Watches and Wonders 2021: New sizes, new dials and case finishes from Rolex right here...

Now it's time to see what Rolex has been up to recently as we dive into their latest 2021 changes to their range of watches. We have a little bit of everything here from their Explorer celebrations, new dials options for a range of models and a popular bracelet is back on a certain travel watch…

The New Rolex Explorer 36mm - Steel and Two-Tone

The New Rolex Explorer 36mm Two-Tone - Image Credit: Rolex

Yes, you read that correctly, the 36mm Rolex Explorer is back! In recent years we saw the Rolex balloon up to 39mm and 41mm in a move that made sense at the time. However, now case width preferences are on the way down. We don’t need to tell you about how in-demand any steel Rolex is right now and no one will know this more than Rolex. The Explorer has long been a model that (along with the Polar Explorer II) was one of the last sports models to be impacted by the boom in interest. But now you’re not limited to vintage models as this new 36mm piece retains the appeal of the 114270 but comes with the benefit of a 70 hours power reserve movement with increased shock resistance, parachrom hairspring and impressive accuracy.

Rolex wasn’t done there though, as they also revealed a two-tone steel and yellow gold Explorer, also in 36mm...

Stats breakdown

Reference: 124270 (Oystersteel model) / 124273 (Oystersteel and Rolesor)
Case width: 36mm
Movement: Caliber 3230
Functions: Hours,minutes and seconds
Power reserve: 70 hours
Case: Oystersteel / Oystersteel and Rolesor
Water-resistance: 100m
Dial: Black dial
Strap: Oyster bracelet

Price: £5,150 for the Oystersteel, £8,700 for the Rolesor
Availability: Now via Rolex ADs

First thoughts

Firstly, thank goodness the 36mm Explorer is back. Not having it in the range in my eyes is like not having a 36mm Datejust or Day-Date. This watch has always been in a smaller size since day 1 so it just felt wrong for it not to be available in their current range, especially as this is Rolex we’re talking about. If I owned a previous generation 36mm Explorer right now I’d have to sit down and really think about if I wanted to sell it to get this new model as the 2021 piece is (naturally) better in every way on paper. The 114270 seems to be trading around £6,000 meaning you could sell that piece and pick up a new 2021 36mm Explorer and technically have made just under £1,000…

The New Rolex Explorer 36mm Two-Tone - Image Credit: Rolex

In terms of the two-tone model, I’m very much on the fence. Two-toning sports models is a favourite pastime of Rolex and one that didn’t sit right with people when they did it to the Sea-Dweller a couple of years ago. Where this new addition doesn’t sit right with me is down to the Explorer’s appeal. It’s the sports Rolex to get if you don’t want anyone to know you own a Rolex. It flies under the radar. There are no massively obvious aspects such as rotating bezels that unwanted eyes could easily point out when passing by. But now it’s here with gold all over the bracelet, dial and bezel.

I believe this is one that needs to be seen in person to properly form an understanding of it.

The New Rolex Explorer II

The new Rolex Explorer II - Image Credit: Rolex

Initially presented in 1971, the Explorer II is a robust and reliable watch that quickly became an essential tool for explorers travelling to the far corners of the globe, often in extreme conditions. Thanks to its 24-hour display comprising an additional, orange hour hand and an engraved bezel, the Explorer II allows the wearer to clearly distinguish daytime from night-time hours.

The new-generation Explorer II is equipped with calibre 3285, a movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex that was released in 2018 and is fitted on this model from 2021. At the forefront of watchmaking technology, this self-winding mechanical movement led to the filing of several patents and offers outstanding performance in terms of precision, power reserve, resistance to shocks and magnetic fields, convenience and reliability. Calibre 3285 incorporates the Chronergy escapement patented by Rolex, which combines high energy efficiency with great dependability. Made of nickel-phosphorus, it is also insensitive to magnetic fields. The movement is fitted with an optimised blue Parachrom hairspring, manufactured by Rolex in a paramagnetic alloy that makes it up to 10 times more precise than a traditional hairspring in case of shocks. The blue Parachrom hairspring is equipped with a Rolex overcoil, ensuring the calibre’s regularity in any position. The oscillator is fitted on the Rolex-designed and -patented high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers, increasing the movement’s shock resistance. Calibre 3285 is equipped with a self-winding module via a Perpetual rotor. Thanks to its barrel architecture and the escapement’s superior efficiency, the power reserve of calibre 3285 extends to approximately 70 hours.

Stats breakdown

Reference: 226570
Case width: 42mm
Movement: Calibre 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and second timezone
Power reserve: 70 hours
Case: Oystersteel
Water-resistance: 100m
Dial: White lacquer
Strap: Oyster bracelet

Price: £6,800
Availability: Now via Rolex ADs

First thoughts

The new Rolex Explorer II - Image Credit: Rolex

The bar for a new Explorer II was set very high by fans. Everyone knew that this anniversary was coming up this year and (as always) renders and predictions were created showing radical changes. I believe this is why when the final product from Rolex was revealed and we only saw a movement change and slimmer lugs people were left a little disappointed. I had expected Rolex to bring the model down to 41mm, slim up the hands a little and maybe introduce a new bezel material such as ceramic.

