I recently spent the weekend in London to visit a good friend from high school. In a move that could not have been more nerdy I asked him if we could switch watches for the weekend. He accepted, and that was how I ended up spending a weekend in London with the Rolex Explorer.
As soon as I strapped on the watch I felt thrown back in time. The 2010 iteration (mark 1) of this watch has a very interesting position in the Rolex lineup. It is one of the few models we can presume Rolex to consider a mistake. This can be deterred from the 2016 version of this watch bears the same reference and price, effectively replacing the model I am wearing right now. The main reason for this was the hands of the watch. These were kept the same from the 14270, the 36 mm pre-decessor, resulting in the minute hand not quite reaching its markings.
The reason I remember all this was because around 2010 I started with this hobby, with days marked by scavenging through the then much rarer enthusiasts forum. At the time the upgrade of the explorer from 36 mm to 39 mm was a hot topic. Now glancing at the small hands I am left with a warm feeling of nostalgia. What many consider an imperfection has become an oddity I can not help but smile at. It is refreshing to see human little errors in a Rolex, a brand from which we have come to see nothing short of perfect quality control in recent years.
An even bigger discussion followed the size of the case. Traditionally a 36 mm watch, a three millimeter upgrade 47 years after the release of the original was met with skepticism. Myself weary of the move, a few days in I began to understand the „big watch thing“ better.
In light of the direct contrast to my 36 mm Datejust you can not help but note that there is some undeniable practicality to sizing up. The obvious reason here is the increased legibility. What took me a bit longer to appreciate, and was amplified by a loose sitting bracelet, was that a bigger diameter prevents the watch from slipping on the wrist.
The increased size is not the only noticeable trait between the Rolex of yesterday and that of today. While the watches are as solid as ever, something the modern Rolex is leaps ahead is in the haptic feedback. Everything, and particularly the bracelet, sounds and feels great. It is the clasp which best shows what I mean. Absolutely every movement is accompanied by reassuring resistance and clicks not leaving a single doubt in its operation.
Looking at the enthusiast community you will not struggle finding people complaining that the brand is moving away from its routes as a tool watch. That function is starting to follow form, and practicality is traded in for bling. When asking myself which watch felt tougher however, I see myself looking at the modern watch. Sure the vintage appeal is not present, yet these more beefy watches are the better tool, regardless of whether they look like one or not.
The Rolex explorer is by far among my favourite in the current line up. It looks great, it wears comfortably, and it feels amazing.