New Rolex Explorer Re-Repositions “Explorer”


New Rolex Explorer

Rolex has released the new-for-2021 Rolex Explorer. Big news! The watchmaker’s moved the word “Explorer” from below the dial’s center to above. Back where it was, before. The change is sure to be the subject of furious debate, if not the cause of armed confrontation. So let’s have a look at ye olde text-above-the-6 Rolex Explorer . . .

Rolex Explorer 1

I prefer the word “Explorer” in the old new (new old?) lower position. Symmetry-loving horophile that I am, I reckon Rollie should have simply raised the entire lower text block up a bit and called it good. More to the point, the new watch has WAY too much negative space below the center point. Ah but . . .

The “new” Explorer is 36mm. The dial belongs to the now-discontinued 2019 39mm model.

OMG! Will Rolex change the “Explorer” positioning on ALL Explorers? The Rodney King riots will seem like a gathering of canasta enthusiasts.

New Rolex Explorers together

Ominously, all Explorers save the 36mm variants have disappeared from Rolex’s website. We could attribute their disappearance to the fact that “normal” Explorers are sold out from here to eternity (causing bar fights worldwide). Or we could suppose that Geneva’s favorite son knows that publicly spreading this change across the line could ignite nuclear armageddon.

Yeah, I know: a two-tone gold Explorer? While the addition of a lacquered dial Rolesor Explorer to the family may be a sore spot for traditionalists – you go looking for gold with an Explorer not bringing it with you – the golden-hued blingerie is in keeping with the post-pandemic horological gold rush (with the new caliber 3230 sheltering within).


It’s not politically correct to say so, but it’s also worth noting that 36mm is considered a women’s watch size. Generally speaking, the fairer sex hearts gold, and doesn’t give a damn about adventurers like Sir Edmund Hillary.

Who didn’t wear an Explorer on Everest, despite the Explorer’s new “The Call of the Peaks” tagline. Snowy backdrop? Geddowdaheah!

Explorer II

More importantly – obviously – the two-tone gold Explorer also has the word “Explorer” at its summit. Rolex dropped a new Explorer II in 42mm and yes, same deal there. I’d write about that model – which I really like – but give me a minute. I’m still in shock. As is the entire Rolex community.

I hope both side of this design issue can respect each other’s opinion on this momentous change, but I fear Rolex has launched a textual debate to rival The First Council of Nicea. I never thought I’d say this, but in some ways I’m glad I sold my 39mm Explorer. I’d hate to get in the middle of this thing.


  1. The two-tone is awful. Doesn’t make sense in the context of the “explorer” brand, however phony the brand story is.

    Is the stainless steel version so bad? 114270 had “Explorer” below the 12 instead of above the 6 as well.

    • Right you are. Forgot to mention that the Explorer name position used to be on top. Text added. Thanks!

  2. What’s interesting is that people were expecting big changes to the Explorer II and speculating that the previous model would pop in value, but really nothing big has changed except it has the improved GMT movement from the GMT-Master II. I do miss that the hands are no longer blacked out at the center on the black dial version, but that is a small change.

    The 39mm Explorer, on the other hand, is going to start to be worth a lot of money.

    • I think the sequence of events was they mid it big but with too small hands (2010), fixed the proportions (2016) and then went back to the original size.

      If you’re a glass half empty sort of person, it took Rolex ~11 years to update a classic model after repeatedly tripping over their own feet.

      If you’re a glass half full sort of person, who liked the proportions of the 114270, but the model bracelet and lume of the bigger version, then I guess this is a return to form.

      • Ah, so you’re right. I misread TTAW’s 2019 review as it moved to 39mm then, not in 2010.

        I think it’s perfectly cromulent in all iterations, honestly.

        • I’m inclined to agree with you. But others seem to prefer the embiggened version

          (I had to look up cromulent)

  3. What an absolute lame and dud of a product “launch”. Rolex maybe reads Hodinkee too much on the abundant of 36mm pieces?

  4. I Hate the 36mm size. I don’t understant small watch obsession by the watch snobs… Balanced sizing for me is the way to go. 38-42mm is perfect depending on the style of the watch. 39mm was great modern size – not too big but with nice presence!!

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