Rolex Explorer: Sporty, Elegant, and Profitable
The Rolex Explorer is one of the most popular sports watches. Its sporty yet elegant Oyster design makes it the perfect companion for the office and on the go. The Explorer holds its value well and is thus also a worthwhile investment.
A Classic Sports Watch for Every Occasion
Watch enthusiasts around the world celebrate the Rolex Explorer for its robustness, reliability, and clean design. A black dial, large Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock, along with the inverted triangle at 12 o'clock have been defining features of this timepiece since its debut.
Until 2021, Rolex constructed the Explorer's Oyster case exclusively with stainless steel. The release of the ref. 124273 represented a new dawn in the Explorer collection: It was the first two-tone model made of stainless steel and 18-karat yellow gold. Depending on the production period and reference number, Explorer watches measure either 36, 39, or 40 mm. Rolex introduced the 40-mm version in 2023, and now offers a good spread of sizes for men and women alike.
Needless to say, in-house, chronometer-certified calibers, such as the current caliber 3230, provide these watches with their outstanding accuracy, while stainless steel Oyster bracelets keep them securely on the wrist. You'll also find many Explorers on leather or NATO straps on the pre-owned market. Vintage Explorers are outfitted with Plexiglass and are water-resistant to 50 m (5 bar, 164 ft), while newer models were upgraded to sapphire crystal and offer an improved water resistance of 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft).
As is the case with practically all Rolex sports watches, the Explorer recorded positive price trends in recent years. Its value has dropped slightly since spring 2022, but overall, this model retains its value very well. The Rolex Explorer is thus a low-risk investment.
Reasons to Buy an Explorer
- Simple, functional design
- Oyster case water-resistant to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft)
- Vintage models coveted among collectors
- 36, 39, or 40 mm in diameter
- In-house, chronometer-certified calibers
Price Overview: Rolex Explorer
|Explorer reference number||Price (approx.)||Size, caliber|
|6610||25,000 USD||36 mm, 1030|
|1016||22,000 USD||36 mm, 1560 or 1570|
|124273||12,000 USD||36 mm, 3230|
|114270||11,000 USD||36 mm, 3130|
|214270||10,500 USD||39 mm, 3132|
|14270||10,000 USD||36 mm, 3000|
|124270||9,500 USD||36 mm, 3230|
|224270||7,700 USD (list price)||40 mm, 3230|
How much does a Rolex Explorer cost?
You can buy a Rolex Explorer in mint condition for around 9,500 USD (as of April 2023). For this price, you can get the ref. 124270 with a case diameter of 36 mm, for example. This watch's processor, the ref. 114270, is slightly more expensive at around 11,000 USD. The 39-mm ref. 214270 is comparatively more affordable at about 9,500 USD. If you're interested in the two-tone ref. 124273, expect to pay around 12,000 USD. The vintage references 6610 and 1016 have heftier price tags, landing anywhere between 22,000 and 25,000 USD, sometimes even more.
While the ref. 1016 saw a small increase in value between spring 2022 and 2023, prices for the other variants dipped slightly. On the whole, however, the Explorer is quite a stable Rolex model, especially compared to other classics like the GMT-Master II, which saw sharp downward price corrections during the same 12-month period.
About the Rolex Explorer
The first Rolex officially known as the "Explorer" debuted in 1953 under the reference number 6610. Its stainless steel Oyster case is 36 mm in diameter and water-resistant to 50 m (5 bar, 164 ft). Inside the case, you'll find the caliber 1030. This original model boasts many of the design elements that have since come to define the collection: a black dial; Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock; and a large triangle at 12. During the production period, Rolex used radioactive radium for the luminous material.
It is interesting to see how the Explorer performed financially over the past 10 years. For example, the ref. 6610 cost around 9,500 USD in 2013, but it had risen to between 13,000 and 16,000 USD in mid-2018. In April 2023, you're looking at an investment of around 25,000 USD. According to financial data since spring 2022, it's clear that the Explorer 6610 weathered the recent market correction very well.
