Rolex is truly an iconic brand without a doubt. They have pioneered watches throughout the decades and their designs have lasted the test of time and will always continue to do so. However, out of all their famous watches they’ve created, the Rolex EXplorer I tends to be slightly less known. If you look on the Rolex website or even their Instagram page, the Explorer I is not shown as much as other models such as the Daytona, Day-date, Submariner and Datejust. The Rolex Explorer I is another masterpiece from Rolex so today we are going to cover everything you need to know about the Rolex Explorer I.


Source : Teddy Baldassarre

Starting off with its history of origins, the Rolex Explorer I (reference: 6098) was born in 1953, a time when mountaineering and exploration were capturing the world's imagination. This was an era when feats of human endurance and conquering the world's highest peaks were on everyone's mind. Rolex, benign the tool watch watchmakers that sought out an opportunity to create the pinnacle of timepieces for a true explorer. The result was the Rolex Explorer I, introduced in the same year as Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's historic ascent of Mount Everest. 

The beginning of the story

Rolex wanted and designed the watch to be the choice of tool watch for explorers, hence the Explorer I came to life, intended for those who sought the thrill of discovery and the challenge of the unknown. Its clean and straightforward design reflected Rolex's commitment to functionality and purity in terms of being a tool watch. The watch featured a black dial with highly legible Arabic numerals at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions, ensuring readability in all conditions.


Source : Revolution Watch

The sturdy stainless steel case, paired with a reliable automatic movement, made the Explorer I a robust companion for explorers venturing into the world's harshest environments. Its simplicity and durability made it the ideal watch for an explorer as it was designed to be a simple yet reliable timepiece. The less functions a watch has, the less likely it is for an issue to occur. 

With that in mind, you can understand how despite the Explorer I maybe looking a bit bland and lacking in details compared to Rolex’s other models, this was done on purpose. However, Rolex did briefly make an Explorer 1 in 1957 featuring a white dial and jubilee bracelet, but this model was short lived as it did not offer all the necessary features an explorer would need.

Rolex Explorer on Wood

Source : Hodinkee

Over the decades, the Rolex Explorer I underwent subtle but impactful changes, evolving with advancements in technology and design. In the 1960s, the watch (reference: 1016) saw an increase in size, and the iconic Mercedes hands made their debut, adding a touch of distinctive Rolex flair. This design was not unique to just the Rolex explorer but soon enough the famous Mercedes hands were added onto many of the other models such as the Submariner and GMT master II. The actual design of the case largely remained the same and as did the dial because there was not much Rolex could do to improve it other than to update the lume material they used.

In the 1980s, the Explorer I (reference 14270) received an upgrade with the introduction of the Caliber 3000 movement, further enhancing its precision and durability. Again, no design changes were made to the case or dial so visually, you would not notice any major upgrades of changes. However that was probably a good thing given that Rolex is known for getting it right the first time around. The famous saying ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ springs to mind when describing the process of upgrades for the Rolex EXplorer I. The 1990s saw improvements in materials and the addition of sapphire crystal, elevating both durability and scratch resistance. This also made the watch reflect the light a little more making the watch have a bit more wrist presence.

What sets the Rolex Explorer I apart from their other watches within the Rolex collection is its timeless design. Despite the evolution of technology and style, the watch has maintained its classic aesthetic, making it a symbol of enduring elegance. The combination of a black dial, stainless steel case, and the iconic Oyster bracelet has become a hallmark of the Explorer I. Beyond its design, the Explorer I's association with exploration and achievement has solidified its place in horological history. 

From summiting Everest to exploring the depths of the ocean, the Rolex Explorer I has been a trusted companion for those pushing the boundaries of human capability. Even for those who have no intention of exploring in the most extreme places and conditions, it is nice to know that it has a history and track record of impressive achievement in the world of exploration.

Rolex Explorer luminous index

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Rolex_Explorer on Wrist

Source : Worn and Wound

In the 21st century, the Rolex Explorer I continues to lead the way in watches for explorers. The model is equipped with the Caliber 3132 movement, offering enhanced precision and a power reserve of approximately 48 hours compared to the previous 24 hours offered. The Chromalight display ensures visibility in low-light conditions, a nod to the watch's origins in the world of exploration. 2010 was a big year for Rolex as this was when they made major upgrades to many of their watches and the biggest of them all was the bracelet.

They got rid of the flimsy piece of stamped metal and replaced it with the clasps we have grown to know so well now. The glidelock clasp used on the submariner was also introduced that year so it is no surprise the Explorer I received its new clasp too. Additionally, the all-brushed oyster bracelet itself was upgraded too. Gone were the hollow links previously used and replaced with new solid ones giving the bracelet much more of a sturdy and durable feel. 

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A change of size for the Rolex Explorer 1

In 2010, Rolex changed the actuarial size of the Explorer I (reference 214270) for the first time ever since its introduction in 1953. Rolex upped the case size from 36mm to 39mm which made it visually have more wrist presence and also really began to attract many more watch enthusiasts to the watch. Previously, the 36mm had been a perfect size for most but as watch trends evolved teh 36mm became a little bit on the small size for many people. 

