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Oyster Perpetual Explorer: Venturing to the Outer Limits

In the world of horology, where precision meets adventure, Rolex stands as an indomitable force. The Oyster Perpetual Explorer and Explorer II are not just timepieces – they are a testament to Rolex's decades-long commitment to exploration. Designed to withstand nature’s unforgiving extremes, the Explorer has graced the wrists of intrepid explorers, mountaineers, and scientists facing our planet's harshest conditions. The Explorer is the pure definition of a tool watch, the perfect combination of functionality, precision, reliability, and quality.

Rolex Explorer in Oystersteel and Yellow Gold
As early as the 1930s, Rolex embarked on a journey with explorers, equipping expeditions with Oyster Perpetual watches. This symbiotic relationship birthed the Professional category, with iconic models like the Explorer emerging as indispensable tools for those who push the boundaries of human exploration. From the historic 1953 Everest expedition to modern-day adventures, Rolex watches have taken part in adventurers’ most remarkable feats.

The Explorer, introduced in 1953, boasts a timeless design with a highly legible black dial. Its younger sibling, the Explorer II, joined the Rolex line in 1971, featuring a distinctive 24-hour display and a bright orange hand for traversing challenging environments where distinguishing day from night is a formidable task.

From the 1930s, Rolex began to equip numerous expeditions with Oyster Perpetual watches. The feedback received was used to develop what became known as the Professional category: watches that serve as tools, such as the Explorer and Explorer II. Rolex watches have taken part in some of humanity’s greatest adventures. One such occasion was the 1953 expedition to Everest, led by Sir John Hunt, where Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa became the first to summit the world’s highest mountain.

Polar expedition and detail of a Rolex Explorer watch being manufactured

The Explorer, launched in 1953, sets itself apart with a simple design and a highly legible black dial with characteristic 3, 6, and 9 numerals and large index hour markers. It is a tool watch created to tell time accurately, whatever the circumstances. Even in the dark, the dial is easy to read, thanks to the Chromalight display. Today, the Explorer is available in a 36 mm diameter – the size of the 1953 original model – as well as in a 40 mm diameter.

The Explorer II was introduced in 1971 and, in the same spirit as the Explorer, perpetuates the privileged relationship Rolex enjoys with exploration. Thanks to its 24-hour display comprising an additional orange hour hand and an engraved bezel, the Explorer II allows the wearer to clearly distinguish daytime from night-time hours – a practical option in places where distinguishing between the two is difficult, such as at the poles at certain times of the year, and in caves – or to read the time in a second time zone.

Vintage Rolex Explorer

Watches in the Explorer range have constantly evolved to meet explorers’ needs, each iteration becoming more robust and reliable. The Explorer 36 is available in Oystersteel or in a yellow Rolesor version (combining Oystersteel and yellow gold), while the Explorer 40 and Explorer II are made exclusively in Oystersteel. Specially developed for Rolex, Oystersteel is a unique alloy with excellent anti-corrosion properties.

All three models are fitted with an Oyster bracelet, a three-piece link bracelet known for its durability. Featuring the Rolex-designed and patented Oysterlock folding safety clasp, which prevents accidental opening, it is also equipped with the Easylink comfort extension link, developed by the brand, allowing the wearer to easily adjust the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm.

The Explorer 36 and Explorer 40 are equipped with calibre 3230, while the Explorer II features calibre 3285. Both are self-winding mechanical movements entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. They offer a power reserve of about 70 hours.


Like all Rolex watches, the Explorer and Explorer II are covered by the Superlative Chronometer certification. This designation testifies that every watch leaving the brand’s workshops has successfully undergone a series of tests conducted by Rolex in its own laboratories, according to its own criteria. The Superlative Chronometer status is symbolized by the green seal that comes with every Rolex watch and is coupled with an international five-year guarantee.

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In extreme exploration, Rolex's Explorer series stands as an embodiment of resilience and precision. Evolving from the pinnacle of expeditions, the Explorer and Explorer II have become intertwined with horological history; they are steadfast companions in conquering the unknown. With a legacy rooted in conquering Everest and facing the challenges of today's extremes of temperature and pressure, these timepieces are a testament to Rolex's commitment to performance excellence.

Crafted from the robust Oystersteel or Gold Rolesor in two sizes, equipped with state-of-the-art calibers, and adorned with the Superlative Chronometer certification, these watches are the epitome of horological prowess. As the green seal and the five-year guarantee accompany each Rolex watch, the Explorer and Explorer II are partners in every adventure, a silent witness to the triumphs of the human spirit against the forces of nature. The Rolex Explorer and Explorer II are a legacy, an ode to those who dare to explore.


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