During that time, its caliber was upgraded and models can now be found with either the or movement. Other upgrades included changes to the bracelet which made it more durable. Replacing the discontinued ref. Its sapphire glass replaced the acrylic crystal and a newer movement was used—the caliber See one of these pieces up close when you check out this pre-owned model.
In , the popular ref. On its surface, this reference appears the same, but on the inside, it features an updated self-winding caliber As with any iconic and beloved collection, enthusiasts demand upgrades and evolutions—and Rolex always delivers.
One of the key changes in materials took place on the dial. Then, in the s, Rolex switched to using matte black dials and white text. Another change then occurred with the type of luminous material they were using. Until , Rolex was using luminous radium paint—soon thereafter, they began using tritium instead due to safety concerns.
Made for adventure-seekers and expeditions-takers, the Rolex Explorer has been adapted over time to maintain accuracy under the most daunting conditions. A Rolex Explorer is easily identified by its durable three-link Oyster bracelet in stainless steel—and yes, this has also changed over time.
Choose your location to view the correct local market pricing, delivery times and shipping costs. Language English. Prices will be displayed in and will be converted to in the checkout process. Rolex Explorer After being tested in the toughest of conditions, the Rolex Explorer is built to last and crafted to suit nearly any style.
Browse our pre-owned collection to find a near-mint condition model, available in a range of references that span the decades. Clear All Show Filters. Since virtually all Rolex Explorer models are crafted from stainless steel, and Explorer dial options are extremely limited compared to other Rolex watch collections, there are fewer factors that influence the overall price of a Rolex Explorer watch.
The biggest determining factor will be the reference of the watch itself, shortly followed by features such as dial variation and overall condition. Part of the appeal of the Rolex Explorer is its relatively accessible price point compared to other Rolex Oyster Professional watches. Given its larger size and more advanced functionality, the Explorer II is priced higher than the Explorer I.
However, if we're talking about vintage references or rare dial examples, the Rolex Explorer price range starts out at about 5 figures and can increase from there in proportion to condition and rarity. From the early Oyster watches that were a part of pioneering mountaineering expeditions to today's modern Explorer iterations, exploration has been a part of Rolex's story for well over 80 years.
While the Rolex Explorer and the Explorer II share similar names, they are indeed different models, each with their own histories, functionality, and evolution. Although there are a few vintage Oyster Perpetual references , , and classified as "pre-Explorer" models, it is largely agreed that the reference was the very first official Rolex Explorer model, complete with the Explorer name on the dial.
The watch featured a stainless steel 36mm case, a black time-only dial marked with 3, 6, and 9 numerals, and a steel Oyster bracelet. These fundamental design traits remained largely unchanged for the next five decades. In the mids, Rolex launched Explorer , fitted with a slimmer case due to the thinner movement inside the watch. Next in line was Explorer ref. As the longest-running model in Rolex Explorer history, many collectors consider the reference to be the quintessential vintage Explorer reference.
Rolex introduced the Explorer in the late s, featuring modern enhancements such as sapphire crystal, glossy black dials with white gold applied indexes, and a higher-beat Caliber movement. In the early s, Rolex unveiled Explorer to house the updated Caliber movement and fitted the watch with solid end links on the Oyster bracelet.
The biggest change to the design of the Explorer came in with the announcement of Rolex Explorer This is the first time the brand ever made a Rolex Explorer 39mm and this bigger case size has now replaced the classic 36mm size. Also new to the Explorer reference is the Caliber movement. Far from the simple design of the Explorer I, the Explorer II featured plenty of details including 24 lume plots for optimal legibility in the dark.
Due to the distinct shape of the hour hand, the Explorer II ref. In the mids, Rolex replaced the reference with the Explorer II ref. New to the was the dial layout with Mercedes-style hands, large hour markers in the geometric shapes typical of most Rolex Professional Oyster watches, and a red hour hand with a luminous arrow tip.
What's more, the new Caliber movement allowed the hour hand to be set independently of the hour hand, thereby transforming the Explorer II into a dual time watch. By the end of the s, Rolex released Explorer II ref. Finally, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the watch dedicated to intrepid explorers, Rolex introduced the Explorer II ref.
Additionally, the reference also marked the return of the bright orange hour hand from the previous model. Compared to most of Rolex's other watch collections, the overall design of the Explorer has remained remarkably consistent throughout the years.
