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Hands-On With The New Rolex Explorer 36mm 124270 & 124273 Watches 1

Rolex debuted the latest generation Explorer I watch in April 2021, with references 124270 and 124273 models. While other Rolex models were somewhat enlarged, the Explorer I was given a “back to original form” treatment by returning to a 36mm-wide (rather than 39mm-wide) case size. In addition to the new Explorer 124270, Rolex decided to supplement the more typical all-steel (Rolex Oystersteel) Explorer with two-tone steel and an 18k yellow-gold watch with the reference 124273 Rolesor model.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: while the Rolex Explorer I 36mm is a rather small sports watch (unless you have a smaller wrist), it makes a fantastic dress watch with sleeves. While this clock was originally designed as a mountaineering watch in the 1950s, it has subsequently become much more associated with casual luxury. It excels at this in its all-brushed steel configuration. We have something altogether different with the two-tone steel and 18k yellow-gold look: a responsible and clever office watch that doesn’t have the same blingy overtones as a 36mm-wide Datejust watch.

The Explorer I isn’t the thinnest watch, so its modest case size doesn’t feel particularly small when worn on the wrist. The case is water-resistant to 100 meters, and a flat sapphire crystal covers the dial. The newer generation in-house-made Rolex caliber 3230 automatic mechanical movements are housed inside the new generation 124270 and 124273 timepieces. These are “Superlative Chronometers,” which means they have less than a two-second variation per day accuracy (extremely good) and run at 4Hz with a power reserve of 70 hours. Rolex employs the same movement in several three-hand no-date watches, including the latest generation Rolex Submariner No Date 124060. The inclusion of the Rolex crown in tiny beneath the 6 o’clock hour markers between “Swiss Made” to signify the new generation of precise movements is a little new feature on the Explorer I dial.

Given its emphasis on sportiness and legibility, the dial of the Rolex Explorer I has grown on me over time. Though the dial is still intrinsically simple, the newer generation models offer excellent bright Chromalight luminant and well-sized hands. Something about this dial makes it difficult for Rolex to determine the precise size of the hands, which the brand has grappled with on previous-generation Explorer I models. In that regard, this one has quite decent proportions, as Rolex rarely makes the same error twice.

Even if the Explorer I’m wearing looks similar to previous models, Rolex will be the first to point out that “all the parts are new.” The Explorer I has been re-engineered to mimic the original’s iconic size but in a completely modern and up-to-date manner. The three-link Oyster bracelet on the watch is comfortable and suitable for the size of the case. It boasts a slimmer profile and the latest generation fold-over deployment clasp with a tiny 5mm comfort extender.

The all-steel reference 124270 may be the volume driver for people who like a 36mm-wide sports watch on their wrist. For individuals looking for an alternative to the standard suit or business watch, I propose adding the Rolex Explorer I 124273 to your list of possibilities. It’s still a nice option, but it’s more subtle than a Rolex Datejust, in my opinion. It’s also a little more dynamic and youthful than, for instance, a classic dress watch with a narrow profile on the wrist and a sleek black alligator strap. The Rolex Explorer I 36mm in steel reference 124270 costs $6,450 USD, while the two-tone steel and 18k yellow-gold Rolesor costs $10,800 USD.

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