The new-generation Explorer and Explorer II continue to exemplify the brand’s pursuit of continuous improvement and an unceasing quest for excellence.
Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, once urged his staff: “Step boldly. Success demands courage and iron will.” But, above all, “produce nothing but beautiful work.” In doing so, he laid the path for Rolex to become the ultimate reference in fine watchmaking and expressed the spirit in which the watches would be conceived. Of the many enduring watches that Rolex has created over the decades, the Explorer and, subsequently, the Explorer II have become synonymous with Mr Wilsdorf’s vision of courage and grit.
Exploration is inextricably linked to the history of Rolex. In the 1930s, Rolex was equipping fearless mountaineers on their expeditions to the foreboding Himalayan peaks with its Oyster Perpetual watches to test their limits and performance. After years of continually putting the timepieces in arduous conditions and improving them, one of these expeditions would prove to be phenomenally groundbreaking and, eventually, lead to the release of one of Rolex’s most beloved icons.
On 29 May 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay wrote themselves into the history books by becoming the first men to scale the planet’s highest peak, Mount Everest. And on the wrist of Sir Hillary was a robust Rolex Oyster Perpetual in a 36mm case that kept perfect time, accompanying both men as they braved extreme altitudes and unforgiving elements. The successful ascent was hailed around the globe, and Rolex played its part by equipping the expedition with
Oyster Perpetual watches. The same year, following the mountaineers’ achievement, the Explorer was released. Its creation had been years in the making.
Over the years, the Explorer would evolve aesthetically and technically. Improvements were a constant as Rolex sought to elevate the collection’s wearability and performance. These include the use of in-house automatic movements with an architecture that allows for more ergonomic case designs, redesigned hands and dial displays that enhance legibility, and innovations that increase waterproofness and shock resistance. Milestones for this collection include the introduction of the Chromalight display on the hour markers in 2016, with the ‘3’, ‘6’ and ‘9’ numerals and hands coated or filled with the long-lasting luminescent material that emits a blue glow, as well as broader and longer hands for greater legibility.
In 1971, Rolex introduced the Explorer II. An heir to the privileged relationship that has long united Rolex and exploration, it featured a fixed 24-hour engraved bezel and an additional orange hour hand that clearly distinguish daytime from night-time hours. It was hailed as a tool watch tailor-made for adventurers such as polar explorers, speleologists, and volcanologists.
Like the Explorer, the Explorer II constantly evolved to meet changing needs and more demanding uses. Milestones for the collection include an upgraded movement with Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers in 2011 and the introduction of a larger, 42mm case housing a dial display with large indices, an hour hand styled with a three-pointed star within a circle, and a 24-hour hand with independent ‘jumping’ setting bearing the same colour as the `Explorer II’ inscription on the dial.
Legacy Of Discovery
Even today, the Explorer and Explorer II continue to captivate watch lovers with their elegant style and uncompromising performance. This year, Rolex introduces new models that espouse the same virtues of vigour and elegance that have come to define the legacies of both collections.
The new-generation Explorer has a new 36mm case – 3mm smaller than the 39mm cases of previous models – a nod to the size of the 1953 original. Living up to the collection’s standing as a top-notch tool watch, the new Explorer is built for performance. It boasts waterproofness to a depth of 100m, bolstered by the brand’s Twinlock winding crown, and is equipped with Rolex’s latest self-winding calibre 3230, a movement at the forefront of watchmaking technology, which guarantees high energy efficiency with precision and reliability, with a power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
The watch’s robustness and technical prowess are accentuated by its elegance. The new Explorer comes in a choice of Oystersteel case with a three-piece link Oyster bracelet and black lacquered dial, as well as a model fitted with a yellow Rolesor case and bracelet that combines the brilliance of 18 ct yellow gold with the strength and reliability of Oystersteel. The beautiful amalgamation of precious metals frames a black lacquered dial. In both options, Rolex’s optimised Chromalight display – a new and exclusive luminescent material – lights up the collection’s signature hour hand, baton indices, and the emblematic numerals ‘3’, ‘6’ and ‘9’, emitting a longer-lasting and more intense glow.
On the other hand, the Explorer II is imbued with practical and useful upgrades. These include a redesigned 42mm Oyster case with tapered lugs and broader bracelet links that combine to lend a more harmonious and balanced silhouette, optimised blue Chromalight display as with the new Explorer, and a new movement in the calibre 3285.
Introduced in 2018, the self-winding movement is fitted with Rolex’s patented Chronergy escapement with a blue Parachrom hairspring that is 10 times more precise than traditional ones in case of shocks. Alongside the escapement’s superior efficiency, a unique barrel architecture extends the Explorer II’s power reserve to approximately 70 hours.
From the Explorer’s modern refinement and mechanical sophistication to the Explorer II’s vital improvements, it is undeniable that the new-generation models are worthy of their namesake. They embody the qualities that have established the Explorer and Explorer II as horological icons of our time – the same qualities that Hans Wilsdorf had demanded from Rolex watches right from the start.
Discover more on Rolex’s new 2021 watches.