It’s funny how one of the most storied classics gets lost in the shadows of its younger siblings, but the story of the Rolex Explorer I is just that.  The Rolex Explorer is another quintessential Rolex model stands behind the younger Explorer II and other classic Rolex models such as the GMT or Submariner.  The Rolex Explorer I personifies classic purpose-built minimalism complete with simple functionalism, yet simplistically beautiful and looks right in any situation without being out of place or screams “look at me.” The Explorer I is a minimalistic three-handed Rolex without date, but is functional in every way.


Introduced in 1953, the Rolex Explorer I which according to Rolex, “embodies the spirit of adventure and the perseverance that lies behind every exploit.”  After Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary’s successful summit of Mount Everest, Rolex introduced the Explorer I as a watch that was very closely designed after the Rolex worn by Norgay while summiting Mt. Everest.  Although the actual Rolex worn by Norgay was not an Explorer I but rather a Rolex Precision, the original Explorer I took that design further by redesigning the watch face, adding a robust case, and giving it the Explorer designation.


The Rolex Explorer I evolved through the years and the latest model still eats and breathes the Explorer Precision that summited Everest.  The original Rolex Explorer I utilized an acrylic crystal, a simple and very readable matte black watch face, 3-6-9 numeric hour markers, and a Mercedes a style hour hand all designed to contrast for easy reading while moving, climbing, or well, anything.


The Explorer I model 214270 includes Rolex’s latest developments in size, luminescence, movement technology as well as the steel used in the case.  On the outside, the latest Rolex Explorer I uses the same design lines as the 1953 model but is larger and sturdier. The Rolex Explorer I model 214270 grew from the original 36mm to 39mm and now in 904L stainless steel like its younger professional model siblings.  The Explorer I utilizes Rolex’s patented Oyster case and Twinloc winding crown providing water resistance to 330 ft / 100 meters. The hands and face use Rolex’s standard Chromalight luminescence on the hands and watch face making it extra visible at night.

Inside the Rolex Explorer 214270 is the 3132 movement based on the venerable Rolex 3135 movement but without a date complication.  The 3132 comes complete with a full balance bridge, almost bulletproof and antimagnetic Parachrom hairspring, and Paraflex shock absorbers found in all modern Rolex models.  The Rolex 3132 movement beats at 28,800 beats per hour (4htz) providing an industry standard compromise between accuracy and durability.


The Explorer I case is held to the wrist by Rolex’s patented Oyster bracelet made with solid stainless links pressed together in a fashion that the one’s wrist will fail before the bracelet.  Utilizing solid stainless steel pins, the Oyster links are pressed together with enough force that there is no plausible method that the bracelet fails.  Holding the bracelet tight on the wrist is Rolex’s patented Oyster clasp that includes a .5 cm retractable half-link to account for wrist swell in hot weather. Unlike the Rolex DateJust’s, GMT’s, and Daytona’s with polished center links, the 214270 bracelet is fully brushed ready for anything that might leave scratches that would be noticeable on any other watch.


The Rolex Explorer I at 39mm works either with women preferring a robust mans watch, or as a great adventurer’s watch that provides the legibility and durability without attracting brand attention.  Come try one on at Fourtané the next time you are in Carmel.  The Explorer I will surprise you.

– Sheldon Smith