While the Rolex Explorer has remained largely unchanged throughout the years, it has existed as number of different references. Additionally, there have also been several different references for the Explorer II, as Rolex continues to improve the designs of its legendary tool watches. As a tool watch developed specifically to withstand the toughest conditions, Rolex has only ever made the Explorer and Explorer II in stainless steel.
Additionally, the type of stainless steel has evolved over the years from L stainless steel to L stainless steel, which is a highly corrosion-resistant superalloy, most commonly used in the space and chemical industries. Today, Rolex refers to its particular blend of L stainless steel as Oystersteel. The Explorer and the Explorer II have always had different case sizes, with the latter always being bigger than the former. With that in mind, both Rolex Explorer watches have increased in size since they were originally released.
The Rolex Explorer has grown in size over the years from 36mm to 39mm, while the case of the Rolex Explorer II has increased in size from 39mm to 42mm. However, despite the size differences, modern Explorer and Explorer II models both feature Twinlock winding crowns characterized by two sealed zones to help prevent moisture intrusion.
This double waterproofness system plays a vital role in the watches' guaranteed waterproof to meters ft , and has become standard on most modern Rolex watches. Rolex Explorer dials have always been known for their understated yet immediately recognizable style, characterized by a black background, Mercedes-style hands, and the addition of 3, 6, and 9 Arabic numerals mixed in with baton markers.
Though Rolex Explorer dials have maintained their signature look throughout history, details such as luminous materials radium to tritium to LumiNova to Super-LumiNova to Chromalight and index style painted markers to hand-applied white gold markers have of course evolved. On the other hand, Explorer II dials have changed more dramatically throughout the decades. The first reference, Explorer II ref. Future Explorer II references then offered the option of a white dial or a black dial and included the lume-filled geometric indexes with white gold surrounds - similar to the style of dial used on the Submarine and GMT-Master.
White Explorer II dials are often nicknamed "Polar" dials. The luminescence used on the Explorer II evolved similarly to the standard Explorer models, and the latest references have Chromalight coated hour markers and hands, which is Rolex's in-house luminescent material that emits a blue glow instead of green.
Therefore, the Explorer and the Explorer II have always depended on a different set of calibers throughout the years. The latest movements that power the current-production Explorer and Explorer II models feature Rolex's new Paraflex shock absorbers for improved shock resistance and stability, along with the Rolex high-tech blue Parachrom hairspring, which provides better resistance to magnetism and temperature variations.
As Rolex's original sports watch, the Explorer has been a popular favorite among countless individuals throughout the world, including athletes, adventurers, celebrities, and military military personnel. While the Explorer and Explorer II watches may not be as popular as other Rolex sports watches like the Submariner and Daytona among the celebrity set, there are a few famous wrists that we've spotted wearing the Rolex watches dedicated to exploration. The Explorer II is nicknamed "Steve McQueen" but there's no photographic evidence that the famous actor ever wore one.
Instead, it is believed that the nickname came about as a result of an advertising campaign that featured McQueen; however even in the advertisements, the famous Hollywood actor is not wearing a Rolex Explorer II. The Rolex Explorer is currently produced as the ref. In addition to featuring an Oystersteel case and bracelet, the ref. Developed to withstand any environment, the Rolex Explorer offers resistance to temperature variations and a water-resistance rating of meters.
Depending on the year of production, the ref. Also popular among many collectors is its predecessor, the reference , which measures 36mm in diameter - the classic size of the Explorer and a full 3mm smaller than the current ref. What it comes down to when choosing between the two is preference in case size and bracelet style, as the ref. Copyright Bob's Watches. All rights reserved. Bob's Watches is not affiliated with Rolex S.
Bob's Watches only sells pre-owned watches and provides its own warranties on the watches it sells. The brand names and associated model names for Rolex, OMEGA and other manufacturers are the trademarks of their respective owners.
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A couple of years later, Leffew left his Explorer in his gear bag at a competition when a bull stepped directly onto it, smashing the crystal. It stayed like that for many years, until it was recently replaced. I can't think of another Rolex watch that's appeared in a print ad and made its way to our office, and it's definitely the only watch I've ever handled to have survived mauling by a bull. Here's our third and final Mark 1, only in this case the lume is thinner than the fat ones seen on the earlier Mark 1's.
With these last numerals, we see the Matte dial settling into a balanced look that will be carried forward into the future, rather than the puffy numerals of the earliest Matte dial examples. The Mark 1 is the first of the matte dials, but it's also sometimes seen in later cases, though it's unclear if these are original. This watch has a serial number dating it to The Mark 1 had a long run, and is found in watches produced from , and even some later than that, with case production placing them as recently as It's unclear whether those are original to the watches, but it reflects the somewhat haphazard way the had different dial variations appear and then reappear later throughout its production run.
