New for 2021: Can you tell what’s different about Rolex’s latest Explorers?
The Crown’s 2021 lineup is full of colourful updates, but offers comfort in familiarity for its adventuring lines by focusing on performance.
Of all of Rolex’s tool watches, the Explorers are arguably the most subdued in terms of design and fanbase. In a period of less conspicuous spending, it was probably no coincidence that Rolex decided to debut a new Explorer and Explorer II at this year’s Watches & Wonders fair.
The Explorer line is best known for being created the year Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, as Rolex was a sponsor of that expedition as well other Himalayan pursuits around that period.
Perhaps feeling a little nostalgic, Rolex is finally returning to a 36mm Explorer with this year’s reference, just like the original and early versions were before they were upsized to 39mm in 2010. The dial remains a familiar glossy black lacquer with hour markers and hands filled with blue Chromalight. It is available in yellow Rolesor (Oystersteel and yellow gold) or full Oystersteel.
New livery aside, the most notable update in this Explorer is its movement. This time-only watch uses the COSC- and Rolex-certified calibre 3230. First unveiled in 2020, the patent-packed movement has several innovations that give it improved power reserve (70 hours), accuracy, durability, as well as resistance to shocks and magnetism over its predecessor, the calibre 3130. These include Rolex’s Chronergy escapement, Paraflex shock absorbers and blue Parachrom hairspring.
Keeping with the theme of not fixing what ain’t broke, the changes made to this year’s Explorer II will probably only be glaringly evident to serious collectors. In 2011, Rolex released an Explorer II in 42mm with an orange GMT hand and white “Polar” dial to celebrate the collection’s 40th anniversary.
This year, Rolex has released an Explorer II in 42mm with an orange GMT hand and white “Polar” dial to celebrate the collection’s 50th anniversary. The case and bracelet have apparently been streamlined a little, but the most important update is to that of the movement.
This new-generation Explorer II is equipped with calibre 3285, which made its first appearance in a GMT-Master II in 2018. It shares all the same technological goodies as the calibre 3130, just that this is a GMT version with a date included.