The rumours about new watches from Rolex were indeed well-founded because the big news from the brand is the launch of a new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer and Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II for 2021. If the thought of new Explorer watches did not come to mind, then perhaps you were firmly in the Milgauss camp, or you are not that concerned about new watches from Rolex. The latter cannot be true or you would not be reading this of course. Props to the observers who thought the new Explorers would happen, especially the folks at Monochrome. The 2021 Explorer and Explorer II are the leading bits of news from Rolex at Watches & Wonders, so we will dedicate this story to those watches, mainly. There are some stunning developments in terms of dials, and a glorious gem-set precious model watch, but we will only devote a few lines there.
To begin with, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer, which we will call the Explorer for the rest of this article, is now once more a 36mm watch. That is down from the previous 39mm, and actually reflects the proportions of the watch that it had on its debut in 1953. A major change by any measure of that word, this is quite seismic when it comes to Rolex; consider the brouhaha surrounding minor changes with the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner last year, for some context. The next thing to consider here is that this change is permanent, with the 39mm version now consigned to history. The editors of WOW thought the last change must have happened about 10-12 years ago, and we are pretty certain that the 39mm size debuted in 2010 (which I vaguely recall).
Now, the size is significant but the presence of a yellow Rolesor model demands attention. No Explorer model has ever been offered in precious metals, so this is a true first. It would have been like the introduction of a ceramic bezel for the Explorer II, which did not happen. So what does this mean? Well, we shall have to see but we will leave that to later this week, once we see the real watches (yes we are able to see the actual watches this week in Singapore). This is important because some details, such as the thickness of the case and the profile of the lugs, will not be clear until we see the watches in reality (and collect some unofficial feedback). To cap things off, you will have heard that the movements on both Explorer models are new for 2021. This is true, but neither movement is actually new. For the Explorer, the calibre is now the automatic 3230, while the Explorer II is powered by the automatic calibre 3285.
For the Explorer II, this now means that the model is once more powered by the same movement as the GMT-Master II. There are other details that matter here, for the Explorer and Explorer II. For the Explorer, the word Explorer has moved back to the 12 o’clock position, and Chromalight is now in play (the glow was previously blue as well but we are uncertain if it was the same Chromalight). A nice detail that Rolex fans will appreciate is at 6 o’clock on the Explorer II, and has something to do with the crown visual between the words Swiss and Made, which we previously noted in the Submariner last year. We leave this detail for the true connoisseur, because we have to move finally to those few words for the other Rolex news.
I will keep it simple and go with my initial reaction to the new dials for the Datejust 36 and the Cosmograph Daytona: it is mad. I can see plenty of cynicism here, but just from the visuals they look amazing. None of this is totally unprecedented but we must hold our tongues until we see the watches in the metal, for obvious reasons. Finally, the gem-set marvels of the Day-Date 36 and the Lady-Datejust. These are phenomenal, if only to those with a yen for the unapologetically luxurious. Again, it is the details that matter because in the Lady-Datejust, for example, the black hour markers make the watch a true standout. We will surely have more to say on these models in particular, and we will reserve our thoughts for a later date. You can be sure that this story will receive some updates once we finish our in-person viewing.
All images courtesy of Rolex.