In 2021 the watch world was blessed with the news the Rolex would be reverting back to 36mm for the Explorer. Along with the decrease in dimensions, compared to the previous 39mm model, Rolex has also decreased the price of this new Explorer. 

Despite these modifications, perhaps what was more surprising to us all was the introduction of a bi-metal version, the ref. 124273. 

Since their release, this pair of Explorers have received lots of praise. We decided to see what the hype was all about and spend a month in the company of the stainless-steel iteration, here is our verdict.

General Impressions

Image Credit: Monochrome WatchGecko

So, my first impression of the Explorer in the flesh was just how clean and refined it looks and feels. This is of course a common feeling with most of Rolex’s professional range, but this piece felt extra refined. 

I got my hands on an almost-mint version and so it still had the brand-new glow on the bracelet, so much so you could almost see your reflection in the clasp. 

Before trying the watch on, I knew that the proportions were perfect and well within my comfort zone, which made me extra eager to test this watch for its wearability and versatility.

Wearability and Visual Appeal

It’s hard to deny that the Rolex Explorer, whether it be the 1016 or the most recent reference, is one of the most beautiful watches available to buy. 

We continually see on social media the Explorer romanticised by watch enthusiasts the world over and for good reason. The 36mm sizing is perfectly proportioned and will suit most wrist types. 

Perhaps those over the 7/8-inch mark will probably be more suited to the previous 39mm, but I suppose it all comes down to preference and taste. 

Compared to previous iterations, this new Explorer has a more tapered bracelet meaning that it sits ever so slightly snugger on the wrist, but not to the point of being too tight or uncomfortable. 

I find that this watch is endlessly comfortable, so comfortable that I forgot that I was wearing the watch. But on the occasion that I did glance down at the time, the classic 3,6,9 dial was perfectly legible. 

I even got a glimpse or two of the Chromalight hour marker, which gives off a strong glow under dusk or evening light.

Value for Money and Quality

Image Credit: Worn & Wound

So, when we talk about affordability in the watch world, Rolex isn’t typically classified as affordable or accessible given the ever-lengthening waiting lists. 

However, when we consider the Explorer against other professional models in the Rolex range this does definitely appear as a bang-for-your-buck alternative to the GMT or Submariner, for example. 

This particular model comes in at £5,700 for UK customers and $6,450 for our American readers. I think that this price point is very reasonable when you consider that an Omega Aqua Terra sets you back just shy of £5,500. 

The issue is, of course, that very few people will be able to get their name on a list for one of these pieces, let alone have the opportunity to physically own one. 

If you are able to purchase one of these then it is the perfect everyday wearer, adept in any situation with almost all outfits. For those “one-watch collection” kind of enthusiasts, this is without a shadow of a doubt the best you can buy.

Tech and Specs

Let’s talk a little about what’s under the hood, for the hardened watch folk amongst us.

So, Rolex has upgraded the movement in the new 124270 to the current generation of automatic movements, the 3230. This particular model now houses the Chronergy Escapement boasting 70 hours of power reserve. This Rolex-made movement is the powerhouse of all the modern collections and is a very reliable engine, powering a very sturdy and reliable watch all things considered. 

Overall Verdict

Image Credit: Monochrome Watches

It is genuinely hard to quantify how much I enjoyed my time with the Explorer on the wrist. It is a watch I will certainly be adding to my collection at some point soon. 

As with most Rolex on the grey market, I don’t think that they justify their often £2-3k premium, but if you are able to pick one up at retail then you will struggle to find a better watch in that price bracket.

My only small niggle with this watch is that I found the clasp scratched rather easily and the scratches became rather visible and hard to ignore. I’ve always found that general wear and tear is a characteristic feature and part of the ownership process. But if you are someone who wants to keep a pristine watch this one might be hard to keep that way. 

All in all, the Rolex Explorer 124270 is a fantastic addition to any collection and is most probably the best one-watch collection piece that you will find. I’ve always been a massive fan of the 36mm Explorer, and its understated appeal, and I’m very pleased that Rolex decided to revert back to the more modest proportions. 

After a month on the wrist, I can safely say that the Rolex Explorer is one of Rolex’s modern triumphs.