[Q]: Since you have been around a lot of watches and worked on a lot and have pretty good opinion, would like to ask you a question: which mechanical watch out there do you believe is the most rugged and reliable Rolex watch made? Able to survive the harshest environments and sports?
Very good question! In real life, most watch owners or owners-to-be rarely take time to do their research BEFORE parting with money. In most cases, they buy a particular watch based on 1/brand name 2/price 3/input received from salesman. Hardly a good reason to buy a tool watch ! Secondly, if you apply my "watchmakers reasoning" you should have no difficulties picking up the winner when considering other watch brands or watches for other specific purposes. The third reason: this is darn flattering so I couldn't resist it.
Assuming we are talking here Rolex watches, I am approaching this dilemma in the following fashion:
1. ruggedness and durability: cross off your list all solid precious metal and gold/steel models. Only steel models are made / built to last;
2. waterproofness: although 100m WR is a fairly good rating - especially in the case of Rolex watches- cross off all the watches rated to less than 300m;
3. functionality and reliability: in this case, less it better. Number of moving parts is indirectly proportional to reliability. Say goodbye to all Chrono, GMT and date models.
Once you have applied the above principles to the Rolex table of watches, you are left with one model only - a finely contoured, robust, reliable and excellent value-for-money Submariner 14060M. A true Rolex classic of timeless design. And please don't be fooled with 'non chronometer' rating. If properly adjusted and serviced on regular basis, 14060M is very much capable of performing within chronometer specifications.
The only negative is the under-engineered bracelet with flimsy end-pieces and outdated clasp. I find this bracelet of only ordinary-to-moderate quality; neither good nor bad therefore barely adequate to be associated with this fine Submariner.
[Q]: I would almost think the Explorer 1 would fall into that category?
Good thinking - however with it's rotating bezel, larger size case, superior water resistance and recognizable sporty look the 14060 is hands-down winner.
[Q]: Does the date feature really make it a less rugged watch than one without the date?
Yes, the Explorer 1 and Submariner 14060M use the same movement calibre BUT - and this is a BIG BUT - the case of Submariner is 300m water resistant.
Re. Date or no date: in all fairness, the date function on Submariner Ref. 16610 is extremely reliable, however the 14060 is thinner and has no Cyclop so lower profile is an added bonus.
Now, if I there is such a thing as manual wind version of 14060 then I would go for that one. This would be the ultimate sports Rolex : thin, waterproof and with even less parts. The auto section is fairly fragile unit, prone to excessive wear and shock damage.