The Mark 2 was produced within a tight serial range in In the short-lived Mark 2, we see that the coronet has a more balanced and symmetrical look, calling to mind the ones that we saw in late gilt dial examples. Another way to identify a Mark 2 is looking closely at the top and bottom serifs in the E in Rolex, which have a distinctive outward diagonal slope. There was once some speculation that the Mark 2 was a reprint and not an original dial, but the collecting community has come to the conclusion that it was originally made by Rolex and they are in a fairly tight serial range.
If this watch looks familiar, it's because it was featured in our Talking Watches with Fred Savage. The matte Mark 3's time on the stage is divided into two acts. The first of these watches have production dates of approximately They then pick back up in about and continue until the end of the 's production in While the script and markings on both of these dials are identical, older examples from the first batch tend to have yellower lume than more recent ones, which tend to be whiter.
Eric brought a real treat to this edition of Reference Points in the form of a particularly special matte dial Mark 4. The watch we have here was purchased, along with seven others, by the American horticulturist, philanthropist, and art collector Bunny Mellon, for a dinner party she intended to hold. When the party was canceled, some say because she was unhappy with the final project the guests were working on, it is said the watches went into a drawer, only to emerge when items from the Mellon estate were sold publicly at Sotheby's on November 21, , after she passed.
It was just a little over seven years ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago based on the prices. The matte Mark 4 dial is most easily identified by its exaggerated, elongated coronet, which looks oh-so tall and thin compared to the ones on the other matte Explorers. On Explorer He placed examples with the Mark 4 dial in the 4 million to 6 million serial range, and also during the final L series in The Mark 5, the last version of , is actually not the last dial configuration seen in the That honor actually goes to the Mark 3, of which examples have been observed in the L series.
For the Mark 5, you'll want to look for watches from the serial ranges correlating with, approximately, to The "Explorer" text on Mark 5 variants features E's with central bars that are not exactly symmetrical. They're up higher, closer to the top bar. Let's take a brief detour on our chronological journey and explore four Rolex watches that play on the Explorer theme. Over the years, Rolex has made watches that look the part of the Explorer and channel its ethos, but within references that aren't traditionally regarded as belonging to the Explorer.
While one of the following watches is in all but its dial an Explorer , the the other three are truly something else. First, there are a variety of other Rolex models that also say Explorer on the dial — these are most typically from the early s, when Rolex seemingly had not settled on exactly what the Explorer I would be. There are also other models like the obscure Explorer Date reference from the s worth a mention, but which don't follow the standard design cues of the Explorer I.
First up, we have a reference Explorer. But it's a bit smaller, 34mm to be precise. And the word Precision graces the lower half of the dial as it is not a chronometer. This is an often-faked Explorer-like variation, owing to the fact that it uses the case of a relatively common and affordable reference, the Air-King reference All that a would-be faker would need to do is place a fake Explorer dial into the case to create the appearance of something much rarer.
In our video, Eric mentioned that he often receives messages from people who have or want to purchase 34mm Explorers and wonder if they are real. More often than not, he has to deliver bad news. Here's what a real one looks like. The example we have comes from and has a beautiful gilt glossy dial. Much like the Blueberry insert for GMT-Master , there is lots of lore surrounding the Rolex Space-Dweller, an otherworldly Explorer-like variation with a fantastic dial that dispenses with the Explorer name altogether.
The Space-Dweller is in every way a Rolex Explorer reference but for the silvery Space-Dweller text on the gilt dial. While not much is known about the Space-Dweller, one of the stories surrounding it was that it was released in the Japanese market to commemorate the arrival of American astronauts in the s.
There is some variation within the serial range of Space-Dwellers, and some have longer or shorter minute hands. In , Sotheby's auctioned off four of these dials, and one of them subsequently made it into this very watch. Rolex filed a trademark for the Space-Dweller name in , which indicates the name's first use was in Rolex applied for the trademark in Switzerland in According to Watchistry , who kindly lent us this watch, the Space-Dweller case numbers he is aware of date from and One would have to question the originality of a Space-Dweller dial in a case, given the dating of the trademark application records.
These were the days before the company pivoted to selling graphic tees to teens in a cologne-soaked suburban mallscape. Rolex, too, sold watches through Abercrombie. The one you see here is the Rolex Commando, an affordable 34mm manual-wind watch with a gilt dial and tritium lume. Note the squared-off handset, used in lieu of the customary Mercedes hand.
