Rolex Explorer Prices In 2021 (New & Used)
James Elliott24 March 2021 | 7 min read
The Rolex Explorer range has a mixed position in the watch market. Whilst a Rolex of any shape, size or description is popular, the Explorer is often overlooked by collectors and watch fans in favour of the cheaper Oyster Perpetual or the more glamorous Submariner.
For those looking to get their hands on a Rolex that’s a little more unique, but still steeped in history, the Explorer models could be the way to go! After all, who doesn’t want to own a watch first used to climb Everest?
In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the most popular Rolex Explorer models, old and new, comparing them on their features, design and specs. Crucially though, we’re also going to focus on their price so you’re fully armed with the full knowledge of Rolex Explorer prices to help with your buying decision.
But first, here’s a quick history on the Explorer range!
- A Brief History of the Rolex Explorer
- Rolex Explorer Prices
- Rolex Explorer II Prices
A Brief History of the Rolex Explorer
The Explorer range is most well known for being the watch worn by Sir Edmund Hilary when he and his team first summited Everest in 1953. Fact-checkers will note that Hilary wasn’t actually wearing his Explorer at the time of the ascent but that his Sherpa companion, Tenzing Norgay, was. But who cares for the details, right?
In the years that followed, Rolex equipped many famous mountaineers with the latest versions of their Explorer model constantly taking feedback on performance to update the range. This meant that through the 1950s there were several variations fine-tuned as the perfect timekeeping partner for world-class expeditions.
From the 1960s onwards, the Explorer hit mass-market popularity with many famous variations commonly found in the collector’s market today. Whilst these models all follow the same standard design styles as today, the prices for the older models (in good condition) can be up to 5/6x the price of brand new Explorer today.
And of course, if you want an Explorer that’s slightly more functional, there’s the Rolex Explorer II. Launched in 1971, the Explorer II took the legacy of the standard model and added more functionality in the form of a date window, lume hands and a fixed bezel.
We’ll take a look at some stand out models from both ranges to fully understand the breadth of Rolex Explorer prices.
Rolex Explorer Prices
Rolex Explorer Reference 214270
Price new: from $6,550 / Price used: from $7,500
The current production version of the Explorer, the 214270 reference, has been available since 2010 meaning that in many ways it’s already part of the ‘old guard’. At 39mm, it’s larger than many of the legacy Explorer references of the past but maintains the clean dial and numerical 3,6,9 marker style the range is known for.
You get all the standard high specs you’d expect from a Rolex including a sapphire crystal, 100m water resistance, Rolex’s 3132 movement and 48 hours of power reserve. The Oystersteel bracelet is the same high quality you see from the Oyster Perpetual models and provides a high-quality accompaniment to this model.
Price-wise, you’ll get one of these models brand new for $6,550 from a Rolex authorised dealer. Given the many months wait time currently experienced on new Rolex watches, coupled with the popularity of Rolex steel models in general, pre-owned prices are often the same or higher than new models. At the time of writing, prices won’t go lower than $7,000 with the average US authorised dealers listing around $7,500.
Rolex Explorer 14270 ‘Blackout’
Prices from: $20,000
The previous generation of the Rolex Explorer, the 14270 reference, is much a similar story to the current production model. The model ran from 1989-2010 so there’s a load of stock available but with the popularity of Rolex across the board, the pre-owned price still sits around $6,500 from an authorised dealer.
But specifically, we’re pulling out a unique series of 14270’s dubbed the ‘blackout’ models which were produced in 1990 and 1991. For an unknown reason, Rolex experimented with the design of this model making the distinctive 3,6, 9 numerical hour markers black instead of white. Many watch fans may look at this and feel it makes the watch harder to read, which is probably the reason the change was short-lived and Rolex soon reverted to all-white numerals.
But, as with all things watches, this makes these models unique and for those fans of the Rolex Explorer, the ‘blackout’ models are well sought after. Given the small number available, this variation truly is a rare find and as such expect to pay in the region of $20,000 to get your hands on one.
