The Rolex Explorer doesn't get quite as much attention as some of the brand's other sports watch. Yet, as a sports watch with a stainless steel case and a rich, storied history, it has all the elements that typically make for a Rolex sensation. However, it may be these understated looks - like a simple dial and smooth bezel - that keep this watch from sharing much of the limelight.
However, any collector knows that there is a lot of variation within the Rolex Explorer collection, which holds the distinction of being the brand's very first sports watch, introduced to the market in 1953. Today we’re going to look at the ref. 214270 which can be found with two different dials, Mark I and Mark II.
The ref. 214270 was released in 2010 at Baselworld on the shoulders of the Explorer's legacy. The contemporary release featured some important upgrades, including a larger 39mm case and the solid-link 904L stainless steel Oyster bracelet. There was also the upgraded Cal. 3132 movement featuring a Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers for greater shock and temperature resistance - a definite benefit for this rugged adventure watch.
However, not all the upgrades were taken well by Rolex enthusiasts and collectors. The larger 39mm case was met with resistance, as was the dial, which we now know as the Mark I (MKI, Mark 1, MK1, etc.) dial. You see, despite increasing the case size, Rolex seemingly kept the Mercedes hands the same, which appeared proportionally shorter against the dial.
The Mark I dial of the ref. 214270 also featured solid white gold 3, 6, and 9 Arabic hour markers. While it gave the watch a really smart, refined look, it also meant that these cardinal markers did not glow in the dark. This is a sports watch, after all, and many collectors weren’t happy that the low-light legibility was jeopardized with this new contemporary reference.
After less than a decade on the market, Rolex re-introduced the ref. 214270 in 2016. For the most part these Rolex watches were identical. They both clocked in at 39mm, featured the 904L stainless steel Oyster case with 100m (330ft) of water resistance, Twinlock crowns, and flat scratch-resistant sapphire crystals. However, the dial and hands had been slightly updated - to the delight of most collectors.
We'd come to know this updated version as the ref. 214270 Mark II, but since it's primarily just a reference to the dial, we also call it the Mark II dial. So, what's different? Well, the Rolex Explorer Mark II had its Mercedes hands upgraded to a longer, more proportional size for the 39mm case. Additionally, the hands were also made a bit fatter, making them appear more fitted to the size of the watch.
Rolex also redesigned the indices, this time filling the 3, 6 and 9 Arabic numerals with luminous material. Not only did this brighten the appearance of the watch (literally) but it really gave the Explorer 214270 a sportier edge that many collectors felt was missing from the plane, white gold indices on the Mark I.
At the end of the day though, it totally comes down to preference. Which Rolex Explorer dial would you choose?