The Rolex Explorer is one of the mainstay collections in the brand’s catalogue since the 1950s. Rolex Watch is ideally the oldest sports watch that Rolex continues to produce. However, another fact is that Explorer is also the most understated model.
Like any other long-running Rolex watches, the Explorer has received several noteworthy upgrades over virtually seven decades of its history. Regardless, the timepiece retains its classic design features.
And with its modifications, the Rolex Explorer continues to appeal worldwide collectors. Indeed, it is one of the famous Rolex timepieces that hold value with time.
However, it’s perhaps no surprise for the brand’s enthusiasts who are familiar to the fact that all Rolex timepieces are worthy of investment. They know how much owners can expect to secure if they head out to sell a Rolex watch in any big cities.
So continue reading to delve into the fascinating history of the famous Rolex Explorer.
The Rolex Watch: A Brief History
Rolex provided the members of the British Mount Everest expedition of 1953 with Oyster Perpetual watches. It was indeed a wily marketing strategy implemented by the brand to speculate the watch’s success. But Rolex wanted to check how the watches perform in the real world.
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made a historical achievement by reaching the summit on May 29, 1953. And the watchmaker commemorated this historic moment by introducing the Explorer.
Encased in robust steel, the Rolex Explorer sported the famous Oyster case and a self-winding Perpetual movement. The striking time-only dial offered excellent legibility with luminescent hands and indexes.
However, from a technical perspective, you can consider the Reference 6098 as well as, the Reference 6298 as the Explorer timepieces. Most of the versions are referred to as Pre-Explorer Oyster Perpetual watches, featuring light-coloured dials.
Well, the Reference 6150 and the Reference 6350 were the first two editions of the collection. However, the Reference 6350 is considered to be historically significant because it was the first model to flaunt the name “EXPLORER” on the dial.
Then, the brand unleashed the Explorer Reference 6610, but the Reference 1016 replaced it soon. And this Explorer version enjoyed nearly three decades production run, undergoing several upgrades.
In the late 1980s, Rolex unveiled the Reference 14270, followed by the Reference 114270. However, the year 2010 is marked as the golden era for the Rolex Explorer collection as the latest version made its debut.
The newest Explorer Reference 214270 came with a bigger 39mm case diameter instead of the standard 36mm size. And the watch received dial and hands modification in 2016.
Unique Features & Options of the Rolex Watch
Rolex has always offered the Explorer line in stainless steel cases and steel Oyster bracelets. However, besides some scarce editions, the Explorer models feature black dials and a mixture of luminescent baton hour markers and Arabic numeral markers at the 9, 6, and 3 o’clock positions.
Although the watchmaker has kept the overall look of the Explorer same, it has updated the collection with new cases, crystals, bracelets, movements and luminous materials.
Rolex introduced the Explorer in 1953, offering a steel Oyster case of 36mm. And the 36mm Oyster case housed the today’s signature black dial with Arabic numerals at 9, 6, and 3 o’clock positions.
However, this case diameter remained consistent for the next five or more decades. In 2010, the Rolex Explorer Reference 214270 made its debut with a more prominent 39mm case size.
Thus, the current Explorer models in production feature 39mm cases; whereas, the vintage and discontinued Explorer editions sport 36mm cases.
Similarly, Rolex has updated the crystal protecting the Explorer dials over the years. The brand continued using an acrylic crystal until the production of the Reference 1016.
From the Explorer 14270, the watchmaker began using sapphire crystal and continuing to use it to date on all Explorer models. However, the sapphire crystal is treasured for its scratch-resistant ability and ultra-clear sheen.
The luminous material used in the Explorer lineup has also changed over the years. Initially, Rolex used tritium paint that was self-luminous and a little bit radioactive. The watches with tritium dials flaunt the “T” letter beneath the 6 o’clock hour marker.
In the middle of 1990s, the brand started using non-radioactive LumiNova as found in the Explorer Reference 14270. Later in the 2000s, the new Super-LumiNova material replaced LumiNova, and it made its debut with the Reference 114270.
Finally, Rolex shifted to its patented Chromalight luminescence for using in the most current Explorer versions. This material glows in colour “blue” in the dark rather than “green” like the LumiNova.