The Rolex Space-Dweller follows the Rolex tradition of honoring legendary explorers. Originally released in 1963, the Space-Dweller was created to commemorate the space flight of NASA’s Project Mercury astronauts, a group that had become widely beloved by people across the world, and in particular among the Japanese public. When Rolex released the watch, they had high hopes that the passion for the Project Mercury astronauts would inspire major interest in the Space-Dweller. However, the test model of the Space-Dweller Rolex released ahead of plans for an official launch performed poorly, leading Rolex to never do a full launch of the timepiece. Because the watch was released in incredibly limited quantities, today the watch is one of the rarest, and therefore most valuable, Rolexes in the world.
Many people have speculated about why the release of the Space-Dweller was met with so little public interest. Some people say that it’s because it was released only in Japan, and that it might have had more interest if it had been given a global launch with the full fanfare associated with a major Rolex release. But, whatever the reason, the Space-Dweller’s rarity (along with the interesting story behind its release) has created a passion for the watch among collectors.
The Rolex Space-Dweller is actually a version of the Rolex Explorer, a model that Rolex had launched in 1953 to commemorate Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful expedition to the top of Mount Everest. It makes sense that Rolex would choose to use the design of their Explorer for their Space-Dweller design, as they’re both watches designed to honor famous expeditions.
The Rolex Explorer and the Rolex Space Dweller are almost exactly the same watch, with one minor difference: the name on the Space-Dweller’s dial. Under the “oyster perpetual” text on the dial of the Space-Dweller are the words “Space-Dweller,” rather than the word “Explorer.”
That small difference in text has made a huge difference in sales prices between Explorer and Space-Dweller models. While vintage Explorer models are relatively common, and can often be found for around $6,000 to $7,000, Space-Dwellers often sell for $30,000 to $40,000, if they can be found for purchase at all. The rarity of the Space-Dweller has made the piece incredibly hard to find, and has ensured that the price will be high if you do happen to come across one. One recent sale of a Space-Dweller went for a price even higher the common price range for the watch, selling at Antiquorum’s April 2008 auction for $48,000.
The incredible history and rarity of the Space-Dweller has ensured that collector interest has stayed impressively high for the watch. Today, it’s among the most highly desired Rolexes in the world.