The Rolex Explorer has been an integral part of the brand’s portfolio since its launch in 1953. Even so, the model has never quite reached the popularity or status of the Submariner, Datejust, or GMT-Master II. Is this Rolex icon still relevant today? Is it even worth buying a Rolex Explorer in 2023? We think so! Why, you ask? Well, here are three good reasons.
1. Timeless Iconic Design
The Rolex Explorer is without a doubt one of the most timeless watches out there. Its looks have remained largely unchanged since it first debuted in 1953. While the current references may exude more luxury and fewer tool watch vibes than previous versions of the model, its irresistible adventurous character remains wholly intact. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. Watches like the Rolex Explorer are timeless icons that never go out of fashion; they don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Joneses. While the two-tone version from 2021 did come as a bit of a surprise, generally speaking, the Explorer doesn’t do shiny or glitzy eye-catchers; it owns its reserved design, making it well-suited to any occasion. No, the Explorer may not enjoy the same status as the Rolex Submariner, won’t attract the same attention as the Rolex GMT-Master II, and certainly doesn’t have the legendary aura of the Rolex Daytona, but it’s still iconic in its own right, and could easily be a pick for life. All that’s left to do is choose your size. Fancy a 36-mm Explorer? What about the now-discontinued 39-mm variant, or perhaps the brand-new 40-mm model? My personal favorite is the reference 214270. I think it has the perfect dimensions for this style of watch: it suits most wrists, and is just about the most successful Explorer to date. Examples with the original box and papers are available for around $10,500 on Chrono24. Which Explorer ref. is your top pick?
2. All-Arounder With Sporty Charm
The Oyster Perpetual, Datejust, and Explorer are three great all-rounders in the Rolex catalog. However, there is one small yet significant detail that sets the Explorer apart from the two other models: The Explorer features a Professional clasp, i.e., the same clasp you’ll find on most Rolex sports models like the GMT-Master II, Yacht-Master, and legendary Daytona. Thus, the Rolex Explorer isn’t just a great all-rounder, it’s a genuine Rolex sports watch. Doesn’t this make the model even more appealing? In any case, the watch’s haptics are on point, as you’d expect from Rolex. Whether you’re running your hands across the case, unscrewing the crown, setting the time, fastening the Oyster bracelet, or opening that beautiful clasp, this watch feels the part of a luxurious timepiece made by experts – as it should be. No compromises are made here; no ifs or buts about it: Rolex is unrivaled when it comes to these things. This is one of the biggest selling points for me, and the reason why I’d prefer a modern six-digit reference over a vintage one. While the finishing quality isn’t quite the same with older models, they definitely do boast that irresistible vintage tool watch character. Which would you prefer? Vintage charm or perfection personified (as a watch)?
3. It Still Flies Under the Radar
As mentioned, the status of the Explorer is a far cry from that of the Sub, GMT-Master II, or even the Daytona, but that’s not necessarily a disadvantage. In contrast to those Rolex legends, the Explorer still flies under the radar of many enthusiasts. I don’t necessarily mean the watch isn’t immediately recognizable as a Rolex, but it’s definitely not one you’ll see every day out and about, unlike the Submariner. As iconic as the diver may be, its popularity isn’t a plus point if you’re looking for something a bit more exclusive or unique; there are definitely downsides to being the most replicated watch in the world and put to use on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Why the difference in popularity? Is it the reserved design? The slightly shorter history? Whatever the reason, the Explorer is a watch that’s less widely owned or known than its Rolex brethren. If you’d like to fly a bit more under the radar, this model would make a great choice for everyday wear. At the office, in your free time, out on a wild adventure – you name it, the Rolex Explorer can handle it. Plus, it will look good to boot! Understated watches like the Rolex Explorer are a dime a dozen these days, but hardly any are as downright successful as Rolex’s iconic adventurer. This watch model is and will long remain the quintessential adventure icon.