Buyer's guide Hands-On Watch talk

Hands-on: Oyster Perpetual vs Explorer

At Baselworld 2018 Rolex came out with a new black & white dial Oyster Perpetual reference 114300. It comes in various sizes and it could be an alternative to the Explorer  1 which comes only in 39mm. In this brief overview, an attempt at comparing the modern Oyster Perpetual (ref 114300) and modern Explorer (ref 214270). Before we go, please keep this in mind for further reading:

Side by side of the Promo shots from Rolex

Apples & oranges?

The Oyster Perpetual is of course not at all an Explorer, despite it being the ‘original’ explorer’s watch… However, I thought it would be worth comparing the OP (and certainly the OP with black dial) against the current Explorer. Primarily because the OP is available in more sizes than the fixed 39mm for the Explorer which can be good news for small & big wrists alike.


First, they have the same roots as detailed in our Explorer article from a while back. They also share the same 39mm case and 3132 movement with its Parachrom hairspringHairspring The hairspring is a thin spring in a mechanical watch movement that is connected to the balance wheel. The balance wheel oscillates back and forth at a consistent rate, and the hairspring helps regulate these oscillations. The hairspring works by applying a restoring force to the balance wheel, which helps to keep the balance wheel oscillating at a consistent rate. The hairspring is also known as a balance spring. [Learn More] and Paraflex shock absorbers.

Calibre 3132. Source

As mentioned, the OP is also available in smaller sizes which may be good news to some looking for a smaller case more akin to the older vintage watches or vintage Explorer.

They both have a satin brushed Oyster bracelet. Both are made from Rolex’s 904L steel also known as ‘Oystersteel’ and as per Rolex “most commonly used […] where maximum resistance to corrosion is essential. Oystersteel is extremely resistant, offers an exceptional finish once polished and maintains its beauty even in the harshest environments”. In addition, like all of Rolex’s watches, both have exactly zero AR coating on the crystal.



Bracelet is the same yet the clasp is quite different. The OP has a standard ‘Oyster Clasp’ and the Explorer being from the ‘professional’ range has an extra security on its Oysterlock clasp against accidental openings. In addition, it has the Easylink comfort extension link, so you can finetune the fit throughout the day, quite handy.

The dial of course, is quite different. The black OP has more formal baton hands and a slightly glossy dial with a subtle yet refined sunburst effect making it a dressier alternative to the Explorer. The Explorer on the other hand has a more outspoken dial layout, mercedes hands, and overall appears quite a bit more bold and therefore sporty than the OP. 

If you are looking into an OP by the way, I highly recommend checking out the new ‘white’ dial as well. It is not a flat white dial like, it is more somewhat of a bead blasted metallic white, almost silver but more white than silver, very crisp details on the dial (as you would expect) and overall I think an absolutely classic look:

Explorer I vs Oyster Perpetual White Dial (both 39mm)

A very big difference which is virtually impossible to tell from pictures alone is the bezel. The Explorer has a very flat bezel, the OP has a very round bezel. This small difference makes a very big difference in the overall appearance of the two watches. More on that below.

Hands-on comparison

Again, ignoring the obvious different dial layouts, I find these watches look very similar in pictures. When comparing in real life though, they are very different watches. Hereunder a simple shot taken indoors with an iPhone, no Photoshop shenanigans, no ideal lighting either, just like real life:


Here’s what I thought, when comparing both:

  • The Explorer feels and looks much flatter in comparison. The EX’s bezel is flat, the OP’s bezel is very round and somehow the watch seems to sit higher than the EX due to this. I can’t stress enough how big a difference the bezel makes between both these watches and you can’t judge that by pictures. I dare say the bezel makes for a bigger difference in feel of the watch than the dial;
  • The Dial of the EX is quite a bit more busy and as a result the dial appears less large than the one from the 39mm OP;
  • Note that the OP’s dial is not just black, it has a subtle sunburst effect happening. The EX’s dial on the other hand is a simple matte black. In addition, the sunburst effect gives the OP the dressier edge here as well;
  • The typical crownCrown The knob on the outside of the watch that you typically use to either wind the mainspring or set the time [Learn More] at 12 on the OP, dresses up the watch quite a bit when comparing it to the bold & less formal triangle on the EX;
  • Bracelet on both is just about as nice a bracelet on a watch I’ve ever tried on;
  • The EX looks & feels a lot more casual to the OP. The EX to my eye ‘wears’ smaller than the 39mm OP.


Both watches are versatile pieces, no doubt. There are clear similarities and at the same time considerable differences, the main ones are not visible in pictures. Anyone in doubt should go and check both out in person before making any decision.

The OP is overall much dressier with the glossier dial, batton hands and rounded bezel. Whereas the EX is bolder and more sporty. The round bezel  (OP) vs the flat bezel (EX) make a very big difference in look & feel of the watch.


Small differences make for two very different watches?


  1. Thanks a lot for putting this up. Very hesitant between both, but the new dial OP isn’t available yet here. Do you know if these will be available in stores soon? Or did you take these at Baselworld?

    1. Hi Josh! Good question. These pictures were taken at a Rolex AD in Belgium in both Brussels & Antwerp in April 2018. I have seen either black or white already at several other watch stores (Boutique & few ADs) so I would expect these to show up very soon at your local stores. Best to call ahead before you visit a store, because they’re likely to only have one or two in stock at this point in time. Definitely do check both out in real life before buying, it is so much easier to make an informed decision that way which both these watches certainly merit 😉

  2. Nice comparison. And we know by now at least your “personal” conclusion 🙂

    1. For now – yes 🙂 I liked that it was more sporty overall, but it was a really tough call (as you know). Especially the new white-ish dial OP – really nice looking. Sincere thanks by the way for your help in scouting one out, very much appreciated!

  3. The Explorer looks bigger because it is bigger. It’s not the round or flat bezel that makes it look different. Rolex says 39mm but the op is closer to 38.5mm and the ex is closer to 39.5mm.

    1. Interesting note! To me the Explorer looks smaller (visually) than the OP as the dial has a bit more going on 🤷‍♂️👍

  4. I made this comparison, tried both watches at the AD and finally decided for the OP39 Black. It is the more elegant watch, while being equally capable as Explorer on every other trait, including legibility day or night. I felt the OP39 was simply more beautiful to look at, with a perfect aesthetic balance. The round bezel of OP39 and raised edge of the sapphire crystal gives a 3 dimensional look and feel which adds to the elegance of the watch. The Explorer speaks more tool language with flat bezel and has a 2 dimensional, flatter effect. These watches are equal in capability, the choice is personal based on what you like more.

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