It was a case of shock and awe on the Rolex stand at 2010’s BaselWorld when the brand announced that the beloved Explorer model had been revamped. In typical Rolex style, however, the upgrade was nothing too radical: it merely involved an increase in case size from 36mm to 39mm — and many believe it to have been a change that was long overdue.
Rolex has been sensible not to mess with the classic styling and with the subtle upsize, the company has deftly created what must once again be considered one of the coolest retro-look watches on the market.
Hillary’s Everest expedition and the Rolex Explorer are, of course, inextricably linked. According to Rolex, Hillary and Tenzing were equipped with versions of the reference 6084 “Oyster” waterproof model, which had been an adventurer’s favourite since the 1930s. Yet, although it is known that Tenzing was wearing his Rolex when he reached the summit, there is some doubt that Hillary was wearing his, as the team had also been supplied with watches by the English maker Smiths.
Those brightly polished arabic numerals are out, replaced by lume-filled versions similar to those seen in previous generations. While this is a small change, considering both the sporting and flexible intention of a watch like the Rolex Explorer, lume is important and should be an integral element in the Rolex Explorer’s design. Additionally, consider the Rolex Explorer’s roots. Today’s Rolex Explorer design is based on the 1016 Rolex Explorer which was launched in 1963 with painted numerals to offer as much glow as possible, a goal mirrored in this 2016 version.