Hence Rolex found the perfect way to keep up with the times and expand the watch to 39mm giving it a perfect balance between an elegant sports watch but not so big it would be in the way of gloves or a coat sleeve. Afterall, the Explorer I is still an explorer's watch and therefore practicality and durability was the centre of all of Roelx’s watch design decisions.

Rolex Explorer in 36 & 39mm

Source : Xupes

From 2016 to 2021 very minimal changes were made, a slight change to the hands on the watch were made to better fit the watch. Other than this, no major changes were made and it still kept its 39 mm case size. However, in 2021 Rolex deceived it was time to give a whole new update to the Explorer I; they released two new models and in two new sizes, 36 and 40mm (reference 224270). The modern Rolex Explorer I preserves the essence of its predecessors while seamlessly integrating modern design elements. The iconic black dial, adorned with the familiar 3, 6, and 9 Arabic numerals, exudes simplicity and legibility—a testament to the watch's tool watch origins. The Chromalight display, with its long-lasting luminescence, ensures visibility in all conditions, a nod to the watch's practicality for explorers in low-light environments.

Rolex Explorer Gold

Source : Worn and Wound

Crafted from robust and corrosion-resistant 904L stainless steel, the case of the Explorer I was made smaller back to its original 36mm case size. Rolex did not just stop there, they gave the movement a much needed update and they introduced it with the calibre 3132, a self-winding mechanical movement that upholds the brand's tradition of precision and reliability. Equipped with the Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers, the movement ensures accurate timekeeping even in the face of environmental challenges. With a power reserve of approximately 48 hours, the Explorer is ready for extended journeys, whether across continents or through the daily hustle.

The rolex Explorer 1 dressed in rubber

Explorer on Black Rubber Strap

The Oyster Perpetual bracelet, a hallmark of Rolex craftsmanship, is still featured on the modern Explorer I, providing a perfect blend of comfort and style. Crafted from Oystersteel this bracelet is not only resilient but also resistant to the rigours of daily wear and even offers a 5mm easy-link extension. However, steel is no longer the only option you have to choose from, Rolex introduced the Explorer 1 in two-tone yellow gold. The dial of the two-tone yellow gold Explorer I is exactly the same as its all-steel brother but it features gold accents on the hour markers and hands add a touch of sophistication, elevating the watch to a new realm of elegance. 

As with any Rolex timepiece, the details are meticulous. The smooth, polished bezel and the signature Mercedes hands contribute to the overall refinement of the design. The sapphire crystal, treated with anti-reflective coating, not only enhances visibility but also protects the watch from scratches and wear. It also makes the watch more legible in bright lighting as the AR coating helps reduce the intense reflection from the Crystal.

At the heart of the exquisite two-tone yellow gold Explorer I is the same calibre 3132 in the steel version, but the most noticeable difference is in the bracelet. The oyster perpetual bracelet, crafted from a blend of Oystersteel and 18-karat yellow gold, adds the final touch of refinement to this modern masterpiece. The robustness of Oystersteel meets the opulence of gold in a bracelet that not only complements the Explorer's aesthetic but also ensures comfort and durability. 

The Oysterlock clasp guarantees a secure fit, making the watch suitable for both rugged adventures and upscale occasions. In an era where watch enthusiasts have an array of choices, the two-tone yellow gold Explorer stands as a testament to the enduring appeal of classic design and craftsmanship.

Explorer on White rubber Strap

While embracing the future with modern materials and technology, Rolex remains rooted in tradition, offering a timepiece that is both a functional tool and a statement of luxury. The new Rolex two-tone yellow gold Explorer I is more than a timekeeping instrument; it's a symbol of the harmonious union between exploration and elegance. Whether worn on mountain peaks or in corporate boardrooms, this timepiece carries with it the spirit of adventure and the legacy of Rolex's commitment to excellence. This is also what makes Rolex such an incredible brand, they manage to always perfectly blend functionality first and foremost but also cater to the modern day environment and offering a two-tone option shows that Rolex is not afraid of change or innovation.

Explorer 1508

To conclude, the Rolex EXplorer I was created as the ultimate timepiece to be on your wrist whilst exploring if any kind in any place. Its evolution has been a testament to Roelx’s ability to create timeless watches and keep up with the times. From the all steel pure toll watch design to the classy two-tone yet durable, the Rolex Explorer I really is a work of art. For an even more sporty and durable look to the Explore I, ZEALANDE offers the perfect fitting rubber straps for your EXplore I. 

From having fun with colour in the Summertime to classic white and black options, a ZEALANDE rubber strap can ensure you get the most out of your EXplorer I. Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the oyster bracelet, you may want to give it a break every now and then and not worry about scratching it. This could be especially useful if you intend on going climbing on rocks as the rocks could easily scratch your beloved Explorer I bracelet. But a ZEALANDE rubber strap would easily be able to soften the blow and if keeping the weight of your Explore I as low as possible is something you want to do then definitely get yourself a ZEALANDE rubber strap.