ANDREA : Hi Roberto, in our previous chat we dealt with the challenging topic of military watches. First of all, we clarified what the term “Military Watch” means, then we had a close look at some models you came across with in these years and we also talked about your personal passion for these special watches. A passion that, over time, has become a veritable study so that now you are one of the most authoritative voices and most recognized world experts in the field of military watches. Given the impressive quantity of Military Watches that you have owned, seen and assessed for customers and auction houses, and appraised for customers and auction houses, I was quite surprised to see you so much excited for the Rolex Explorer 6150, which we started to talk about during our last interview. Our readers and I are eager to learn more and, in particular, I would like to understand the reason for such an excitement in owning this watch.
( The first part of this interview can be found HERE )
Yes Andrea, it was a very exciting purchase.
In many years as a collector and as a professional in the sector, it’s only the second Rolex Explorer 6150 that I manage to buy in its original conditions.
It’s an extremely rare watch (a term that is rather overused today) and, most of all, it’s really a nice object.
Produced in a limited number of pieces, most of which “standardized” in subsequent years, simply by canceling the engraving present on the case back.
This practice was very popular some years ago when Military Watches could be bought for a few bucks at Military items auctions, and the fact of being a “Military” watch was not considered as a “plus”.
At that time, for example, many Rolex Submariner 5513 U.K. were “standardized” in order to sell them more easily.
A real disaster.
The Military Rolex Explorer 6150 HS10
ANDREA : So, we are talking about an extremely rare watch of which very few pieces can be found at present in their original conditions. Can you give us some more information? How long and when exactly was it in production and, above all, which Country and Military Corps was it intended for?
It was produced in 1953 and I believe production started and ended in that year, as those I have come across to date all fall into a very narrow range of Serials.
Serial number and caseback with IV-53 production date
It was destined to the British Hydrographic Survey (HS), the Admiralty Department not only responsible for Nautical Charts and Maps, but also for Special Operations where it was essential to use high levels of specialization, in particular for Diving Operations.
The abbreviation 10CD more specifically identifies a Diver’s Wristwatch.
Information about this model (as well as many beautiful pictures of the watch) can be found online.
Some Military watches were later fitted with the most recent NATO Stock Number. I don’t remember seeing any reassigned Rolex 6150.
ANDREA : As you mentioned before, this watch model was often “standardized”, meaning that the engraving typical of Military watches were removed. However I also know that, as with the famous 6538 "Burford", it was the Military Corps themselves that modified the watches. In particular in some 6538 Reference the Dial was “cleaned up” and reprinted due to the excessive amount of harmful Radiation emitted by Radium. Was it the case of Explorer 6150 too?
Unfortunately, as we were saying before, Assignment Codes were erased on many Military Watches, that’s why this watch is even rarer.
In some cases it is possible to identify a Military watch even after the erasing of the Codes, for example with the Rolex 5513 Military U.K.
In this case it is not possible, except perhaps through the Serial Batch.
And, in any case, the value of the watch will undoubtedly be compromised. As for the Dials yes, what you were just saying is correct.
When the restrictive regulations on Radium entered into force, the Military Corps of the various Countries had to comply with the norm, in some cases even very quickly, since maintenance operations of watches were often carried out at Military Facilities.
The Dials were “skimmed” to clean them up by Radium and then reprinted by the MoD (Ministry of Defense).
The Hand Sets were also cleaned, or more often replaced.
It happened with many Models and References in use by the Military Forces, and of course also with the Rolex 6150.
I believe that very few specimens survived this, then necessary, procedure.
The reasons why some pieces were not subject to skimming and “cleaning” can be different, what is sure is that the specimens that are still intact are really few.
A comparison between an original and a reprinted dial for the military Explorer 6150.
ANDREA : As for the 6150, I know there are different interpretations relevant to the assignment on the Caseback, can you give us some more precise indications for the code HS10CD?
On the net we can find a lot of information relating to this question, and I think it will be stimulating for our readers doing a little personal research.
You can start by taking a look a those links :
ANDREA : If I don’t get wrong the fact that the classic and most common Military Assignment’s Code or the Nato Stock Number is not present on the Caseback, but they used instead the Serial Number, is quite an unusual fact, right? What is the motivation behind this?
We are talking about an era prior to NATO Stock Numbers, and we are talking of Rolex Watches.
For Rolex 6538, 6150 and the super rare 5512, the Serial Number of the watch was marked, which gives us absolute certainty of the correctness and authenticity of the specimen being examined.
Even the type of Engraving was different at the time; it was made using an electric pen which makes the assignment very peculiar.
Close up of the peculiar caseback engraving
ANDREA : Are there other Rolex watches with this particular assignment? I remember that some specimens of 6538 Big Crown appeared with a similar inscription on their Caseback. Do you have any information about this?
Yes, Rolex 6538 (A / 6538) and 5512. I spoke about it a few years ago.
You can find the original topic HERE : http://www.newoldtime.it/index.aspx?g=posts&t=246
ANDREA : The less experienced or those unfamiliar with this watch model will see a “notch” on the external ridge of the Caseback which can be considered as a defect affecting the state of conservation of the watch. Roberto, what do you think of this "defect", and can we call it this way?
Well, first of all this is not a defect but a marvellous distinctive trait!
It sounds unbelievable today, but that’s what exactly happened at the time.
As mentioned before, the maintenance was carried out at Military Facilities and, incredibly, sometimes the original Rolex or Tudor keys were not available or not at hand at that specific moment.
There are several examples of Casebacks that were marked or modified in order to make it easier to open the Caseback itself.
Let’s think of some early Tudor M.N. (Marine Nationale) and the Tudor IDF (Israeli Defence Force).
Details of the modified casebacks for an easier opening
ANDREA : Are there other important details of this watch that we haven't covered yet?
Finding a specimen with original Dial is a rare circumstance, a pure coincidence, I’d say.
And in this specific watch we not only have the original “Long Neck” Hands, but also its original Plexi.
I would say that we are before the maximum desirable specimen for a collector.
Given the rarity of this Military reference, in the field of collectors this watch is still appreciated even with a MoD Dial and consequently replaced Hand Set.
ANDREA : Thank you very much Roberto for sharing with us your unbelievable knowledge about this rare Military watch. The present Rolex Explorer 6150 will be soon available for purchase in our website. If you might need more informations do no hesitate to contact us : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Military Rolex Explorer 6150 HS10 gallery.