Rolex Ventures Into Two-Tone Territory with New 36-mm Explorer in Yellow Rolesor

In its inaugural appearance at this week’s Watches & Wonders virtual exhibition, Rolex reached into its rich past to present a new version of its legendary Oyster Perpetual Explorer — sized at the same modest-by-modern-standards dimensions as the original model from the 1950s and outfitted in the brand’s two-tone steel-and-gold Rolesor case and bracelet.

Launched in 1953, the Explorer was positioned as Rolex’s watch for mountaineers and other adventurers who challenged “the extreme frontiers of exploration” — among them Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who wore the watch on their historic ascent to the summit of Mount Everest in May of that year. The most recent update of the Explorer (which preceded the GMT-equipped Explorer II model, launched in 1971 and also featuring a new look this year) was in 2016, for which Rolex added a more modern, enhanced movement and its proprietary Chromalight luminous substance for increased dial visibility in dark conditions. This year’s model not only features a slimmed-down 36-mm case (3 mm smaller than the most recent models, and faithful to the dimensions of the vintage classic) but yet another upgrade on the movement side, to the Caliber 3230 introduced in last year’s new-generation Submariner.

The most noticeable updates are, of course, found on the watch’s exterior. Its round Oyster case (waterproof to 100 meters, or 330 feet) combines an 18k yellow gold bezel with a monobloc case made of “Oystersteel” (a particularly corrosion-resistant alloy), and a three-link Oyster bracelet with yellow-gold center links and Oystersteel side links. Rolex calls this bi-material construction “Rolesor,” and has used it in several models in recent years, including the 2019 version of the Sea-Dweller. The classical black dial, with the hallmark, applied gold hour numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, is now lacquered. The hands and markers, as in the larger 2016 model, are treated with Chromalight, an exclusive, long-lasting luminescent material that glows bright blue in the dark and has a bright white hue in daylight.

Behind a fluted, hermetically sealed caseback that allows access only to Rolex watchmakers with a special tool, the automatic Caliber 3230 beats. Among its host of technical attributes are Rolex’s patented, high-efficiency Chronergy escapement, made of nickel phosphorus to offer optimum protection against magnetic fields; an anti-magnetic Parachrom hairspring that is (according to Rolex) 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks; an oscillator mounted on Rolex-patented Paraflex shock absorbers, and a 70-hour power reserve fueled by a “Perpetual” self-winding rotor. To earn its in-house designation of “Superlative Chronometer,” the watch meets Rolex’s industry-leading rate tolerances of `2/+2 seconds per day.

The Explorer in yellow Rolesor seals its water resistance with a screwed down Twinlock winding crown, and fastens to the wrist with the signature Oysterlock folding safety clasp with an Easylink comfort extension that allows the wearer to easily increase the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm. The price is $10,800.

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  1. Mark Mathosian

    Hmmmm… have mixed emotions on this. Seems to be out of character for an Explorer to be in gold. However, I am going to give it some time and see if it grows on me. I do like that Rolex went back to 36mm. I’d love to try one on. However, the likelihood of seeing one at the AD is slim to none. Oh, well. For now I will continue to enjoy my 39mm Explorer.

  2. Ron Howard

    Since you don’t publish or print comments you receive, why do you go through the motions of allowing for submission of them. Could it be you don’t want to be associated with any negative comments as you’re too busy shilling for brands like rolex, who don’t make their products available and yet have you advertise for them with your articles? Could it be? Yes!

    • Peter Chandler

      Hmm- you were published, go figure. Available or not, I enjoy reading about new Rolex models. I like this model’s 36mm size. I am getting tired of watches the size of drink coasters. To me, this is an attractive watch – and I welcome Rolex’s return to size sanity.

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