Rolex The one that got away: Rolex Explorer 214270, 39 mm
When the Explorer switched back to the 36 mm diameter, Rolex left a void behind. Mostly for the larger wrists out there which it looked so good on
In 2021, Rolex updated one of its more special, classic and sought-after models. After 11 years spent at 39mm, the Explorer was reversing to its original 36 mm size. The move was not motivated by any consideration of excessive size, but rather like a reset for this model which they might have felt had failed to find its right place.
The Explorer (not Explorer 1, just Explorer) has always had a unique position in the Rolex range : on the small side, without date, simple, pared-down, not too thick, it had no variation in range until that day in 2021 when Rolex did the unthinkable, a two-tone Explorer. It's always had a faithful clientele that wants nothing but this kind of super Datejust...without date.
Two generations of Explorer side by side, the 214270 on the left, the smaller 124270 to the right © David Chokron/Worldtempus
During its entire existence, the various generations of this model had been set on a 36 mm diameter, the one it was born in back in 1953. And then it became too small so Rolex enlarged it to 39 mm, with ref 214270 launched in 2010. She had that one major merit : a size in tune with the times, which were very much focused on that issue. Still, critics voiced their concerns over said size, its being too flat, the dial being this and that and the hands too short by a tenth of a millimeter... enough for Rolex to implement a discreet update in 2016.
Rolex Explorer 214270, 39 mm in diameter, launched in 2010 © David Chokron/Worldtempus
So in 2021, Rolex went back to the original 36 mm size, with ref. 124270. And of course, in doing so, they upgraded the movement with a last generation 3230. So I don't know if you'll agree, but even though she's pretty as hell, clean and simple (and let's forget about that two tone anomaly for a minute here), she's really small. And that is certainly the case for a whole section of the watchmaking public. In contrast, 39 mm is a more versatile, masculine and easy going size. It had everything we love about the Explorer, but with more presence.
Rolex Explorer 124270, back to the original 36 mm in diameter, launched in 2021 © David Chokron/Worldtempus
The truth is we can't really know what the end buyers of this watch actually think. With the madness around everything Rolex, people just snatch up what they can afford and find. Their actual opinion is lost in a void. Like an Explorer 36 on a big wrist.