We’ve been concerned about Rolex for a while and haven’t been shy about saying it. The venerable brand that we have admired for so long is being slowly eroded by a series of vulgar styling decisions. Simply put: they desperately need to tone down the bling.
We’ve already reported on Rolex’s announcements from this year’s Baselworld show but it wasn’t until just now that it hit us: with the recent changes to the Submariner and GMT-Master II models, the Explorer is now the only Rolex we’d even consider slamming our hard-earned cash down for. And that, coming from prodigal fools like us, is a damning indictment of the state of Rolex’s current model range.
You think we’re exaggerating? Let’s have a closer look at the main models in the line-up.
The Submariner? Close. But the new squared-case really doesn’t work for us and the polished centre-links on the bracelet together with the unpleasant new blue / green bezel and face combinations have robbed this mythical watch of its rightful appeal.
The Milgauss? The original 1950s model is an oddity that has slowly earned its classic status. The current version? To our eyes, it’s nothing more than a cynical and rather vulgar attempt to wring some money out of Rolex’s history. Again, the polished centre-links are a problem but the green crystal and orange markings certainly don’t help.
The Yacht-Master? Yeah, we’ll pretend you didn’t ask. This monstrosity belongs in the back streets of Bangkok, not adorning the window of an authorised dealer. The one thing we’ll say about it is at least it’s not destroying the good memories of a previously great model. The Yacht-Master has been a tacky looking mongrel since it was born in 1992. Horrible.
The Deepsea? Good Lord, don’t get us started on this grotesque Leviathan again. We think we’ve covered in detail back in July 2008.
The GMT-Master II? Close. Very close. The new ceramic bezel is gorgeous, the new dial an evolution we can live with, and we could just about forgive the new green second time zone hand. But the polished centre-links and oversized case just tip it into the vulgar camp for us. We own and love a previous generation GMT-Master II (The Coke not the Pepsi if you’re wondering) and that model exudes relaxed style in a way the shiny, gauche new one can only aspire to. What a shame.
The Daytona? Look, we’re not going to lie, the Daytona is a tough watch to rubbish. It’s got huge appeal even in its current guise. The problem though is the enormous following it has developed and the impact that’s had on prices and fellow wearers. In many ways, it’s a victim of its own success. So, to our eyes , the Daytona has been too flashy and too expensive for some time now. Oh sure, offer us a 6263 or 6265 from the 1970s we’d bite your arm off for it any day but the current models just don’t have that discrete appeal any more. They’re all flash. And, unfortunately, they’re also the de facto choice for anyone with more money than watch knowledge. No, regretfully, not for us.
So, that leaves us with the new Explorer. And what a watch it is.
We’ve coveted an Explorer for years now. What self-respecting watch fan hasn’t? After all, this is perhaps the most important model in Rolex’s back-catalogue, the quintessential Rolex. It has all the ‘tool watch’ qualities without any of the bling. Nowadays, it’s the Daytona and the Submariner that get the bulk of the attention. But, lest we forget, it was the Explorer that scaled Everest. And it was the Explorer that was on Ian Fleming’s wrist as he knocked out 007′s adventures from his typewriter at Goldeneye. So, in many ways, it’s the only real Bond watch.
The Explorer is the Rolex tool watch par excellence. Nothing flashy, nothing more than pure utilitarian purpose to its looks. We absolutely love this watch.
The only problem has been the size of it. At 36 mm, it was just a little two small for our oafish wrists.
Not any more.
The new model has been up-scaled to 39 mm and that makes all the difference. Other slight changes include a matte face and the omission of any Chromolite on the numerals. This gives the latest Explorer a similar look to the famous ‘blacked-out’ models of the past. Very pleasing. The new model also gets an Oysterlock clasp with the Easylink comfort extension link.
Under the hood, a new COSC certified Calibre 3132 movement, with a Parachrom hairspring with Breguet overcoil and Paraflex shock absorbers. We don’t know what any of that means but it sounds serious.
Perhaps the best bit about the new Explorer though is what Rolex didn’t do. No crazy oversized case. No polished centre-links. No ludicrous colour combinations. No maxi-dial. The core values that first made us fall in love with Rolex sports watches are preserved: quiet purposeful restraint. We love it.
Of course we’re not forgetting that the Explorer has a younger brother, the Explorer II which is still in the portfolio as well. We sincerely hope that Rolex leaves it there untouched. Because, for different reasons, it too is a lovely watch.
In the meantime, no doubt about it, the new Explorer is a stunner. And we don’t say that lightly. Let’s put it another way: last week we called our authorised dealer and put our name down for a new Explorer when they come in, some time in Q4. There is no other model in Rolex’s current portfolio that would make us part with our own money.