The one we have here dates from It was a fun and affordable reference, and collectors today really love these mythical watches. This is another reference that is now commonly faked, with dials put into reference and examples, so exercise caution and perform due diligence before pulling the trigger on one of these.
And here we have a without the Commando name on the dial. Instead, it says simply Rolex Oyster. Interestingly, it's the previous Rolex Commando that was the civilian model. Concurrent with Abercrombie's sales of that watch, U. This one is within a close serial range to the Commando variation, dating from All good things must come to an end, even the reference , a watch that seemed like it could just go on forever as it carried the torch into Aesthetically, the is the table on which the modern Explorer is set.
Applied metal numerals take up the cardinal positions of 3, 6, and 9 for the first time in the history of the Explorer, and on a gloss black dial that takes the place of the latter 's matte surface. And a new automatic movement is introduced, the high-beat caliber , which ticks at a thoroughly modern 28, vph, still the standard rate for Rolex calibers. The size remains a compact 36mm in diameter, smaller than all of the other Rolex sport models.
In the , one senses a desire to safeguard the Explorer DNA while acknowledging that this is a watch in need of being brought up to the modern standards of a new era. We have four representative examples of the in our Reference Points, which take us from the first and by far most collectible version, the Blackout, up to the Swiss Only, with its LumiNova-filled numerals. There was one final version of the , the "Swiss Made" variant, an outwardly identical bridge to the following reference, the Following one of the most eagerly collected watches in the Rolex Pantheon, the hasn't made things any easier for the As my colleague Danny Milton said, it's "caught somewhere in wristwatch purgatory — not old enough to be vintage, and not new enough to be cool.
If you find yourself wanting to know more about this reference after watching this video and finishing this article, read Danny's opus on the , which breaks down the minute variations, below, even further. The applied numeral style associated with this reference is also seen in Air-King and other smaller models that are often considered to have "Explorer" dials. Here we are with the first , the watch that took up the Explorer mantle upon the retirement of the The classic 36mm size that has defined the Explorer since its early days remains, as do the numerals.
But whereas the 's numerals were painted on, the sees the introduction of higher-end applied markers and numerals. The isn't shy about the fact that it's a luxury tool watch with a distinctive modern flair. The Blackout's namesake attribute is the black lacquer filling its applied numerals, lending a somewhat stealthy vibe to the dial though the markers are still lume-filled.
From the beginning, the Explorer had been viewed as a no-frills, go-anywhere tool watch, but this model came with a design that compromised low-light legibility for the sake of style. As such, it's something of an outlier. It's also incredibly collectible, costing much more than the rest of the watches we will be looking at within the reference range.
The blackout is a very rare model by Rolex standards, found only in late-E and early-X serial numbers, giving them a production range of to Immediately following the "Blackout," we have the T-Swiss, the longest-running variant of With the exception of some very late U-series models, the T-Swiss has tritium-filled hands and indexes, as the nickname would indicate.
Much like the more broadly, the T-Swiss inhabits a murky middle period in watches. Like all s, the T-Swiss has a crystal of sapphire and its movement is the caliber , but only the first three years of production have fully drilled-through lugs. Starting in , plain, or undrilled lugs became the order of the day. The is a reference that manifests the process by which Rolex became the modern watchmaker it is today. Starting in , plain lugs became de rigueur, one more modern feature taking the place of a design element associated with the vintage era.
The is a reference that shows the process by which Rolex became the modern watchmaker it is today. From here on out, all s — and all Explorers, for that matter — will feature undrilled lugs. And here we have the penultimate variation of the , the Swiss Only, made for a brief period of time right at the tail end of the '90s. By now, photo-reactive LumiNova has taken over, and with the absence of tritium, the tenuous connection to vintage watches is gone.
Like the later T-Swiss models, the Swiss Only has plain lugs. After the Swiss Only, in the final two years of the to we will see the Swiss Made, the watch that followed the one here. Its name indicates the use of Super-LumiNova, which would continue into the next Explorer reference, the virtually identical Like the last , the uses Super-LumiNova.
And features a 36mm case. And has "Swiss Made" written at the 6 o'clock position. What sets them apart is this watch's use of the upgraded caliber and solid end links. This is something that we see from time to time with Rolex. Changes are made incrementally, and sometimes that means the only upgrades in a new watch are hidden away behind a layer of steel.
