"Reach out your hand (and touch somebody)" sang Tammy Wynette back in 1972 and while I doubt that Rolex’s development lab echoed to the heart-breaking strains of old country music as they prepared for this year’s Baselworld, with the new Explorer 214270 they did Tammy proud. Who would have thought that extending a watch hand by a couple of millimetres would garner such acclaim? Certainly the crowds of Explorer lovers who were disappointed with the previous update were touched, and responded with gratitude.
Back in 2010 the Explorer was enlarged from 36mm to 39mm - so far so modern, but the hand set failed to grow in the same way leaving many enthusiasts complaining they had been left ‘short-handed’. Not that having the tip of the minute hand resting exactly on the track has ever been a ‘thing’ for Rolex; the Explorer II falls short and the squared off tip of the Day Date II minute hand waves at the track from a good way off. Nevertheless the forums vented their disapproval and it seems that the implacable Rolex listened.
The 2016 Explorer rights this particular wrong with the longer, broader hands giving a more balanced feel to the dial, although the website puff of ‘hands are broader and longer for enhanced visual comfort’ can’t help but raise a wry smile. While they were at it Rolex changed the polished white gold numerals for lumed ones to eliminate that ‘gappy’ after-dark appearance with the colour going from traditional green to cool blue.
Often dismissed as the pretender in the Rolex sports range, the Explorer is actually the senior member of the club, predating the Submariner, GMT and Daytona. The name arrived on the dial in 1953 after the successful ascent of Everest but unsigned prototype versions in at least three different references were field tested by expeditions in 1952. For collectors, the Explorer offers a huge range of choices and price points from the very affordable ‘pre-owned’ 14270s produced until 2001 to the vintage options of the 1016 and earlier. For the completists or those with a slimmer wrist there was, briefly, a 32mm version when the Explorer shared a case with the early AirKing 5500. Variations in the dial from gilt to honeycomb to matte and the evolving fonts and handsets make the reference a rarity-hunter’s dream, with condition and originality key to achieving the best prices.
Expect to pay in the low £2000s for a good condition 14270 without box or papers and a little more for a full set. While a good buy, this also represents great retention of value for what might be a 25yr old watch. At the other end of the market, an incredibly rare white dialled 6610 from 1958 sold at auction three years ago for £126,000 which only demonstrates the rich diversity this model offers.
Coming back to the 2016 model, the reference number remains the same as does the price, meaning those good people at Rolex are giving you three lumed numerals, a couple of millimetres of hand, enhanced chronometer rating and the new 5 year warranty, all at no extra charge.
For more info visit Rolex.