2021 Rolex Explorer ref. 124270

Have you seen the new 2021 Rolex Explorer? The release has caused quite a stir in the Rolex community, and for good reason!

Rolex released two Explorer versions– a steel model and a two toned metal option comprised of steel and yellow gold.

Brand purists aren’t impressed with the yellow gold, two toned model because to them, the Explorer is a true tool watch. Why does a watch meant for the harshest outdoor exploration conditions need soft and easily damaged yellow gold?

Others love the look and claim that tool watches are done. It’s not so much the ‘need’, but the ‘desire’ to own and wear a luxury watch.

But the steel version pays homage to the original Explorer. Today, we’re getting up close and personal with the steel 2021 Rolex Explorer.

A Brief History of the Explorer

First a bit of Explorer history. The Rolex Explorer was first released in 1953. It was inspired by the first successful ascent of Mount Everest by a two-man team equipped with Rolex Oyster Perpetual chronometers. 

Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the highest summit in the world at 8,848 meters. Only an elite few have accomplished the feat since.

Imagine it being one of the harshest environments on Earth. Temperatures below -50 degrees F, minimal oxygen levels, and extreme altitudes call for rock solid tools and equipment.

The Explorer’s ruggedness and reliability remain a Rolex staple today.

2021 Rolex Explorer Specifics

Next, let’s break down the new 2021 Rolex features.


The 2021 Rolex Explorer features Oystersteel. Oystersteel is an incredibly solid metal developed spcecially in house.

This same alloy is also used in aerospace, chemical, and high tech industries. It’s obviously durable, extremely resistant, and suited for harsh environments.


The case is new with slimmer lugs that taper down to a smaller bracelet. It also gets a vintage refresh with the smaller 36 mm size.

Rolex increased the case size in 2010 from 36 mm to 39 mm. Naturally, most Rolex enthusiasts guessed the case design would continue to expand. We’ve seen many models released in a larger, 43 mm size, so to release such a smaller size was quite risky.

However, the lug to lug width is 45.5 mm, which gives the watch a larger feel.


The Explorer dial’s gets an update this year. Like the hour markers and hands, the traditional 3, 6 and 9 numerals appear larger. They’re now filled with a luminescent material, which emits a long-lasting blue glow.

Rolex also uses an anti reflective material on the sapphire crystal’s underside.

These features allow for better legibility, readability and brightness even in the most extreme lighting conditions.


The oyster bracelet starts at 19 mm wide, then tapers down to 14 mm at the clasp. It may seem slim, but overall feels rock solid compared with past versions.

 It features the Oysterlock folding clasp which prevents accidental opening. An Easylink comfort extension link provides the wearer an additional 5 mm in length.


The watch is powered by the Caliber 3230, which was launched in 2020.

As with all new Rolex technology, new patents were filed that offer gains in precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, convenience and reliability.

The Technical Specs

Model Case – 36 mm Oyster Steel

Diameter – 36 mm

Material – 904L Steel

Bezel –Smooth

Winding Crown – Screw down, Triplock double waterproofness

Water Resistance – 100 metres/330 feet

Dial – black

Clasp – Folding Oysterlock with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link

Bracelet – Oystersteel

Calibre – 3230

Movement – Perpetual, self-winding, mechanical

Final Thoughts on the 2021 Rolex Explorer

We always love vintage inspired redesigns. The 2021 Rolex Explorer showcases all the best new brand integrations, but keeps its vintage roots.

Secondly, an Explorer model belongs in every watch collection. Don’t have a collection yet? This model is perfect for beginners and is priced fairly at $6,450.

Related: 5 Watch Models for Every Summer Collection

In addition, the smaller case size makes more sense for a tool watch of this caliber. True outdoorsmen don’t need clunky watch faces impeding the wrist. So this original size is perfect for exploration.

Next, we’ll share our thoughts on the new two toned Explorer.

If you are interested in purchasing your own Rolex Explorer, give us a call. Check out our Facebook page for box openings and watch reviews by our in-house watch expert Sergio Nuncio!

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