The had a near-decade-long run, its subtle improvements over the having seemingly been enough to make Rolex see fit to leave the Explorer be for a while, though there was the addition of an engraved rehaut late in the production of this model. But after about 21 years of extremely consistent Explorer design, and 57 years of rigid adherence to the 36mm case size, things were about to change.
Big time. In , Rolex did something unexpected. For the first time in the more than year history of the Rolex Explorer, the Crown's simplest and most discreet stainless steel sport watch, known for bridging tool-watch toughness and dress watch dimensions, tipped the 36mm scale. Looking back, it's surprising that it took this long. The saw its own movement upgrade, this time to the caliber The movement was based on the we've already seen, but is endowed with Rolex's in-house shock system and Parachrom hairspring.
The first six years of production featured a configuration in which the Explorer numerals were uncoated white gold, with no white paint to heighten legibility. The handsets seemed short with respect to the dial's diameter, and were widely panned by the watch-collecting community.
The handset was redesigned in in order to better fit the dial, and the numerals were once again applied metal, only now they were filled with lume. With the Mark 2 variation, the design was improved, and there was no reason to believe that Rolex had any intention other than to methodically improve upon the Explorer, as it had already done for decades, in its new modern sport watch size. Last year brought yet another surprise. Actually, two. The Explorer returned with an all-new reference, the Rolex upgraded its simplest sport watch to the current generation of automatic movements with Chronergy Escapement and 70 hours of power reserve.
But that wasn't a surprise. The first surprise came with a return to the tried and true, and beloved by watch enthusiasts, 36mm case. After an year diversion, the Explorer was back where nerdy watch lovers wanted it. The second surprise, a big one, was a second model.
A Rolesor model. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know what they would do next. The chatter that year focused mostly on the Explorer I's cousin, the Explorer II, which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. And though the Explorer II did indeed receive a number of incremental updates, it was what Rolex did with the Explorer I that garnered the most headlines. Returning its simplest Professional watch to its previous 36mm size proved popular with enthusiasts, a move that came along with a number of more predictable and less exciting enhancements.
The movement was now the caliber with Chronergy Escapement and a healthy 70 hours of power reserve. This watch is remarkably similar in appearance to the erstwhile and models. The quickest tell is the Rolex Coronet between Swiss and Made, at the 6 o'clock position.
This is the shocker, and the piece that everyone still seems to be obsessed with nearly a year after its release. From its early days, the Explorer was the no-nonsense tool watch with chronometer-rated automatic movement. Its principle function was to deliver the time legibly and accurately to a wearer who had more serious concerns than the safety of his a precious luxury watch.
And yet, the Explorer has on very rare occasions gestured to style at the expense of sheer performance or durability. Remember the "Blackout" variation of the reference , with its numerals in dark lacquer set against a glossy black dial? What's easily the most collectible variation isn't the easiest to read in low light. The new Rolesor Explorer is the watch that fully acknowledges that, despite images like this viral one taken by Nims Purja , most of us are never going to climb Everest.
Rolex is a luxury brand, and the Explorer is another of the Professional models that have become virtually impossible to find at retail stores. Now that Rolex has taken the Explorer in an unexpected two-tone direction, the real question is whether there will be a fully gold Explorer. It's a question only time can answer. Our friend and longtime colleague Stephen Pulvirent spent a week with the Rolesor Explorer.
You can find his full review here. Now you know the many references for the Explorer I. But before we go, we want to circle back on the quintessential reference: The It's so admired, and so important to vintage collecting, that we thought a few additional testimonials were in order. So we asked a handful of prominent owners why they love the reference. Here's what they had to say. The is what got me interested in vintage watches. I was barely out of college, probably about 22 years old, when I first saw one in person at Wanna Buy A Watch?
I left the store that day with an affordable Illinois model, but the was fixed in my mind. As I learned more about vintage watches and started to buy more of them, the remained this thing that I could never own. It was too beautiful. It was too perfect. The proportions were too great. I would never have bought a for myself, but my wife later gifted me one for my 40th birthday. For me, it's the quintessential Explorer, sitting alongside the GMT-Master reference and other great Rolex watches.
If you're a sports fan, you know that 56 is Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak. It's a storied number that needs no explanation. For me, in the watch world, the is a number that doesn't need a lot of explanation. If you know, you know, and you really appreciate it.
There are almost too many reasons to love the , but "subtlety" is what encapsulates it best for me. It has never been the showstopper of vintage Rolex, but it arrests you with its simplicity, and the deeper you get into it, the more nuance comes out. Details like recessed lume plots on the early versions are easy to miss, and at 36 mm, it doesn't abide by today's collecting zeitgeist of the large and colorful.
