For the first time in Rolex Explorer history, we now have a model in 40mm. The 2023 Watches and Wonders release (ref. 224270) joins the existing lineup, which still includes the 36mm model in Oystersteel (ref. 124270) or Yellow Rolesor (ref. 124273). It also sports the same caliber 3230 Perpetual movement as its 36mm cousin and has an identical dial layout, complete with the Explorer logo below 12 o’clock. The only showstopping announcement is that the Explorer now includes two size options.
Case Size: 40mm
Material: 904L-grade Oystersteel
Crystal: Scratch-Resistant Sapphire
Movement: Automatic Caliber 3230
Power Reserve: 70 Hours
Bracelet: Three-Link Oyster w/ Oysterlock Safety Clasp
Depth Rating: 100 Meters
Rolex Explorer Case Sizes
To better understand the 2023 Explorer, let’s briefly look at its size evolution. The Explorer was 36mm in diameter for several decades until around 2010 when Rolex released the first 39mm model ref. 214270. However, with the larger case came some disproportion on the dial. To solve this issue, Rolex released a new edition of the same 39mm watch with slightly longer hands and fully-lumed Arabic numerals. This watch was dubbed the “Mark II” Explorer, with the original ref. 214270, nicknamed the “Mark I.”
The 39mm model was discontinued entirely just a few years ago and replaced with the 36mm Explorer that remains in production today. The Explorer, at the time, had returned to its 36mm roots. Now, as of 2023, we also have a 40mm model.
The current Rolex Explorer lineup.
But why did Rolex release the Explorer 40 when it had previously featured a 39mm model? And how does the 40mm Explorer compare to the 39mm Explorer? We would have to examine the new watch in person to answer that question definitively.
We can only speculate that Rolex added the 40mm model to appeal to collectors with larger wrists and fill a gap in the Explorer catalog. The brand-new ref. 224270 also brings the beloved time-only mountaineer’s watch up to par with the sizing of the rest of the Rolex professional series. While not an entirely revolutionary move on Rolex’s part, it certainly turned heads and is already stirring up debate among loyal Explorer collectors.