04/08/2021
 4 minutes

Explore the New Rolex Releases From Watches and Wonders 2021

By Balazs Ferenczi
You can find more reviews, how-to videos, talks, interviews, and other content related to luxury watches on our YouTube channel.

The first day of any trade show is always the busiest, especially if it’s the first one to take place in a long time. Watches and Wonders (formerly known as SIHH) was a highly anticipated digital fair and the largest in the industry in a long time. In addition to the Richemont brands, which usually make up a large portion of the participating companies, this edition of Watches and Wonders saw an array of other industry players join in. Among the participants, you’ll find the LVMH brands (TAG Heuer, Bvlgari, Zenith, Hublot), Oris, Patek Philippe, and of course, Rolex. As for Rolex, everyone was expecting a new Explorer II this year. 

Rolex waited 50 years to create the Explorer II.
Rolex waited 50 years to create the Explorer II.

The Explorer

Rolex announced a new generation of Explorer models. The original watch, which reached the top of Mt. Everest alongside Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953, was 36 mm in diameter. For 2021, the brand has returned to this size, offering the new 36-mm Oyster Perpetual Explorer in Oystersteel or two-tone Rolesor/Oystersteel. One of the most notable features of this new Explorer is its black lacquer dial. Further developments include the highly legible Chromalight display with luminous material on the hands, indices, and numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. The inscription with the model’s name now sits beneath “Rolex” at 12 o’clock. At 6 o’clock, the chronometer certification inscription now stands alone. The caliber 3230 ticks away inside the new Explorer. Rolex launched this in-house caliber back in 2020. Perhaps this movement’s most famous feature is its Chronergy escapement, which boasts high efficiency and great reliability.   

In all honesty, we weren’t expecting too much from this model, nor did we get it. It is cool that Rolex has gone back to a smaller, classic 36-mm case, but other than that, not much has changed about the Explorer. Sure, there’s the new two-tone edition, but I don’t foresee it becoming a best-seller; however, only time will tell. On the other hand, Rolex rarely shakes the industry with crazy innovations, so this was no big surprise.  

Editor’s rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Alternatives: Longines ConquestSinn 556ATudor Ranger 

Rolex Explorer I
Oldie but goodie: Rolex has made some slight changes to the Explorer.

Explorer II

Easily the most anticipated Rolex release of 2021 was the new Explorer II. In the build-up to Watches and Wonders, we saw several artist renderings, wish lists, and compilation articles by fans. You can decide for yourself whether the brand has exceeded expectations. Here are the details of the new Explorer II.  

First and foremost, Rolex has redesigned the case and bracelet. It now has an updated 42-mm case in Oystersteel with a guaranteed water resistance of 100 meters (roughly 330 ft). A solid block of Oystersteel forms the case’s main body, thus making the timepiece resistant to corrosion. The same Chromalight display technology found in the new Explorer also appears here. The previous Explorer II comes with either a black or white dial. Rolex has not changed this and offers the new Explorer II (ref. 226570) with a black or white black lacquer dial. Aside from these tame external upgrades, the new Explorer II features a caliber previously only found in the GMT-Master II. The Rolex caliber 3285 is a robust movement with chronometer certification, 31 jewels, and a 70-hour power reserve.  

Rolex Explorer II
The Explorer II comes with either a black or white dial.

While the looks of the Explorer II have not changed dramatically, the technological developments are noteworthy. The redesigned case and the new caliber 3285 are great updates, as is the re-engineered bracelet.  

Editor’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Alternatives: Grand Seiko SBGJ211Bell & Ross Vintage GMTOmega Seamaster Aqua Terra Co-Axial GMT 

New Dial Designs for the Datejust 36 and Daytona

Rolex fans were waiting for new Daytona designs.
Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona

Rolex’s showstoppers were clearly the new Explorer I and Explorer II. Having said that, other models from the brand’s immense catalog also received notable upgrades; namely, the Datejust 36 and Daytona both got fresh, new dial designs. Let’s look at the Datejust first. 

For 2021, Rolex created two new designs for this iconic model: the palm and fluted motifs. The palm motif takes its inspiration from tropical rainforests and is available in three colors for the Datejust 36. On the other hand, Rolex has based the fluted motif on one of the Datejust’s most iconic features: its bezel. This signature look is also available in three colors. Rolex offers both dial motifs paired with a domed or fluted bezel and a Jubilee or Oyster bracelet.  

The new palm designs are inspired by tropical rainforests.
The new palm designs are inspired by tropical rainforests.

Let’s move on to another legendary Rolex model: the Daytona. For the first time, the brand is offering this iconic chronograph with a meteorite dial. There will be three versions, each in 18-karat gold: one in yellow, one in Everose, and one in white. Thanks to the characteristics of the meteorite, each dial and (thus) watch are unique. Working with this material is no easy task. Furthermore, Rolex only selects the highest quality meteorites for their precious metal Daytona models. While the yellow and Everose models come on an Oyster bracelet, Rolex offers the white gold version with a Cerachrom bezel and an Oysterflex bracelet.  

It is interesting to see these new materials on the Rolex Daytona. While meteorite has been around the industry (as well as on other Rolexes) for a while now, such a significant upgrade is a huge step for a traditional brand like Rolex – even if it’s only available for gold models.   

Editor’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Alternatives: Omega Speedmaster Grey Side Of The MoonCorum Admiral’s Cup Legend 42 

Read more

Tudor Releases for Watches and Wonders 2021: Strengthening the Black Bay Line-Up

The New Oris Releases for Watches & Wonders 2021

Watches & Wonders 2021: Bvlgari’s Latest Record-Breaking Octo Finissimo Perpetual Calendar


About the Author

Balazs Ferenczi

I’ve been interested in watches for as long as I can remember. I've always thought the only “jewelry” a man should wear is a nice watch. It also says a lot about …

Read more

Featured

Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi 126710BLRO, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Watch Guides
 6 minutes

Are watches really a good investment?

By Jorg Weppelink
Seiko Prospex
Watch Models
 5 minutes

A New Addition to the Prospex Family: The All-New Seiko Prospex LX Series

By Jorg Weppelink
Best Watches under $2,000
Buying Advice
 5 minutes

Best Watches under $2,000

By Tom Mulraney
Rolex GMT Master II Pepsi 126710BLRO, Image: Bert Buijsrogge
Watch Guides
 6 minutes

Are watches really a good investment?

By Jorg Weppelink
Best Watches under $2,000
Buying Advice
 5 minutes

Best Watches under $2,000

By Tom Mulraney

Latest Articles

CAM-1795-Bronze-Black-Bay-2-1
07/23/2021
Watch Models
 6 minutes

Is the new bronze Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight worthy of a gold medal?

By Donato Andrioli
CAM-1789-Seiko-Vintage-Review-Magazin-2-1
07/22/2021
Watch Models
 5 minutes

The Legend of the Seiko 6139

By Chrono24
CAM-1796-Bankruped-brands-during-quartz-crisis-Magazin-2-1-1
07/21/2021
Brands
 5 minutes

Bankrupt During the Quartz Crisis: History-Making Timepieces

By Jorg Weppelink