Rolex Explorer Reference 1016
Prices from: $12,000
If instead vintage is more your thing, the 1016 reference is the closest, mass-produced model you’ll get to an original Rolex Explorer. Running for 25 years from 1963, the 1016 went through several revisions with models featuring slightly different hand designs, movements and dial materials across that tenure.
As such, the price of this vintage reference can vary wildly and it’s worth doing in-depth research on the rarity, and as such the price difference, before committing to a particular 1016 mode. What is consistent though is that this Explorer watch still resembles the class and magic of the original Explorer models and hold their value and performance given their Rolex badge.
When it comes to getting your hands on one, prices will start at around $12,000 on a leather bracelet with further increases based on condition and those slight variations we mentioned earlier.
Rolex Explorer II Prices
Rolex Explorer II Reference 216570
Prices new: from $8,350 / Price used: from $9,000
The current production model on the Explorer II is dubbed as the perfect watch for the modern-day adventurer. Where the Explorer II has always had the advantage over it’s bigger brother is in functionality and the modern variant combines a date window, orange 24 hour hand and a 24-hour bezel to give advanced, real-time tracking power.
You’ll get the sapphire crystal (with cyclops lens), water-resistance and a high-quality movement here as you do with the current Explorer but with the added bonus of a choice between a white or black dial option. An Oyster bracelet comes as standard too with some additional protection provided around the crown to fit into the more robust overall design.
That added functionality pushes the brand new price of an Explorer II up to $8,350 from Rolex making it markedly more expensive than the standard Explorer. Again, with current reports suggesting a wait time of around 6 months for an Explorer II model, the pre-owned price matches that of the retail. Expect to pay around $9,000 if you want a pre-owned model right now.
Rolex Explorer II 16570
Prices from: $7,000
From 1989 – 2011 the 16570 model solidified the Explorer II as a staple part of the Rolex range and set the foundations for the design styles of the current production model. It was the first model (alongside the transitionary 16550 reference) to cement the white/black dial options as well as adding a sapphire crystal and a more modern 3186 calibre movement.
The oval hour markings were also here to stay in the 16570 model but came with a more slender and slightly more red 24-hour marker hand. The ‘Mercedes’ style hands make this recognisable as a modern Rolex with white gold and black trim on the hands fixing issues of readability from previous models.
If you want to get your hands on an Explorer II for the cheapest available price, this will be the place to go. Especially if you’re happy with a black dial, you’ll get started at around $7,000 but expect the price to rise further for a better condition or the slightly more popular ‘polar’ white dial option.
Rolex Explorer II Ref 1655 ‘Freccione’
Prices from: $25,000
Whilst the reference 1655 ran from 1971 – 1985, there’s a particular variation that takes collector’s eyes as the ‘original’ Explorer II. Nicknamed the ‘Freccione’ (inspired by the Italian word ‘freccia’, which means ‘arrow’) the original 1566 model features a unique design style that stands out to avid Rolex fans.
Crucially, you’ll notice the intricate markings around the outside at 2.5-minute intervals as well as baton hands and the orange 24-hour marker. The model was subsequently replaced by our previously seen 16550 model with many wearers at the time noting the dial was just too busy and too difficult to read.
Price-wise, expect to be paying a minimum of $25,000 to get your hands on one of these original ‘Freccione’ models. Given that value and their relative rarity, it’s unlikely to be a watch you’ll want to wear day-to-day though and might be one best served for the shelves of a collector.
The Rolex Explorer is one of the most historic but under-appreciated ranges from the world’s most popular watchmaker. As a watch that sits towards the budget end of the Rolex spectrum, if you’re looking to get your hands on something a little fancier than a Perpetual the Explorer could be a good option.
Rolex Explorer prices are tricky to predict though, with the current market position meaning that certain pre-owned models may be more expensive than a brand new alternative if you can’t handle the wait time. For anywhere from $7,000 you could get your hands on an Explorer model, though just make sure you do your research and pick the current or vintage model that’s right for you!