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Rolex Explorer vs. Oyster Perpetual: Review & Prices (2024)

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rolex explorer vs oyster perpetual

Two standout models remain the talk of horological enthusiasts: the Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual. While the Explorer leans towards a rugged, sporty aesthetic, commemorating adventurous pursuits, the Oyster Perpetual leans more towards the elegant dress watch category, exuding timeless sophistication. 

Both watches, though stemming from the same Rolex pedigree, cater to different segments of watch aficionados. 

Rolex Explorer Vs. Oyster Perpetual: At a Glance

Rolex ExplorerRolex Oyster Perpetual 
CaseOystersteelOystersteel
BezelSmoothDomed
StrapOystersteelOystersteel
DialIconic black dial with 3, 6 and 9 numeralsSubtle or Vibrant Colours
MovementAutomatic, Caliber 3230Automatic, Caliber 3230 
Price Point S$5,574 – S$24,710S$2,277 – S$13,059

Heritage and Brand 

The Rolex brand, a hallmark in the world of the horological domain, has two iconic series that exemplify its dedication to innovation and heritage: the Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual.

The Rolex Explorer was conceived as a testament to human exploration and endurance. Launched in 1953, it celebrated the unparalleled feat of Sir Edmund Hillary and Norgay’s Mount Everest ascent. Its design, particularly the 1952 prototype worn by Tenzing Norgay, demonstrated resilience under most extreme conditions. 

  • The 1971 metal bezel with a 24-hour scale, catering specifically to speleologists. 
  • Later, in 1985, the Explorer II 16550 was introduced with a pioneering white dial, earning the moniker ‘Polar’. 
  • The latest in this lineage, the 216570, flaunts a larger 42mm case and;
  • A striking orange ‘arrow’ second hour hand, harkening back to the 1971 design.

Introduced in 1931, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual features a self-winding movement and the durable ‘Oyster’ case from 1926, setting a standard for Rolex’s iconic models like the Submariner and Daytona

In 1926, Rolex’s Oyster marked a horological milestone as the first “waterproof” wristwatch, a term now termed “water-resistant”. 

Although there were prior water-resistant watches, like W. Pettit & Co.’s 1851 pocket watch, the Oyster’s durability was notably proven during Mercedes Gleitze’s English Channel swim.

Design and Aesthetics

The Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer embraces a minimalist ethos. Historically, it’s primarily a time-only model, offering limited aesthetic options. The model’s design seems to follow a singular vision: 

  • a steel case
  • a black dial
  • and the iconic 3/6/9 indexes. 

This simplicity underscores its identity as a tool watch, purpose-built for legibility and reliability under challenging conditions.

On the other hand, the Oyster Perpetual, throughout its existence, has presented wearers with an array of choices—be it in materials, dial and bezel combinations, or sizes. 

  • Its Oystersteel middle case ensures a water-resistance up to 100 meters. 
  • One of its hallmark features is its signature black dial with numerals at 3, 6, and 9, complemented by the Chromalight display. 
  • Consequently, many Rolex collections, such as the Submariner, Datejust and Daytona, are technically derivatives of the Oyster Perpetual lineage.

This luminescent material, exclusive to Rolex since 2008, underwent an enhancement in 2021. The result is a display that offers brilliant white visibility during the day and emits an intense blue glow in the dark, optimizing legibility in all environments.

The Oyster Perpetual, while sharing the Chromalight feature, places its emphasis on pure chronometric performance. Made exclusively of Oystersteel, this model is a representation of chronometer wristwatches in their essence. 

Beyond its time-telling function, it boasts the 

  • Waterproof Oyster case and;
  • The self-winding capability provided by the Perpetual rotor.

The Oyster Perpetual edges out due to its versatile design options and adaptability to both casual and formal settings. 

Materials 

Case

Both the Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual models by Rolex feature the innovative Oyster case, giving a glance for durability and waterproof. 

rolex explorer case

For the Explorer, this Oyster case not only ensures robustness but is also a statement of elegance, striking a harmonious balance between aesthetics and function. The material used is Oystersteel, part of the 904L steel family, known for its use in high-tech domains like aerospace and chemicals, attesting to its durability. 

Furthermore, the Explorer now comes in two sizes: 

  • 36mm, mirroring the original, 
  • and a slightly larger 40mm version. 

The 2021 model also witnessed improvements in the Chromalight display, elevating its legibility under different lighting conditions.

rolex oyster perpetual case

The Oyster Perpetual, meanwhile, offers more size diversity, available in five diameters ranging from:

  • 28mm 
  • to 41mm. 

Its Oyster case, made of the same resilient Oystersteel, is also waterproof up to 100 meters. It’s also crafted from durable Oystersteel and can resist water up to 100 meters deep. Special features, like a securely screwed case back and a special winding crown, boost its water resistance. Plus, it has a luminescent display, much like the Explorer.

The Oyster Perpetual offers more size choices and has a slightly better water-resistant design. 

Bezel

The bezel is a key design element of a watch. The Explorer has a “smooth” bezel, which means it’s flat and simple. This gives the watch a clean and straightforward look, matching its practical style. It’s also made from the same material as the watch and is tightly attached to improve water resistance.

On the other hand, the Oyster Perpetual features a “domed” bezel. This kind of bezel is raised and curves out, making the watch stand out more. It gives the watch a classic and elegant feel.

