Originally created to honor the exploits of Mt. Everest conquerors Tenzing Norgay – who wore his Rolex to the summit – and Sir Edmund Hillary, the 1953 Rolex Explorer was the first of a long line of Rolex utility watches designed to go into harm’s way.
Rolex’s Explorer grew out of the original 1930s-50s Oyster Perpetual “bubblebacks,” the first water-resistant and self-winding wristwatches to achieve technical and commercial success. Norgay and Hillary immortalized the “Explorer” name, and Rolex’s modus operandi of incremental refinement led to the Explorer 114270 of 2002-2010.
While the general public may not grasp the depth of Rolex’s hardcore heritage, even the proverbial “man on the street” understands that the brand stands with Rolls-Royce as a synonym for quality. And in this Explorer, Rolex delivers. The Geneva watchmaker ranks among the exclusive club of true manufactures that fabricate virtually every part of their watches.
The 36mm stainless steel case itself is a testament to Rolex’s eye for detail.
The difference starts with the steel itself; Rolex makes its own at the company’s in-house foundry. But the stainless employed on the Explorer is of the 904L variety, not the 316L employed by the majority of Swiss watchmakers. 904L is more expensive to produce, harder to work, and requires a greater up-front investment, but the payoff continues for the watch’s lifetime.
Rolex builds its watches for the long haul, and this Explorer will remain brushed, polished, and “stainless” long after lesser counterparts have fallen victim to the slings and arrows of a life on the wrist.
Inside the case, a Rolex Cal. 3130 chronometer-grade movement beats away at 28,800 vibrations per hour.
As with the case and bracelet, the movement is Rolex’s own, and it has been submitted to the scrutiny of the COSC two-week chronometer certification process. The COSC trial, which involves extended evaluation of the movement in different positions and varying temperature, is another measure Rolex employs to assure added value and quality for the end user.
More than any other aspect of this watch, the dial is its calling card. Explorer dials are iconic.
Three Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock combine with a triangular index at 12 and intermediate stick indexes to announce this watch as Rolex royalty. Signature “Mercedes” cathedral hands are, like all indexes, rendered in white gold for enduring resistance to corrosion and tarnish. The rich black lacquer dial provides a radiant gloss backdrop to the fireworks of the white gold.
Among collectors and general public alike, the Rolex Explorer dial declares a pedigree that’s second to none.