March 17, 2016
by James Stacey
Given the buzz and angelic choral singing surrounding the new ceramic-bezel Rolex Daytona, we’ll give you a pass if you didn’t notice that Rolex quietly updated the Rolex Explorer. A subtle update, this refreshed Rolex Explorer features a set of fully lumed numerals and a re-sized handset, marking a course correction for one of Rolex’s most recognizable and enticing entry-level models. The Rolex Explorer has long stood as the entry point for Rolex’s most sporting group of watches, and it’s easy-wearing charm and versatile design belies its history as one of the brand’s most prolific adventure companions. This newly refreshed iteration is a practical and useful nod to the Rolex Explorer’s roots as a sport watch and adds some much-needed refinement to the modern design.
While the reference number remains unchanged as 214270, a closer look will suggest a considerable refresh against the current generation that was announced in 2010. The 2016 Rolex Explorer retains the 39mm sizing and, being a Rolex sport model, the case uses their 904L steel. The movement also remains unchanged, with the Rolex Explorer running Rolex’s 3132 Superlative Chronometer automatic movement, with 48 hours of power reserve, a Parachrom blue hairspring and Paraflex shock absorption.
With a minimal and function-driven aesthetic like that of the Rolex Explorer, it doesn’t take much to unbalance the design. The previous version (the 214270 up to Baselworld 2016) wore beautifully, but in the move from 36mm (reference 14270) to 39mm, some of the magic was lost. We saw the unfortunate shortening of the minute hand which was a bit too short to fill the dial or reach the minute track. With the new 214270, the Rolex Explorer returns to the proportions and design of the 14270.
Those brightly polished arabic numerals are out, replaced by lume-filled versions similar to those seen in previous generations. While this is a small change, considering both the sporting and flexible intention of a watch like the Rolex Explorer, lume is important and should be an integral element in the Rolex Explorer’s design. Additionally, consider the Rolex Explorer’s roots. Today’s Rolex Explorer design is based on the 1016 Rolex Explorer which was launched in 1963 with painted numerals to offer as much glow as possible, a goal mirrored in this 2016 version.
Eagle-eyed types will likely notice the slightly updated handset, which is now slightly larger overall and features a longer minute hand. While the previous version’s minute hand was not terrible, its proportions were off, and this change is nothing if not welcome. The hands and markers feature a blue variant of Rolex’s Chromalite lume and the glow is similar to what you get from a Rolex Submariner or Rolex Explorer II. With a sporting lifestyle in mind, this newly updated Rolex Explorer retains the Twinlock crown and 100m water resistance of the previous iteration.
Admittedly, this might be more detail than most people wanted about a few new markers and a couple of new hands, but I think that the Rolex Explorer is a crucial but often overlooked touchstone of Rolex’s line up and sporting past. Since summiting Everest in 1953, the Rolex Explorer has been a piece of the Rolex ethos, and I’m thrilled to see a refresh that nails the details and ensures a fully sorted design for those who want a Rolex sport watch but don’t feel compelled to buy a Sub or a Rolex GMT Master II. With a list price of 5,000 EUR, the Rolex Explorer retains its position as the go-to entry point for a sporty Rolex and, in a successful return to form, is undoubtedly worth your consideration. rolex.com