never noticed that! As I am going to work on the movement in the near future

I might find a lower hour wheel and cannon pinion for it.


Hope you wear yours often as well!

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Nice to see the finished product, you did an exceptional job on the entire build.  I have been toying with the idea of writing a program for the lathe to trim down the lugs as I am way too lazy to do it by hand! 


If somebody wants a more "domed" crystal, and tells me beforehand, I can machine the bezel to match up with the T21.  IIRC the OD of the T21 is a few thousandths larger than the T22.  If you look back at some of LHOOQ's builds I think one of them used a T21.  I think the case on the right has the T21...


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This is one of the best, model specific, articles I have seen. Should be pinned!

I have a 1016 based on this case and JMBs bezel and would like to do the mod to the lugs to thin them out. From these photos I can see, clearly, what needs to be done. I think that I would wear the watch more if that was incorporated. I think I see a project extension coming along.

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Awesome and one of the most educative writeups I've ever seen, thank you very much for that! Needless to say, this build oozes of attention to details and is right up there side by side with lhooq when it comes to the hall of fame 1016s of RWG. Hope you enjoy this and that it gets wrist time given the competition in your collection ;)

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LHOOQ it would be great to see Stilty´s 1016 franken.

Can you post a link to that topic, please?


Here's Stilty's original post: http://www.rwgforum.net/topic/66391-a-few-pics-of-my-very-first-vintage-franken-project/?hl=%2B1016


There were several follow-up threads as he upgraded some parts e.g. the bracelet and the springbars.  It's still a great Explorer franken today, but in 2008 it was mind-blowing. 

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Great, thank you very much LHOOQ! :)


It is simply amazing that we in this tiny community share our experiences and as result all following builds get better and better.



Here's Stilty's original post: http://www.rwgforum.net/topic/66391-a-few-pics-of-my-very-first-vintage-franken-project/?hl=%2B1016


There were several follow-up threads as he upgraded some parts e.g. the bracelet and the springbars.  It's still a great Explorer franken today, but in 2008 it was mind-blowing. 

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I hate the fact that I stumbled into this thread. I have been wanting a decently built 1016 for a while but I have too many projects ongoing in the watch box. I have spent a few sleepless nights looking for a decent homage and the only one I found is rarer than a gen 1016 (RXW Expievo).

Excellent thread and build! Kudos

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  • 2 weeks later...

Like Ephry73, I have also re-read this entire post.  I am very, very jealous of the "REGISTERED DESIGN 1016" engraving, because this is barely readable on my scuffed-up gen!


1680: This is a gorgeous Explorer, and it is extremely gratifying to read about someone's similar love for these watches.  Well done!

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I can't tell you how much I appreciated this thread. I have had my JMB 1016 build for a year or more but never wore it much because I didn't feel good about it. I always knew the case wasn't quite right.

When I saw your post I (almost immediately) uncased my watch, removed the bracelet and got out the files. It took about two hours and now I feel much better about it. It is not perfect yet but this was, actually, the prototype, as I have another drilled case. I will take another run at it in the near future. Sorry for the dust.

Thanks again!





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  • 8 months later...
  • 2 months later...

So what's the total outlay on this? 


Would it have been easier to buy a gen air-king case, JMB bezel, T22, dial, hands, and movement?

Also, when you get tired of this, PM me and I'll buy it from you :)

air king wrong size 1016 is 36, 5500 is 34mm 

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So what's the total outlay on this? 


Would it have been easier to buy a gen air-king case, JMB bezel, T22, dial, hands, and movement?

Also, when you get tired of this, PM me and I'll buy it from you :)


The outlay on the whole project? It's a lot, I mean ... a lot. I could have bought a genuine Datejust for the money but hey... ;)


I thought about it for a long time, if there would be anything I could improve. Now after more than one year on my wrist I haven't found

a thing I could improve. Only the bracelet will be exchanged for a 78360 one day.



And no, I won't sell it. I get a lot of these question but this is a keeper.

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