The Biggest New Rolex Releases of 2021 Are…


For watch enthusiasts, today is Christmas, Coachella, and Super Bowl Sunday all wrapped into one. Wednesday marks the kickoff of Watches & Wonders, now the industry’s biggest trade show, and because of the digital nature of this year’s event, it feels like all the new goodies were announced at once. The result was a torrent of new models to ooh and ahh over and digest. Patek Philippe announced new examples of its highly collectible Nautilus model. IWC is shaving a few millimeters off its biggest watches. Which is all great! But nothing gets collectors going like new from Rolex. Here are the new releases from The Crown that everyone is talking about today.

The new Explorer 36

Courtesy of Rolex

Courtesy of Rolex

A family of Explorers

Arguably the biggest news is a revamp of Rolex’s Explorer line. Both the original Explorer and its younger brother, the Explorer II, received makeovers.

To start, Rolex is trimming the Explorer quite a bit, taking it from 39 millimeters all the way down to 36, which is pretty small by modern standards. There’s historical precedent for the new measurements, though. The Explorer is now the same size as the piece that was released right after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to reach Mount Everest’s peak. (They did it wearing versions of the Rolex Oyster Perpetual but Rolex needed a way to capitalize on the achievement.)

The new size isn’t what has the watch community buzzing, though. What people can’t seem to get over is that after decades of the watch exclusively coming in stainless steel, the Explorer will now be made in two-tone gold and steel. Rolex makes many of its professional watches in this two-tone steel-and-gold combo, but the Explorer, one of the Crown’s more rugged pieces, always held out. Today, it finally gets invited to the party.

The Explorer’s successor, known as the Explorer II, got a slightly lighter touch. While the Explorer was made for those braving the heart of the jungle, or attempting to climb to earth’s highest peaks, the Explorer II was explicitly made for the opposite purpose: it was originally designed for cave divers, who used the luminous orange 24-hour hand to keep track of whether it was day or night while trudging deeper into darkness. Now, on the piece’s 50th birthday, Rolex is doing its best to not mess with a good thing. The adjustments here include switching out glossy black hands for the collector-preferred matte black, slimming down the piece’s lugs, and inserting a new and improved movement.

An Explorer II, too

Courtesy of Rolex

Courtesy of Rolex

Of all the big watch brands, Rolex’s intentions are usually the most difficult to decode. But let’s attempt to interpret what the brand’s done here. It’s no secret that Rolex has absolutely no problem moving its flagship professional pieces like the Submariner, GMT-Master II, and Daytona, but the Explorer and Explorer II have always been slightly underrated. It’s likely that Rolex sees an opportunity to build up the Explorer models so that one day people line up to purchase them, too.

The watch on everyone’s wish list just got hotter

Well, complaints about never ending wait lists for Rolex’s flaming-hot Daytona aren’t going to get any quieter. The brand is releasing the watch in white gold, yellow gold, and Everose gold (Rolex’s version of rose gold), all with meteorite dials. Meteorite is exactly what it sounds like: literally “a rare natural material from outer space,” as Rolex puts it in a press release. The watch model that already commanded out-of-this-world prices. Now, it’s made from rare space rocks. Guess what that’ll do to prices?

A trio of colorful new Day-Dates

Courtesy of Rolex

Courtesy of Rolex
Courtesy of Rolex

Now we’re having fun!

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