The 36mm Oyster case has always been the sweet spot for Rolex, in my opinion, and so it makes total sense that the Explorer returns to its original proportions. Following hot on the heels of last year’s super-hot ‘stella’ dial Oyster Perpetual 36, Rolex has relaunched its Explorer in its familiar 36mm guise and has expanded the line with a Rolesor yellow gold and Oystersteel version.
Aside from a few 34mm dress examples in the 1950s and 60s, the Explorer has never been available in two-tone, or Rolesor to use Rolex parlance. Following on from the Seadweller a couple of years ago, the Explorer now has this treatment and it’s a solid move by the brand, thanks to the recent surge in interest in steel and gold watches. The layout is familiar classic Explorer with applied Arabic numerals at three, six and nine with Chromalight luminous material in these and the other applied baton hour markers. The reference number is 124273 and the watch has a yellow gold winding crown, bezel and centre-links on the Oyster bracelet.
The steel version has reference 124270 and has the familiar look that all Rolex fans know and love. Black dial and applied Arabic numerals at three, six and nine are both familiar and comforting. Eagle-eyed Rolex fans will notice the coronet at the bottom edge of the dial which signifies the presence of the new calibre, 3230 that made its appearance last year on the OP 36. The dials are also lacquered again, having been fitted with matte-finished dial in the 39mm version.
The Explorer story began in 1953 with the large Oysters that were worn on the Everest expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary. The watches given to these climbers were reference 6098 big bubbleback watches. The big bubbleback watches are more commonly known by their Italian nickname – Ovettone and are key watches in the development of the Explorer. These large 36mm are known as Pre-Explorers and set the template for one of Rolex’s longest running lines from the earliest 6150 and 6350 through to the 1016 Explorer.
The Explorer stayed in 36mm guise until 2010 when it got upsized to 39mm as reference 214270. It was a move that was polarizing and which led to the previous 36mm models, the 14270 and 114270, becoming highly sought after by collectors. This return to the classic size is already a firm favourite with collectors. My phone literally lit up as the announcement was made with people saying that this was a great move by the brand and I’m pretty sure AD around the world will be taking orders before I’ve even finished this!
Movement: Calibre 3230 perpetual
Case and Dial:
124273: 36mm Oystersteel and yellow gold;
124270: 36mm Oystersteel
124273: Rolesor Oystersteel and yellow gold Oyster bracelet with folding Osyterlock clasp
124270: Oyster bracelet with folding Oysterlock clasp
Price: Ref. 124273 for £8700 and Ref. 124270 for £5150