Rolex Explorer 14270 Review: Understated Elegance in 36mm

The Rolex Explorer is an interesting watch. It’s simplistic in design, but it can also melt your face at the same time. I’ve always had trouble buying into all the Mount Everest ethos and cave spelunking marketing surrounding the Explorer. To connect with the Rolex Explorer, I needed something more personal. I found it in the most unlikely way.

The holidays are a great time to casually ask your family members about their watches. I knew about my uncle Rick’s Rolex Air-King, but nothing about a second Rolex that he never wears. The story of that watch was much more than I expected.


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The family picture is from Easter brunch in the spring of 2000 (yup, that’s me in the back). Even as a college student, I could tell that my uncle (a professional musician) and his girlfriend Rachael were serious; she’s in the purple sweater – look familiar to anyone? What I didn’t know was that he planned on proposing to her the following year.

He was also planning on making a big move by giving her a Rolex Oyster Perpetual that Christmas. He had already purchased one on layaway* at the local AD. Every time that he had a good gig, he’d put some money down towards it. What does that have to do with this Rolex Explorer 14270 review? Read on.

The Case

There are no surprises with the case. The 14270 Explorer has a 36mm oyster style case that is distinctly Rolex. The lug to lug is only 43.6mm. Combine that with a height of 11.1mm and you have a neat and compact package that many will find extremely comfortable. Its size makes it a great watch for couples to share. If you have very large wrists, you might find the Rolex 14270 too small.

There are no crown guards. The lack thereof makes the Explorer 14270 feel dressier and less serious than other Rolex tool watches. The line and the logo on the crown signify the “twinlock” crown tube, giving the 14270 a water resistance rating of 330ft (more than enough for swimming).

I found the vibe more Oyster Perpetual than no-date Submariner. The smooth bezel that lacks any extra tool-specific functionality also dresses up the watch despite Rolex marketing the Explorer as a “tool watch”. Suit or jeans, the Explorer is always appropriate.

The Dial

The Explorer 14270 has one of the cleanest, most balanced, and well-proportioned dials that you’ll find on any watch. The dial design is up there in elite company with other iconic watches such as the Speedmaster Professional and the Patek 5711. So simple, yet so powerful.

I’ve never been a fan of 3-6-9 Arabic hour markers. The Explorer 14270 gets a pass. It’s one of the most legible dials that I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been guilty of getting lost within the stick indices with certain dive watches. The Explorer is about telling the time in the purest way possible.

The numerals aren’t lumed, but the sticks and hands are. I was amazed that the lume-treated areas still pop with green luminova and last into the night. The hour sticks seemed to hold their luminescence longer that the signature sword, Mercedes, and lollipop hands. Not too shabby for a twenty-year-old watch.

The Movement

The Rolex Explorer shares the same in-house caliber 3000 movement with the Submariner (no date), and the Air-King from the same era. The specs for the movement are all in my review for the Rolex Air-King. I won’t bore you with the technical details that can be found in the other article. Instead, I’ll give you some additional thoughts about it.

This watch has been a “Safe Queen” for the last twenty years. Besides special occasions, this particular watch has been seldom worn. It still amazes me how quickly the movement will self-wind and start running after being dormant. It’s fast − the sweeping seconds hand was already going before I could even unscrew the crown to “hack” and set the time.

Remarkably, the rotor is still virtually silent as it rotates to automatically recharge the 42-hour power reserve. I bet that it’s still very close to the nominal reserve. This un-serviced Explorer is still keeping about -4 seconds per day and winds buttery smoothly. The Explorer was also regulated and tested for COSC certification at the time of manufacturing. The Air-King with the same caliber 3000 movement was not.

The Bracelet

The 20mm (tapering to 15.5mm) Oyster bracelet is something that should at least look familiar. It is the reference 78790 that was used for years (decades, really) and shared with various other Rolex sport models. Maybe too many years.


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The clasp is stamped with a faux three-link bracelet pattern and the 558B endlinks are hollow. The updated modern Rolex bracelets that come on six-digit referenced models are a big upgrade from their predecessors. In hand, a modern Monta or Nodus bracelet is going to feel higher quality than a vintage Rolex five-digit bracelet.

This is not to be confused with feeling “cheap”. Despite the aging technicalities, the overall finishing is superb. There is no lack for charm and the “Oyster” three-link is distinctly Rolex. I would recommend keeping the 14270 on the stock bracelet for the full experience.

Final Thoughts

After the holidays in 2000, my uncle broke up with Rachael. Besides the emotional baggage, he had a loose end to tie up at the AD. He had two payments left on a Ladies Oyster Perpetual and was single. He walked in, paid the balance on the Ladies Oyster Perpetual and walked out with an Explorer instead. The rest is history.

By the summer of 2001, Rachael Ray had a $10 million contract with the Food Network and my uncle continued to enjoy some of his most successful years as a professional musician. My uncle is gracious enough to let me borrow his Explorer from time to time. It’s great looking down at my wrist and having that family connection to my uncle Rick. Feeling like I stole Rachael Ray’s Rolex when I’m wearing it is priceless.

Is it easy to tell time? Yes.

Could I #watchfast it? Yes.

5 Things That I Love

    1. Such a clean dial
    2. Super legibility
    3. Refreshing 36mm case size
    4. Classic steel “Oyster” bracelet
    5. Understated elegance

5 Things That I Hate

    1. Doesn’t make me feel like an “Explorer”
    2. It epitomizes the pre-owned Rolex “bubble”
    3. Can feel small at 36mm
    4. Hollow endlinks
    5. The lack of weight to the bracelet

Featured Insights
 

• Model reference 14270
• 36mm x 44mm x 11mm case dimensions
• Steel Bracelet, 20mm lugs
• 904L Stainless steel case
• Flat Sapphire Crystal
• Super Luminova lume
• Cal. 3000 (in-house) movement
• Price $3,000-5,000 USD (pre-owned)

*layaway: first becoming popular during the Great Depression, layaway is a purchase agreement in which the seller reserves an item for a consumer until the consumer completes all the payments necessary to pay for that item, and only then hands over the item. In modern times, people prefer crippling credit card debt as an alternative.

Greg Bedrosian( Senior Contributor )

Greg is a long-time watch lover based in upstate New York. Greg is a supply chain professional by day and private watch consultant by night. Greg brings his own style to the TBWS website as a contributor by blending bits of humor into technical assessments. You can follow his cycling and snowboarding adventures on Instagram as he pursues the perfect 3-watch collection.


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