After wearing one for several months now, I figured it’s about time that I cover the Explorer in a Hands-On article. Let’s dive right in. For a quick recap, make sure to check out the video overview as well.
The 214270 that I’m looking at, is currently the latest release of the Explorer. The Mark II as it is commonly known, as this one is the updated 214270 which originally had smaller hands and non-luminous 3-6-9 markers. I’m skipping the entire history of the Rolex Explorer here, as we’ve covered that in detail in our Buyer’s Guide published right here. So, without further delay, here-under a hands-on overview of the Explorer 214270, which will hopefully help out anyone currently contemplating his or her next purchase.
The elephant in the room, when talking about the modern Explorer, is of course its size. It moved up from its hyper-traditional 36mm to a larger 39mm version. The 3mm, make for a visual difference indeed, and some say even, a completely different watch. I’m just guessing here, but having tried both on quite extensively, I’m pretty sure the 39mm actually fits most wrists out there quite a bit better than the 36mm. If you really need your explorer to be 36mm, you can stop reading here. Anyone else, please follow along..
The 39mm makes it sit very firmly in the sports category of watches from Rolex. The Explorer is fighting for wrist time against the GMT, Submariner, Daytona and what not. At 36mm it was getting a bit difficult to do that, especially since all of the aforementioned have been supersized in recent years. I can say, when wearing the 39mm, it feels like I’m wearing a solid sportswatch. When wearing the older 114270, it felt like I was wearing a classic watch. Both great, but different, if that makes any sense.
The 214270 dial is all kinds of pretty for a time-only watch. I find myself staring at the watch far too often, without actually reading the time. That’s always a good thing. Always. A criticism which the Mark I had, was that the hands specifically were not in proportion to the 39mm size. The Mark II does not have this at all. Another improvement from my perspective, is that the 3-6-9 are now also lume filled. And when the Chromalight lume shines bright – fogetaboutit – it’s beautiful.
The older models received some criticism that the bracelet was a bit of an afterthought. More specifically, that the Explorer was made to sit on a leather strap and that the bracelet seemed a bit lacking in how it fit the case. While I’m not going there, the fit of the bracelet to the case for the 214270 is unreal. Now, perfect is much overused. But I would say that the overall fit & finish is pretty much exactly that, perfect. There is no rattle, no room to spare, and the transition between case, lugs & bracelet is leagues ahead of most. I’m trying but failing to find any other watch bracelet that gets it all so very right.
The flat bezel and the flat crystal result in an interesting profile. The crisp and sharp lines combined with the soft and polished sides sing nicely together. At first I had a bit of an issue with Rolex’s policy of having no AR coating for the sapphire crystal. By now, I actually like that fact, don’t ask me why. In addition, looking at the above picture, you’ll see that the lugs curve down slightly, this makes for a very comfortable fit on the wrist. The fact that it is all satin brushed also makes for an appealing look (personally – not too crazy about the polished center links on the latest Subs etc.).
The Oysterclasp with Oysterlock, is another design marvel. It feels miles ahead of its predecessor, and unlike most clasps, there is absolutely nothing flimsy about it. Every single piece feels like it’s carved straight out of the Jura mountains.
Not to forget, the Oysterlock safety clasp also features the Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link. On the pictures above you can see it in use. It essentially allows you to slightly expand the bracelet should your wrist swell a bit throughout the day.
The back is, typical to Rolex, plain as you can see below.. Not too sure what to say there, other than I’d really love a see through case-back, but that wouldn’t be very Rolex now would it..
Thanks to its dial design, this watch wears well on straps too. I wear the Explorer quite a bit on a (nice) NATO strap and will occasionally wear it on a leather strap. Overall, the watch is very versatile and goes well with most attire. While the 36mm flew under the radar a bit better, this one stands out quite a bit more, and that’s quite fine. The fact that you don’t have to worry when taking it for a swim (Waterproof to 100 metres) makes this a perfectly all-round watch. If you’re going to buy only one watch for the rest of your life, this could just be the one for you.