Rolex takes its time updating iconic models, so it was interesting to see the changes made to the Explorer I in 2021. The watch had been sized at 39mm for years, after decades as a 36mm timepiece. In 2021, Rolex chose to move the Explorer back to its roots with a 36mm size, though the watch retained all of its superior functionality along the way. Even at its smaller size, the Rolex Explorer is a versatile, go-anywhere watch.
The Explorer gets Rolex’s time-only 3230 movement, which may not seem special, but its functionality and toughness are more than enough to impress. The self-winding movement features a 70-hour power reserve, a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring, and shock absorbers to keep the watch accurate while its wearer is active. Finally, the movement sports a -2/+2 second per day accuracy rating after casing, as all Rolex movements do.
Rolex updated the Explorer in 2021 with a new two-tone version that features gold center links on the bracelet, a gold bezel, a gold crown, and gold indices/hands. The two-tone look isn’t for everyone, especially if it’s being applied to a time-only outdoor-oriented watch like the Explorer. That said, the look works with the Explorer’s smaller dimensions, and make it a watch that can be worn in dressier situations without feeling underdressed.
As with many Rolex watches, the Explorer comes exclusively on an Oyster Bracelet. Here, it features an Easylink system that allows the wearer to extend or contract the bracelet by 5mm, which is around the change when adding or removing links. And, as always, the bracelet and watch body are built from Oystersteel, which is Rolex’s proprietary 904L alloy.