Rolex Introduces the Explorer 36 mm Ref. 124270 and Ref. 124273

In steel as well as Rolesor.

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Explorer II, Rolex is revamping both Explorer models, with the larger Explorer II getting a modest facelift and a new movement.

But the Explorer gets a more wide-ranging makeover. The time-only watch retains its utilitarian good looks, keeping its distinctive dial with numerals at the quarters and an arrow at 12 o’clock. But the Explorer is now 36 mm, just as it was back in 1953 and down from the 39 mm of the outgoing model.

More notably, the new Explorer will be available in Rolesor – two-tone steel and gold – for the very first time. Both versions of the new Explorer – the ref. 124270 in steel and ref. 124273 in Rolesor – are powered by the cal. 3230, a latest-generation, time-only movement.

Initial thoughts

Following the mantra of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Rolex sticks to incremental improvements, slowly but substantially improving its watches over time. The Explorer was last given a gentle facelift in 2016, and it was truly gentle: the hands were lengthened to better match the 39 mm case, while the quarter-hour markers were filled with luminous paint.

The Explorer

The new Explorer is a product of this philosophy, delivering more in a more compact package. Though the case is 36 mm, the movement boast all of the brand’s latest innovations, while the dial also features a reformulated Chromalight luminous paint that glows for longer in the dark.

At the same time, it is interesting that Rolex should choose to downsize the Explorer, given that recent developments indicated the opposite: sports watches like the Submariner and the entry-level Oyster Perpetual were upsized to 41 mm last year.

The Explorer is a compelling watch, particularly at its retail price of US$6,450 in steel. Getting one will probably be tough initially, but hopefully become easier over time, which is highly likely given that the Explorer has never been amongst the most popular sports watches.

Two-tone and updated mechanics

Aside from the smaller size that replaces the 39 mm model, the other major bit of news is the Explorer in Rolesor. The Explorer ref. 124273 is a combination of Oystersteel (a type of 904L stainless steel) and yellow gold.

While the steel model sports an all-brushed finish, even on the bracelet, the Rolesor adopts more shiny look with polished yellow-gold centre links on the bracelet. And to go with the gold accents on the case and bracelet, the Explorer in Rolesor also has yellow gold hands and hour markers.

The Explorer ref. 124273 marks the first time the model has been given the two-tone treatment

The applied hour markings on the Rolesor model are in yellow gold

The key upgrade is to the watch’s internals. The time-only cal. 3230 inside has a Chronergy escapement and 70-hour power reserve, just like the other latest-generation Rolex movements.

Additionally, the balance is made of blue Parachrom, a proprietary alloy of niobium and zirconium that has better magnetism resistance. And the movement is tested to within -2/+2 seconds per day, the norm for all of the current Rolex line up.

Both Explorer models are outfitted with the three-link Oyster bracelet that incorporates the Easylink tool-free, quick-adjust system in the clasp that allows up to 5 mm of adjustment either way.

Key facts and price

Rolex Explorer I
Ref. 124270 (steel)
Ref. 124273 (Rolesor)

Diameter: 36 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: 904L Stainless steel, two-tone (Rolesor)
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: Cal. 3230
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet with EasyLink extension

Availability: From May 2021
Price: Steel – US$6,450 or 8,620 Singapore dollars; Rolesor US$10,800 or 14,540 Singapore dollars

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