The Rolex Explorer
Source Credit to: "The best of time Rolex Wrist Watches, an Unauthorized History" by: James M. Dowling & Jeffery P. Hess ©1996
In the early 1950’s, Rolex designed a watch for explorers. Built to withstand the elements, the Rolex Explorer has an extra strong case and a high visibility dial. The Explorer is somewhat of a mix of various Rolex models in that the dial has qualities carried over from previous dials made by Rolex.
The first Explorer carried the model number 6350 and used the Rolex “Bubbleback” A296 movement. About a year later this model was replaced by the Explorer 6150. This model had the same A296 movement but was deemed a “Precision” model which differs from the 6350 model, that was signed, “Officially Certified Chronometer.”
The 6150 Explorer was manufactured until the 6610 replaced it in 1959. The 6610 model and the 6150 are aesthetically identical other than the back of the case being more flat than the 6150. This flat back was to accommodate the new Rolex 1030 caliber movement. This particular model is considered the most recognizable of the Explorer line, but was only in production for 5 years.
In 1963 the 1016 Explorer replaced the 6610 model. The 1016 Explorer had a more advanced 1560 caliber movement and was waterproof up to 10 atmospheres of pressure, versus the 5 atmospheres the 6610 allowed. This particular model was in production longer than any other Explorer and was modified, as customary with Rolex, with innovations such as the “hack” feature. The “hack” feature allows the wearer to synchronize their time with ano
ther time source by stopping the second hand when the crown is in the hand setting position. The other major modification made to the 1016 Explorer was the introduction of the Rolex Oyster Bracelet.
The 1016 continued to be produced and sold until 1989 when Rolex took the Explorer out of the 1990 catalog. Six months later Rolex released a new Explorer. The model, 14270, had a new case, the Rolex Sapphire Crystal, a new 3000 fast beat caliber movement, and a new dial that sported white gold skeleton markers, which were luminous. The drastic aesthetic modifications applied to the 14270 caused the prices of the previous models to sky rocket in the collectors market even higher than the retail price of the new 14270 model.
In 2001, Rolex added a digit to the model reference number of the Explorer and introduced the 114270 Explorer. The main difference from the previous model was the new 3130 movement made by Rolex. Nine years later, in 2010, Rolex released yet another Explorer modeled number 214270. It has a
3130 self-winding movement and is 39mm in size, making it 3mm larger than the previous 114270 model.
The Rolex Explorer II
The other line of Explorers released by Rolex is the Explorer II. The first model, 1655, was released in the early 19
70’s. Rolex released it as being a watch for the Speleologist, or cave explorer. The Explorer II essentially a GMT-Master that has a fixed bezel, right down to the fourth hand and the movement. The 1655 Explorer II had a 1575 movement which allowed the use of the fourth hand to help tell time on a 24 hour bezel.
Over the years Rolex has made their customary modifications to the Explorer II, updating the movement alongside the GMT-Master line, but wasn’t very popular until 1991 when Rolex released a model with a sapphire crystal and the 3085 movement, also used on the GMT-Master II. Rolex has continued to produce the Explorer II and the most recent model 216570, released in 2011, is quite popular. It has a 3187 movement and is larger with a 42mm case.
Featured on the Rolex Explorer I & II, 904L Steel is highly resistant to corrosion and is critical to the chemical industry. Rolex uses 904L Steel because of its extreme resistance and its ability to be highly polish able.
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Article by: Brad Cecil