In-depth: Five reasons why the Rolex Explorer was in the Renaissance In the spring of 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first two in the world to reach the summit of Mount Everest and changed the history of watchmaking The process has become the front page news around the world. Mount Everest. Both are equipped with Rolex watches. The exact model that Hillary is wearing is controversial, but most experts agree that this is a prototype created by a watchmaker specifically for the 29,028-foot hike.
“In essence, Rolex is the sponsor of this climb,” Phillips’ international watch expert Jeffrey Hess told Watchonista. “No watch can see such a moment. The conditions on the mountain are terrible: altitude, temperature, high winds.”
“This is an incredible story,” Hess added. “It sparked a revolution in watches. After the climb, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer was born. It became an icon. It symbolized strength, achievement, courage and the ability to conquer.”
Now, after years of giving the spotlight to its more well-known sports model brothers Daytona and Submariner, the explorer is on the cusp of a revival. In April, Rolex released an improved version of this model and a larger and bolder brother model Explorer II, which caused a sensation among collectors. At the same time, antique dealers said that the secondary market prices of antique explorers are rising rapidly.
Here are five reasons why watches that summited Mount Everest are all the rage nearly 70 years after their debut.Think of it as an original tool watch
The concept of “tool watch” was unique in the 1950s. It describes a class of sturdy and durable timepieces designed to aid in rugged outdoor activities such as aviation, deep-sea diving, mountain climbing, and scientific exploration. Although tool watches no longer have the same relevance in today’s GPS-enabled world as they did during their heyday in the middle of this century, the demand for watches that fit this category continues to grow.
To understand the enduring appeal of tool tables, just look at Explorer, which is one of the earliest and arguably the most real examples of this type. Hillary and Norgay equipped Rolex to climb Mount Everest. Hess said that Mount Everest “is the defining moment of the watch, so thousands or even millions of watches have been sold.”
Now restored to the original (unisex) 36 mm size
Fans were surprised and (mostly) happy when Rolex introduced a new generation of Explorer with a 36mm case this spring.
“In 2010, it became a larger watch with a diameter of 39 mm,” Hess said. “Fast forward 11 years and they reduced it to 36mm, which is really a great size. This is a limited-time watch. It doesn’t need to be big and bold.”
Rolex enthusiasts speculate that the size change is to make the model more neutral and attractive. And it fills the vacuum of a steel sports watch in a slightly smaller case. Whatever the reason, it is clear that the old and new size of the Explorer 36 mm resonates with retro enthusiasts and watch enthusiasts with smaller wrists.
The new two-tone execution gives it a cross-border elegant sports atmosphere
Size is not the only factor that Rolex considered when redesigning the 2021 Explorer. The watchmaker also gave this piece a fascinating and unexpected two-tone appearance, creating a yellow gold version that combines Oystersteel and 18K gold.
“This is the first time Explorer is a bit trendy,” Hess said. “But it’s still a 36mm watch with the iconic 3-6-9 on the dial. They just turned the bezel into gold, and the center of the bracelet chain is gold to make it a bit richer. I salute them . They combine retro history with modern improvements. For years, people have been saying that dual tone will make a comeback, maybe this is the beginning.”
Reference value of Vintage Explorer continues to increase
It’s hard to say why Cheap Rolex chose to revamp the Explorer this year (the brand is known for its secrecy, especially when it comes to explaining its motives). But one thing is clear: “With Rolex now re-releases the 36mm Explorer, this kind of ignited the antique market,” said Cameron Barr, founder of Los Angeles antique watch dealer Craft & Tailored.
Old-fashioned prototypes of Explorer II are also on the second-hand market. This model was launched in 1971 with a 40mm case and was originally designed for people, such as cavers and Arctic explorers, “They may not see daylight for a few days,” Hess said. This is why its iconic 24-hour bezel has an arrow that allows the wearer to track the time of day and night.
This is the perfect bridge watch
Barr admitted that for a long time, he didn’t really like Explorers. “I never understood,” he said. “I want something with a rotating bezel. But this watch does not have any functions. This is a watch that only counts time, is rated by the observatory, and is the most advanced watch.”
However, gradually, he began to understand what distinguishes Explorer from the other products of the Rolex Pantheon. “It bridges the gap between formal watches and sports watches,” Barr explained. “If you are someone who only looks at a watch, you want something that can be worn with a suit, something that can jump into the ocean, that’s it.”