It wasn't the diving watch, the pilot's watch, or the racing watch, but it was the watch worn by people from all walks of life with subtle but equally venerable lives. I've had s owned by carpenters, doctors, and cartographers who wore them constructing parts of the Smithsonian, developing a surgical technique, and mapping the Arctic circle. They're not the people you read about in the news, but they're the people you want to have a beer with and learn from.
To me, the is a reflection of those people. It has an incredible amount to offer the collector. You just need to look. I've always believed that your favorite watch is a reflection of who you are. My favorite is the , because in many ways, it's just like me: It's not flashy. It keeps things simple, doing its job without fuss.
It was initially under-appreciated, but has grown to capture a considerable reverence, especially from those in the know. It's elegant, yet also rugged. It's on the smaller side, but it's also devastatingly handsome. I'd go as far as to call it a sexy watch. Probably the sexiest of them all. But what I love most about the is that it's humble, just like me.
The s were powered by the A perpetual movement, which was very thick and necessitated the prominently domed caseback. The s were also chronometer-rated and the accuracy of these watches was one of the key aspects that Rolex was keen to see test results of when the expedition team returned. This watch now had the new three-piece case with separate mid-case and bezel. The bezel was used to secure the new tropic crystals to the mid-case and create a watertight system. Still using the A calibre, the watch retained the large domed caseback and is very much an Ovettone.
Both the and featured characteristically s Rolex Oyster dials with closed minute track, applied arrow hour markers and applied Rolex coronet. The difference was the dial layout. This was the true origin of what we see today on the Explorer. The inverted triangle at the top of the dial, printed Rolex text and coronet and the painted numerals. The addition of Mercedes-pattern hands also came with refs. Yes, they used the same movement but the OCCs were fine-tuned to better precision.
The was also the first reference to bear the mighty moniker — Explorer! To many collectors, this watch is the first proper Explorer. Collectors particularly look for the very rare version with a honeycomb dial; it is stunning. This next-generation movement required a new Explorer, and so the Wilsdorf empire gave birth to the ref. The newly launched calibre was a lot slimmer than its bubbleback predecessors and so a new case design was produced that was still well-proportioned at 36mm with a 20mm lug width.
The slimmer movement meant that a flatter caseback could be fitted to the watch and it was this shape that became the standard for many years to come. The also fully embraced the standard Explorer aesthetic. The text is not printed on the gloss, but is actually relief print and the gilt text is the brass baseplate of the dial showing through; a production method known as galvanic process.
The dial then had a lacquer applied to protect it. This was a way for Rolex to demonstrate the capabilities of the watch for all sports and methods of exploration. Another rare version of the had a painted white seconds hand; with Rolex, it is always about the tiny details. In Rolex unveiled what would become one of the longest-running sports watch references, the Explorer ref. Again, the was heralded by the use of the latest movement improvement by Rolex, the calibre A chronometer-rated movement, it became the staple in Rolex Oyster watches of the era.
A decade later there was minor improvement to the calibre with the introduction of the which had a hacking or stop-seconds feature added. The s were also rated to a slightly deeper depth rating at m. One of the biggest changes that occurred in the lifespan of the Explorer was the shift in what was used for the luminous materials on the dials in the hands. But it became apparent that it was completely unsafe and had potentially catastrophic effects on health, so Rolex moved to using the safer option of tritium.
This switch began in and was transitional over a number of years. In the late s, a new type of dial began to appear on Rolex sports watches and, relevantly here, the Explorer. Towards the end of the s, Rolex introduced the next-generation Explorer. The reference was a very different watch but, as per the Rolex way, the core DNA was still present. The acrylic crystal was replaced with a scratch-resistant sapphire glass, which gave the watch a more modern feel on the wrist.
The dial, while maintaining the iconic layout replaced the painted numerals with white gold numbers that were filled with luminous material; initially tritium and then in the lates Super-LumiNova. The watch was powered by the newly introduced Calibre The ran for almost a decade until it was superseded by ref. The majority would probably argue that the switch from acrylic crystals to sapphire is the cut-off.
As time passes, however, the early sapphire-crystal watches are becoming more sought after as acrylic or Plexi Rolex watches gain spectacularly in value. Another key point to note is that quality control and production was much tighter at Rolex by the late 20th-century, and so the multitude of small variations seen between the s and s in sports watches was largely eradicated by the s.
However, there are some interesting small differences in these models.