All About the Rolex Explorer

The Rolex Explorer’s story famously began with the historic Mt. Everest climb of Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary. Wearing prototype Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches, they made the first ever ascent to the peak – making a strong testament to the ability of Rolex watches to survive under the harshest conditions.

The Rolex Explorer continues today, six decades after, with several models that have all been extricably linked to stories of adventure:

br
br
br

While the Rolex Explorer is associated with the pioneering Everest climb, the company had its sights set on creating the ultimate mountaineer’s tool watch as far back as the 1930’s. Rolex started sending their Oyster Perpetuals to Himalayan expeditions and eventually accompanied Norgay and Hillary to the peak in 1953.

Rolex eventually launched the Oyster Perpetual Explorer ref 6150 in the wake of the successful ascent to the Everest.

 br

br

 br
Rolex Explorer 6610
1959 | Rolex Explorer ref 6610 
Presented as the replacement of the 6150, this vintage Explorer has a short production span (1959-1963). For this version:
– they replaced the 6150’s large movement with the smaller Caliber 1030, thus removing the need for a bubbleback case.
– Being an earlier version, it also had a waterproof depth of up just 50 meters.
br

br

Rolex Explorer 1016
1963 | Rolex Explorer ref 1016
As the Oyster case saw continued refinement, Rolex replaced the 6610 with the 1016. Over the 1016’s successful 25-year run, improvements made were:
br
– increased waterproof depth to 100 meters, supported by the Caliber 1560 movement,
– the use of solid links on the Oyster bracelet,
– and the use of tritium rather than radium for the luminous markers.

br

Rolex Explorer II 1655
1971 | Rolex Explorer II “Steve McQueen” ref 1655
In 1971, they launched the natural heir to the Explorer, the Rolex Explorer II. But rather than simply updating the Explorer, it was a completely different timepiece.
br
– Made for professional cave explorers, the new Explorer came with a large 24-hour hand and a stainless steel bezel with 24-hour markings that can help tell night from day.
– Being a very niched offering, it was met with some skepticism, but grew in popularity and enjoyed a fourteen-year production span.

br

Rolex Explorer II 16550
1984 | Rolex Explorer II Transitional Watch ref 16550
As an update to the 1655, Rolex released the 16550, which brought in significant changes:
br
– a larger 40mm case and a sapphire crystal,
 – a longer and arrow-tipped 24-hour hand and the Mercedes style center hands,
 – and the Caliber 3085.
br

br

Rolex Explorer I 14270
1989 | Rolex Explorer I 36 ref 14270
The Rolex Explorer I took a more modern approach in the late ‘80s with the ref 14270.
br
– They replaced the previous acrylic crystal with scratch proof sapphire crystal.
– The matte dial was also replaced with a lacquered one,
– and they added outer markers in 18k white gold.
br
br
br
 br
Rolex Explorer I 214270
2010 / 2016 | Rolex Explorer I Steel Black Dial ref 214270
The most current reference of the Explorer was launched in 2010, and had the biggest change to date – the 39mm Oyster case that replaced the traditional 36mm.The watch was originally introduced with non-luminous 3, 6, and 9 numerals and a shorter minute hand.
br
Met with backlash for these changes, Rolex updated the watch in 2016 with luminous 3, 6, and 9 numerals and better proportioned center hands. These two versions are currently referred to as “Mark I” and “Mark II” for distinction.
br

br

Rolex Explorer II 42mm White Dial
2013 | Rolex Explorer II 42mm ref 216570
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Rolex Explorer II, Rolex presented ref 216570.While completely revamped, it pays homage to the original Rolex Explorer II, the 1655. It is the largest Explorer watch to date at 42mm; and just like the 1655, it comes with a similar orange arrow-tipped 24-hour hand.
br
Rolex Explorer II Black Dial

The 216570 is also a GMT watch, so it was equipped with a second time zone display and a date window. With these updates, the Rolex Explorer is no longer just an adventurer’s watch, but a traveler’s watch, too.

Today, despite going through lack-luster launches for a number of its models, the Rolex Explorer endures and continues to be one of Rolex’s most popular sports watches. Both historic and functional, it is a worthy addition to any collection.

 

____

SEE MORE OF THE WATCHES IN OUR VIDEO:

____

PHOTO CREDITS: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay by Jamling Tenzing Norgay (http://www.tenzing-norgay-trekking.deCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
Toll-free US and Canada Only:
1-800-797-0634
Outside US:
1-404-814-1814


Customer service:
info@swisswatchexpo.com


Swiss Watch Expo
315 East Paces Ferry Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30305


M - F 10 AM to 6 PM EST
Saturdays 10 AM to 5 PM EST