Rolex Explorer: What You Need to Know About the Adventurer’s Watch

The Rolex Explorer is a watch model that was created in the 1950s. It has an interesting history, as it was a celebration of engineering designed to coincide with the famous Everest expeditions of the decade. The Rolex Explorer is considered the ultimate for adventuring, so it is specifically made for robust activities. Overall, the Explorer is an historic model with a medium level of popularity.

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    Some notable features of the various Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorers, which have been released ever since 1953, include the following:

    • Stainless steel materials: As an adventurer’s watch with a focus on utility and function, there is no gold or other precious metal version of a Rolex Explorer reference. However, some modern references do have an Oyster steel and gold combination design, for a two-tone watch. Most Explorers are stainless-steel only, of varying grades.
    • Black dials: While some references have a cream dial, most new or vintage Explorer models feature a black dial. The black dial is considered the ‘true’ Explorer watch dial and is a functional addition, as adventurers in low light conditions – such as on mountain tops – could see the numerals much more clearly with a high-contrast dial.
    • 36 mm case: Almost all Rolex Explorers feature a 36 mm Oyster case, with a water resistance of up to 50 m. However, after 2010 Explorer models increased to 39 mm. The 36 mm case size safely houses the movement but is also a sign of how long the watch has been in production. 36 mm would have been considered very large in the 1950s.

    As one of the longest-running watch designs, there is considerable variation between references. Here, we will explore a few of the notable Explorer watches and discuss how to buy and sell them. 

    If you would like to sell a Rolex Explorer of any reference using our private buying service, you will get an excellent price with no auction fees. Simply get in touch with us for a valuation.

    Burlingtons Ltd have been buying and selling Rolex watches for over 20 years. Our experts are on hand to give you the best evaluation for your watch .

    More About Rolex Explorer References

    The main differentiation between Rolex Explorers is whether they are the original Explorer model or the Rolex Explorer II. The Rolex Explorer II is larger, up to 42 mm, and features the same Oyster Bracelet, but the main difference is that it includes a date function. The Explorers we list on this page are all the original models.

    The following are some notable Rolex Explorer references, with further information on why they are exceptional watches:

    Rolex Explorer ref. 214270

    This is the latest Explorer (when collectors discuss the Explorers they often call the original models ‘Explorer 1’s’) and was released in 2010, with the larger 39 mm Oyster Case. The Rolex company modified this reference in 2016 with an MKII dial, which is slightly bigger to fit the case.

    Whichever dials you get on this reference, it is a chunkier model. Wearers will notice solid end and centre links on the Oyster bracelet and also the bright Chromalight lume for low light. Explorers are not the most popular Rolex watch, but the 214270 is a popular modern version.

    Rolex Explorer ref. 1016

    The Explorer 1016 is a vintage model for the discerning collector. There are plenty of variations within this reference because it was produced for over 30 years, first starting in 1959. As such, it is an ‘original’ of the style and has many of the expected features, such as black dials and a 36 mm case.

    However, wearers can also enjoy a more subtle matte black dial on some models (depending on production date) covered by acrylic crystal and various types of lume. The variety is what keeps the 1016 reference in high demand for many collectors looking for more unusual variations.

    Rolex Explorer ref. 114270

    The next watch to discuss is the 114270,  which is a semi-modern variety that was first released in 2001. The 114270 looks the same as the Explorer 14270, but it features an automatic movement – meaning there is no need to worry about the older 14270’s fairly limited 48-hour power reserve.

    One quite nice thing about the 114270 is that it uses a very bright Super-LumiNova to illuminate the dial during blackout conditions. Although aesthetically speaking they are very much the same, the 114270 is a sharper, more modern, distinctly millennial update to the 1980’s style 14270.

    Rolex Explorer ref. 6610

    This is another vintage Rolex Explorer model; the 6610 is a popular model of the original era. It was in production between 1955 and 1959, so it is highly valued by collectors. What is interesting about this reference is the slimmer profile, moving away from the ‘bubble back’ Oyster cases.

    The acrylic crystals and radium-coated hour markers on the lume mean that the watch will function well in blackout conditions despite its age, so it is a top choice for a vintage Rolex Explorer with a similar performance to modern references. 6610 models can reach very high prices.

    Burlingtons Ltd have been buying and selling vintage Rolex watches for over 20 years. Our experts are on hand to give you the best evaluation for your watch.

    How to Buy a New or Used Rolex Explorer Watch

    Whatever model of watch you are hoping to buy, the Explorers are not in the same demand as Rolex watch models such as the Datejust – perhaps because it is more of a ‘utility watch’ – but come with a familiar Rolex price tag. That’s the good news, but the bad news is that specific references can be difficult to find on the used market.

    The best bet if you are looking to buy a vintage Rolex Explorer is to check out our current stock of watches for sale. We do currently have a Rolex Explorer from 1985, but this will be sold soon so keep checking back frequently. To buy a new Explorer you need to find a retailer who has earned the confidence and trust of the Rolex company, so do this on the official Rolex website.

    How to Sell a Used Rolex Explorer Watch

    If you want to sell a Rolex watch of any type you can use our private buying service. We offer a unique service that lets you avoid all auction fees, as we offer a completely direct transaction. The process is very simple and works like this:


    Booking your valuation

    Once a time and date have been agreed, we will visit you at your place of residence to conduct a private valuation.

    Accepting our offer

    Once we have inspected your rolex watch, we will make you an offer.

    Receiving your payment

    You will receive your payment then and there through BACS as this is the fastest form of payment.

    • Book a valuation: You can get in touch with us to book a valuation, which will take place at a convenient time in your home. We will ask for some initial details on the reference and age of your watch before confirming but will visit as soon as possible.
    • Accept our offer: We promise to make a fair and honest offer for your Rolex Explorer. Remember, vintage models often have higher price tags – but this may depend on things such as overall condition. You are under no obligation to accept this offer.
    • Receive your payment: If you choose to accept our offer we will make full payment immediately, with zero fees, via BACS (other methods are available on request) and then complete our transaction. We do not leave until the money is in your account.

    We are proud of the friendly, professional and honest service we deliver when buying used Rolex Explorers, or any of the other items that we buy. Operating by this set of values has left us with many enthusiastic reviews, which promotes trust when selling high-value items.

    One particularly happy person has the following to say about using our leading buying service:

    “I have just sold my Rolex Submariner to Daniel. He gave me a very fair price and the transaction was flawless. He travelled over 90 miles to be with me and was spot on time too! A real honourable gentleman and I would not hesitate to deal with him again.”

    – Pelham Temple, London.

    You can find other reviews on our homepage.

    Are you looking to sell your Rolex watch? Our offer will be higher than you can achieve at auction.

    Buying and Selling Rolex Explorer Models

    The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer is one of the oldest models of the world’s most famous luxury watch brand. As a result, there are many references and a range of new, used and vintage varieties available. Rolex Explorer 1’s are high-performance and many are valuable to collectors.

    We understand the nuances of the Rolex watch market, as well as many other types of antiques. You can take advantage of our position in the industry and sell your watch with no fees to us or take a look at our stock available to buy. Get in touch with us to book your free valuation today.