Ten years after the ref. 6610, the ref. 1016 made its debut. Aesthetically, there is very little that differentiates this timepiece from its predecessor. However, it uses the caliber 1560 – or 1570 in later models – and has an improved water resistance of 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft) thanks to its Oyster case and Twinlock crown. Rolex also replaced radium with tritium to illuminate the dial. This model remained largely unchanged throughout the entirety of its 26-year production run, making the ref. 1016 one of the longest-lived timepieces in Rolex's history.
It is highly likely that the Explorer ref. 1016 will increase in value. Looking at the watch's trajectory since 2013, we can see that it has appreciated greatly. For example, a ref. 1016 in good condition changed hands for around 7,000 USD in 2013, while today the price has catapulted to 22,000 USD.
Sapphire crystal made its first appearance in the Explorer collection with the ref. 14270 in 1989. Rolex simultaneously rolled out their COSC-certified chronometer caliber 3000, while also refreshing the design of the dial. The three numerals now had a more modern style and were applied in the same manner as the indices. Rolex crafted both the numerals and indices out of 18-karat white gold, as this material doesn't tarnish over time.
As of April 2023, listings on Chrono24 for one of these timepieces in excellent condition come in at around 10,000 USD, and are likely to rise further. Compared to 2018, the ref. 14270 has appreciated by about 47%. For reference, this model was selling on Chrono24 for 11,000 USD in April 2022.
In 2001, Rolex brought the ref. 114270 to market. This model also received some major changes to its interior, including the use of the caliber 3130. On the outside, the watch remained nearly identical to previous Explorers, except for its bracelet's solid end links and Fliplock clasp. It also featured a different luminous material: Super-LumiNova.
Viewing the long-term history of this watch provides prospective buyers with valuable information. In April 2013, for example, this reference cost around 5,500 USD. Exactly ten years later, this watch demands some 11,000 USD.
The 39 and 40-mm Explorers
The Explorer with the reference number 214270 premiered in 2010. The main difference between it and previous models is its larger size at 39 mm. What's more, Rolex outfits this watch with the caliber 3132, which includes the Paraflex shock protection system and a blue Parachrom hairspring. Both components contribute to this watch's extraordinary resistance to temperature fluctuations, magnetic fields, and shocks. Like most Rolex watches, this movement is a certified "Superlative Chronometer."
Rolex switched from Super-LumiNova to blue Chromalight for the luminous material. Under normal lighting conditions, this material appears white and, thus, contrasts beautifully with the black dial. While the indices and hands have always had a glow-in-the-dark coating, the numerals 3, 6, and 9 first got this treatment in 2016. Furthermore, Rolex extended the length of the hands, which is most obvious on the minute hand.
You can expect listings on Chrono24 to come in around 10,500 USD (April 2023). Two years ago, you would have had to pay around 12,500 USD for this reference. However, if we look at the model's trajectory from 2013, it increased in value by a staggering 150%. As with many Rolex watches, it's all a matter of buying at the right time.
In early 2023, Rolex unveiled the first 40-mm Explorer under the reference number 224270. It uses the same caliber as its counterparts, namely the 3230, and has an official list price of 7,700 USD. At the time of writing in April 2023, there were no listings for this reference on Chrono24. We can thus only speculate on future price trends.
The Two-Tone Explorer
In 2021, Rolex unveiled two new 36-mm Explorer models. The ref. 124273, the first two-tone Explorer made of Oystersteel and yellow gold, caused quite a stir. The stainless steel ref. 124270, on the other hand, received a more modest reception.
Rolex also outfitted the smaller Explorers with the new caliber 3230, a self-winding, in-house movement. This caliber incorporates Rolex's patented Chronergy escapement and a blue Parachrom hairspring to protect against magnetic fields. The watch's power reserve was also optimized with this caliber, increasing from 48 to some 70 hours.
While the official list price for the two-tone Explorer is 11,750 USD, you can expect to pay around 12,500 USD on Chrono24. This means that this watch is available for around 2,000 USD less than it was in the spring of 2022.
You can buy the 36-mm stainless steel version for 9,500 USD. This model depreciated by around 1,200 USD since April 2022.