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Rolex Watches

History of Rolex Explorer

In the early 1950s, an adventurer who wore the early Rolex Explorer prototype Oyster watch made the world's first oxygen-free solo Mount Everest climb successfully, spreading the name of the watch far and wide to the world. Later the Rolex Explorer was officially introduced and became the icon of Rolex’s sport watch.

It is well known that Rolex consistently produces fine timepieces that are the industry’s benchmarks. One of its most outstanding creations is the iconic Rolex Explorer. As you can tell from the name, the watch is designed for watch lovers who are also avid explorers. As a matter of fact, the Rolex Explorer is the world’s first watch to ever reach the top of Mount Everest.

Produced by Rolex as a tool watch, the Rolex Explorer is among the range of Rolex Oyster Professional, watches intended for professional use. The Oyster watch has been supporting Himalayan expeditions as early as 1933, and later also accompanied explorers in their Everest expeditions.

Let us now take a closer look at the history and evolution of the Rolex Explorer and examine its various references.

Prototypes of Rolex Explorer

The first prototypes of the Rolex Explorer to be worn by climbers were the references 6098 and 6150 debuted in 1952. Both pieces were powered by the A296 movement. They did not bear the trademarks of Explorer yet but instead bore the design of a white dial with leaf shaped hands. These two references were later renamed as 6298 and 6350 in the year 1953. They featured the 3-6-9 dial which soon became the iconic Explorer type dial and saw the addition of the Mercedes hands a few years after. These prototype Explorers were worn by Hillary and Norgay when they climbed Mount Everest, but it was not until the introduction of 6350 that it was officially named the Explorer with the name printed on the dial.

Rapid Development Period

There was a rapid development period in the second half of the 20th century. The 6350 model was specially designed to be used by explorers with a highly legible dial and a strengthened case. Special lubricants were used on the watch movement to help it remain functional within the temperature range from -20°C to +40°C. Just a year after 6350 was introduced, it was succeeded by the reference 6150, which was produced until 1959 when it was replaced by the new reference 6610. Although sharing the same look as its predecessors, 6610 was powered by the newly developed Caliber 1030 movement. It had a 36mm case size and had a water resistance of 50m.

The Rolex Explorer I went through steady development and came in various references with newly added and upgraded functions in the following years. For instance, reference 1016 was the longest lasting reference with a production period that ran from 1959 to 1989. A special edition of 1016 launched in 1963 known as the Space-Dweller to commemorate NASA's Project Mercury is an extremely rare watch highly coveted by collectors. In 1989, Rolex Explorer 14270, often referenced as the archetypal Explorer, was born.

The Archetypal Rolex Explorer: 14270

As an upgrade from the previous models, the Rolex Explorer 14270 boasted a more modern look and was more refined in comparison. It featured a case size of 36mm made of beefier and slightly thicker materials different from the original. Although retaining the same Oyster bracelet, the plexiglass plastic lens had been replaced with the more scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It was also powered by the Caliber 3000 movement which was a highly reliable performer.

The Rolex Explorer 14270 was succeeded by reference 114270 in 2001. Embracing almost the same look and features as the previous reference, a notable difference is the movement which has been upgraded to Caliber 3130 boasting increased precision.

Latest Rolex Explorer Model

In the 2010 BaselWorld, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer 214270 premiered and surprised watch lovers by bringing great changes to the Explorer collection. The new reference is unique in its slightly bigger case size of 39mm and the introduction of solid end links to the Oyster bracelet. The movement was updated to Caliber 3132, Rolex’s in-house automatic mechanical movement which comes with a bigger base plate. The timepiece was also more durable than ever with greater shock resistance and it could withstand extreme conditions with the unique Parachrom hairspring as well as the paraflex shock absorber. It has a power reserve of 48 hours and is COSC certified.

The latest addition to the Explorer family was introduced in 2016 BaselWorld, a new edition of the same reference from 2010. Both the old and new Explorer 214270 share the same case size of 39mm and are comfortable to wear with an amazingly slim profile. The Oyster case can resist waters down to 100 meters using Rolex’s patented Twinlock system. In addition, the Explorer 214270 is made of 904L steel, a solid and corrosion-resistant material, as well as flat and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. It is a design built to last a lifetime.

The Rolex Explorer I is considered one of the finest watch designs of all time. Regardless of how many classic variations it has provided us, it remains at the top of the game. The Rolex Explorer is the choice to go for if you are looking to survive in extreme conditions. It makes a perfect companion for all your adventures, both in the wild or in life.

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