Rolex Explorer Review

The Rolex Explorer is one of the brand’s most iconic models. It garnered well-deserved fame in 1953 when it became the first watch to reach the top of Mt. Everest. That year, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest. In 1953, Rolex sponsored the expedition and supplied Hillary with an Oyster Perpetual to wear on the trek. After the treacherous journey, the Rolex watch was still functioning properly and keeping accurate time, even after experiencing severe conditions. The watch didn’t bear the iconic Explorer name at the time but served as inspiration for the Rolex Explorer collection. Here, we’ll provide a Rolex Explorer review, including key features of the Rolex Explorer, the history of the Rolex Explorer through the years, and notable wearers.


List of Key Features of the Rolex Explorer

  • Case: 39mm Oyster case in Oystersteel
  • Crown: Screw-down, Twinlock, water-resistant crown system
  • Depth Rating: 100 meters water resistance
  • Movement: Perpetual, self-winding mechanical movement developed and manufactured by Rolex with 48-hour power reserve
  • Bracelet: Oystersteel Oyster bracelet with flat, three-piece links

History of the Rolex Explorer through the Years

The beauty of the Explorer is in its straightforward design. Rolex created early prototypes by modifying the Bubbleback References 6098 and 6150. They showcased key features of the model, like a clean white dial and leaf-shaped hands. As the model began to take shape, Rolex made subtle updates. For instance, they added the now-trademark Arabic numerals at the three, six, and nine o’clock positions. Finally, they launched the 36mm, Reference 6350 with the official Explorer name on the dial.

Rolex has updated and improved the original minimalist design of the Rolex Explorer over the last several decades. However, they’ve done so without losing touch with its roots of simplicity and ruggedness. One of the most important variation is the Reference 1016. Most notably, it featured a black dial as opposed to the original white. The Ref. 1016 remained in production for an impressive 26 years, from 1963 to 1989. Soon after, a new era began for the model with the introduction of the Explorer II. Still, even with the addition of a new generation of the model, the Explorer and Explorer II continue to coexist in the brand’s catalog.


Deep Dive on Key Features of the Rolex Explorer

Today, there are a number of key features of the Rolex Explorer that define the collection. It boasts a sleek, Oystersteel Oyster case. Oystersteel is one of Rolex’s proprietary materials. It’s harder and more corrosion resistant than the standard 316L stainless steel. The modern Explorer measures in at 39mm, slightly larger than the original 36mm. The model has also retained the black dial, with the Explorer II reprising the original white dial design. In addition, Rolex has filled the model’s characteristic dial markings with a luminescent material called Chromalight. This proprietary material is similar to Superluminova.

However, instead of the typical green, it emits a longer-lasting blue glow for optimal legibility in any conditions. The smooth stainless steel bezel and curved lugs add to the simple yet sophisticated design of the watch. The Rolex Explorer is also equipped with a screw-down, Twinlock, water-resistant crown system. It features two sealed zones – one inside the tube and the other inside the crown – and guarantees water resistance up to 100 meters. Inside, you’ll find a perpetual, self-winding mechanical movement with 48-hour power reserve. It features a Parachrom hairspring that provides great stability in the face of temperature variations and Paraflex shock absorbers offering greater resistance to shocks. Lastly but not least, Rolex completes the Explorer with an Oystersteel Oyster bracelet with flat, three-piece links.

Who Wears the Rolex Explorer?

Over the years, the Explorer has been a favorite among some of the top entertainers, athletes, and chefs around the world. Film icons Matt Damon and Tom Hanks are two of the Explorer’s famous wearers. Comedian Aziz Ansari is also the proud owner of a Rolex Explorer. In addition, you can find pro golfers Webb Simpson and Martin Kaymer sporting an Explorer off the green. From the moment he rose to fame until the day he died, Johnny Cash was a dedicated Rolex man. One of his favorite models showcased a dial in the legend’s signature color: black. Many speculate it was in fact a Rolex Explorer. Last but certainly not least is another Rolex man: the late Anthony Bourdain. The Explorer was one of many Rolex models in his collection.

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