Here’s the deal. Rolex has recently launched its Rolex.org website where it finally communicates more vocally about its philanthropic efforts and sponsorships, as well as its Founding Spirit. You can read more about this initiative in our article here. As part of its philanthropic and sponsorship roles, Rolex either currently is, or in the recent past had been supporting explorers such as Sylvia Earle (American biologist, explorer, author, and lecturer), Ed Viesturs (high-altitude mountaineer), Alain Hubert (Belgian explorer), James Cameron (movie director and pilot of the Deepsea Challenger), and the late Henri Germain Delauze (founder of COMEX and pioneer in deep sea diving, who, sadly, passed away in 2012).
That is an impressive list of Rolex Testimonees, as the company likes to inventively call them. Go to their official Rolex portraits and you will see them wearing the Explorer II, the Datejust 31 (on Sylvia Earle), the Deepsea, or the Submariner “No Date.” Although the Explorer I 214270 is prominently featured on the press site’s page dedicated to Rolex, exploration, and its Testimonees, no one is wearing the Rolex Explorer I 214270 on any of the images.
I understand that the Rolex Explorer II appears to be more modern, but technically it has the same power reserve, same escapement, same shock absorbing system, same 100m water resistance, same lume, same accuracy, same bracelet and clasp, and it passes the same (and impressively rigorous) Rolex Superlative Chronometer in-house tests that concern accuracy, power reserve, automatic winding efficiency, and water resistance. All this is to say that the two Explorer-themed and -named watches that Rolex currently produces, the Explorer I and Explorer II, are both equally suited for, well, exploration work.
Rolex has a hard-earned and well-deserved reputation for immensely reliable and durable technical solutions, from movements, cases, and bracelets all the way to their Twinlock and Triplock waterproofness crown systems. Everything feels rock solid and is extensively tested for real-world use and durability by Rolex’s tailor-made robots that operate the crown tens of thousands of times, for example. I’m pointing all this out to say that it is by no means a weakness, but rather a truly impressive strength of that basically each and every steel watch Rolex makes is identically suited for tough action.
However, the Explorer I and Explorer II are proudly marketed as watches designed “FOR EXTREME RESISTANCE” and “EXTREME SITUATIONS” to be used by modern explorers, I have no illusions regarding how minuscule a percentage of all Explorer customers care about the Explorer’s heritage or the extent to which its ruggedness has been pushed. Nonetheless, I would love to see Rolex more frequently place its Explorer watches on today’s successful, real-world explorers, wildlife photographers, journalists, adventurers, and scientists en masse.
I especially wish these real-life explorers could provide feedback and that feedback was reflected by the product. I am sure being absolutely blinded in the Arctic by a reflective crystal is no fun, in the same way, I guess mountaineers would not want to have to take their watches off to expand the length of the (otherwise brilliant) Oyster bracelet; they’d want another solution that perhaps works on its own, tracing the expansion and contraction of their wrist circumference automatically. And while I respect what @Rolex is doing on Instagram in terms of quality and consistency, I nevertheless would really enjoy an Explorer wristshot by the likes of Ed Viesturs from atop a ridiculously high mountain — even if said shot was blurry or nowhere near as perfect as Rolex’s assets normally are. This would bring me closer to the Explorer story, and I’d take that much more pride in and empowerment from wearing one on a daily basis.
Rolex has painstakingly engineered its Professional watches to a level of quality and durability that truly boggles the mind; the performance is there, and so is reliability and attention to detail. However, some residual engineering and design issues remain.
I am not hoping to see a full Cerachrom Rolex anytime soon. It felt weird just entertaining the possibility of such a thing. I really do believe my expectations are conservative and attainable, and that their realization would help resolve the sorts of contradictions that I’m sure many feel but cannot really put into words when looking at the Explorer line, its heritage, its positioning, its marketing, and some of its current features.
Is the Rolex Explorer I 214270 one of the best watches you can buy for under $7,000? Despite all the above reservations, it definitely is. It has a fantastic case and bracelet and what certainly is one of the highest performing and most durable mechanical movements currently made in Switzerland, or anywhere else.
That said, some of its quirks continue to irk me: the shiny dial, shiny crystal, and lack of the Rolex Glidelock extension system. I would love to see a more energetic, bilateral collaboration with modern explorers who could actively perpetuate the legacy of the Rolex Explorer, both with regard to its story, as well as its perpetual quest for technological advancement.
I presume that the Rolex Explorer I 214270 will receive the new-generation 32xx movement soon, and because that means a considerable increase in functionality, I would hold on with my purchase until that happens.
For those who are, understandably, in love with the Rolex Explorer and cannot wait any longer, all I can say is worry not, you’ll still be getting one heck of a nice watch that you’ll enjoy and take pride in wearing. The price for the Rolex Explorer I 214270 is $6,550 and you can learn more about its story, Rolex, and exploration on the Rolex.com website.
>Model: Oyster Perpetual Explorer I 214270
>Size: 39mm wide
>Would reviewer personally wear it: I would wear it.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone with an active/active urban lifestyle, I guess.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautifully made case, bracelet, movement, hands, and indices.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Reflective crystal-dial-hands combo is super annoying. I’d trade Easylink for Glidelock anytime. Doesn’t yet have new-generation movement.