The New Rolex Datejust Olive Green Palm and Motif

The New Rolex Datejust Olive Green Palm - Image Credit: Rolex

Rolex is introducing four new versions of its Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36 featuring new ‘palm’ and ‘fluted’ dial motifs. The palm motif evokes lush, vibrant tropical forests, while the fluted motif showcases the pattern found on a range of Rolex bezels that has become one of the brand’s signature aesthetic styles. The palm motif can be seen on three of the new watches. On the first, in Oystersteel and equipped with an Oyster bracelet, the pattern is present on an olive green dial. It also decorates the golden dial of the second watch, a yellow Rolesor version (combining Oystersteel and 18 ct yellow gold) fitted with an Oyster bracelet, and the silver dial of the third watch, an Everose Rolesor version (combining Oystersteel and 18 ct Everose gold) on a Jubilee bracelet. The fluted motif is found on the golden dial of the final watch – another yellow Rolesor version – this time with a Jubilee bracelet.

Stats breakdown

Reference: 126200 olive green palm and blue motif, 126233 golden motif, 126231 silver motif
Case width: 36mm
Movement: Calibre 3235
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds and date
Power reserve: 70 hours
Case: Oystersteel / Oystersteel and Rolesor
Water-resistance: 100m
Dial: olive green palm, motif in either gold silver or blue
Strap: Oyster bracelet

Price: £5,650/ £9,350, £9,600
Availability: Now via Rolex ADs

First thoughts

The New Rolex Datejust Gold Motif - Image Credit: Rolex

This year Rolex is going in on new dial choices and this new palm leave option really came out of nowhere for me. Rolex have experimented with different dial options over the years, however, they’ve mainly been in the sub 34mm versions. Initially, I wasn’t totally sold on the new green but I’ve seen a few live photos and images and it looks very interesting. The blue motif however was a home run for me instantly. It reminds me of the stands and Rolex AD interiors found around the world. It’s a very familiar design (in fact the Day-Date 40 has had a similar dial for some time now) and one that looks great on the fluted bezel configuration.

The New Rolex Datejust Olive Green Palm - Image Credit: Rolex

Once again, more models from Rolex that I believe need to be seen to be appreciated fully.

The New Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dials

The New Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dials - Image Credit: Rolex

With its origins in the far reaches of the solar system, the material which adorns the dial of these new Cosmograph Daytona watches – metallic meteorite – comes from an asteroid that exploded millions of years ago. Metallic meteorite is rare and challenging to work with, but once it is cut into thin sections and a chemical treatment is applied, the great beauty of its interwoven internal structure is revealed. These fascinating and varied formations are known as Widmanstätten patterns.

The New Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dials - Image Credit: Rolex

The new versions of the Cosmograph Daytona are equipped with Calibre 4130, a self-winding mechanical chronograph movement entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex that was released in 2000 and introduced on the model the same year.

Stats breakdown

Reference: 116519 LN white gold, 116508 yellow gold, 116505 rose gold
Case width: 40mm
Movement: Calibre 4130
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, chronograph, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and
12-hour counter at 9 o’clock
Power reserve: 72 hours
Case: white gold, yellow gold or rose gold
Water-resistance: 100m
Dial: Meteorite
Strap: Oysterflex or Oyster bracelet

Price: £27,350, £32,900, £35,100
Availability: Now via Rolex ADs

First thoughts

The New Rolex Daytona Meteorite Dials - Image Credit: Rolex

If the Datejust dials are the appetisers, these new Daytona ones are the main course. Simply put, these are gorgeous. The way the soft glow of the gold plays off the harsh lines and almost jarring visuals of the meteorite dial is outstanding. If you have the coin, I believe this is a much more interesting model to go for rather than a steel Daytona on the second-hand market...

The other stuff...

Rolex always makes changes to models or introduces crazy pieces without really shouting about it, here is what they did this year…

The GMT Master is now available again on the Oyster bracelet

The GMT Master is now available again on the Oyster bracelet - Image Credit: Rolex

Rolex also released some crazy gem-set models…

Rolex also released some crazy gem-set models… - Image Credit: Rolex

The SkyDweller is now available on the Jubilee bracelet

The SkyDweller is now available on the Jubilee bracelet - Image Credit: Rolex

Final thoughts

This year was never going to be a normal year for Rolex. They only released their new models for 2020 in September so it hasn’t been a traditional 12-month cycle like ‘normal’. The return of the 36mm Explorer is brilliant news for smaller wrist sizes and people yearning after the classic look but with the latest technology. The Explorer II was hyped up a lot this year with it celebrating a special milestone however the output from Rolex seems to have fallen flat a little, with not much being changed or updated.

Meteorite Dial in chemical bath - Image Credit: Rolex

However, 2021 Rolex is all about the dials. The new Datejust models greatly interest me (especially that blue motif…) and it’s hard to not stare in lust when looking at the Daytona meteorite dials.

In some ways it was an off-year, in others, it was more of the same. Refining perfection, incremental changes and different twists on Rolex icons.

To find out more be sure to head over to the Rolex site here.

Learn more about Rolex here.