If we talk about a timeless and classy look, the Oyster Perpetual comes out on top because of its domed bezel.

Strap

Both the same watch, Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual watches from Rolex come with the sturdy Oyster bracelet, known for its three-link design and long history since the 1930s. 

The key difference is in their clasps. The Explorer has an Oysterlock clasp that gives an extra layer of safety to avoid accidental openings. It also has a special feature called the Easylink extension system, letting wearers adjust the bracelet’s length a bit for better comfort, especially in changing temperatures.

The Oyster Perpetual, while having the same strong bracelet, uses the Oysterclasp. This clasp is secure but doesn’t have the extra security and safety feature of the Explorer’s Oysterlock. Yet, it also offers the Easylink feature for adjusting the bracelet’s length for comfort.

Therefore, in this bracelet comparison, the Explorer comes out ahead.

Movement and Precision

Both the Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual are powered by Rolex’s Calibre 3230, a modern mechanical movement known for its efficiency and reliability.

The Calibre 3230 boasts the blue Parachrom hairspring, known for its resilience against shocks, temperature variations, and magnetic fields. This feature enhances the watch’s accuracy and longevity. 

Another standout feature is the Chronergy escapement, which is resistant to magnetic interference and helps the watch run efficiently.

The Calibre 3230 employs a large balance wheel, adjusted with gold Microstella nuts and bolstered by Paraflex shock absorbers. This design guarantees robustness and accuracy, maintaining a precision of -2/+2 seconds per day.

One of the main benefits of the Calibre 3230 is its long-lasting power. Both watches can run for about a week or 70 hours without needing to be wound again, thanks to their self-winding mechanism.

Price Range

The Explorer and the Oyster Perpetual, both esteemed Rolex models, have distinct price ranges reflecting their market positions.

The Explorer’s price spectrum runs from S$5,574 to a considerable S$24,710, indicating its premium status and its appeal to enthusiasts who seek a watch with rich history and enhanced features.

On the other hand, the Oyster Perpetual is more accessible, with prices starting at S$2,277 and capped at S$13,059. 

The Explorer’s iconic status often results in higher prices, while the Oyster Perpetual’s varied range caters to a wider audience. Buyers’ choices hinge on budget and the Rolex features or history they prioritize.

Investment Potential

When investing in luxury watches, one must weigh historical value and potential demand. 

The Explorer, renowned for its adventurous lineage and iconic status, has consistently held its value. Its higher price suggests potential for significant appreciation. Conversely, the Oyster Perpetual, a core Rolex model produced in greater quantities, is more affordable, appealing to Rolex newcomers. 

Both watches have their merits. The Explorer, with its iconic status, might offer a more stable and steady appreciation. In contrast, specific Oyster Perpetual models, given their current market demand, might offer quicker returns. 

For a long-term investment, the Explorer might be a safer bet for money due to its rich history and lower production numbers. For those looking to potentially capitalize on current market trends and perhaps engage in shorter-term investments, select OP models might be the way to go. 

5 Best Rolex Explorers

1. Explorer 36 124273

Rolex Explorer 36 124273

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$15,156
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $13,400

This watch seamlessly blends Oystersteel with yellow gold, housed in a 36mm case. Featuring a smooth bezel and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, this watch is both sporty and elegant, ensuring water resistance up to 100 meters. Its Oyster bracelet and Twinlock system enhance its personally luxurious yet rugged appeal.

2. Explorer 36 114270-0001

Explorer 36 114270-0001

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD $6,900
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $7,918

Inspired by the legendary expeditions of the Himalayas, Its iconic design features a striking black dial that exudes a sense of adventure. The Rolex Explorer 114270 made its debut in 2001, inheriting the legacy of its predecessor, the 14270. This timepiece is driven by the precision of caliber 3130 (formerly caliber 3000), and it comes equipped with a robust bracelet featuring solid end links.

3. Explorer 36 124270

rolex explorer watch 124270-0001

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$9,308
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $12,100

The Explorer 124270, with its 36mm Oystersteel casing and smooth bezel, seamlessly merges sporty ruggedness with a touch of elegance. Its monobloc structure ensures durability, making it a versatile choice for both adventurous endeavors and sophisticated gatherings.

4. Explorer 40 224270

Explorer 40 224270

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$9,848
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $12,300

The Explorer 40, crafted in Oystersteel, boasts a 40mm monobloc case with a sleek black dial. Its smooth bezel and Chromalight display with blue luminescence make it a standout. Perfectly straddling sporty and elegance, it’s a versatile choice for adventurous spirits and formal occasions alike.

5. Explorer 39 214270-0003

Explorer 39 214270-0003

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$8,900
  • Pre owned Price: SGD S$10,420

The 2016 update of the Explorer 39 features SuperLuminova-filled Arabic numerals, enhancing visibility. A blend of sporty aesthetics with a hint of dressiness, it’s an emblem of Rolex’s versatile design prowess.

5 Best Rolex Oyster Perpetuals

1. Oyster Perpetual 41 124300

Oyster Perpetual 41 124300

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$8,229
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $9,600

The OP 41 combines Rolex’s precision engineering with a sleek design. Boasting a 41mm Oystersteel case with a domed bezel, it houses the self-winding Calibre 3230 movement, ensuring impeccable timekeeping and a distinguished aesthetic. A blend of functionality and elegance, it’s a true testament to Rolex craftsmanship.

2. Oyster Perpetual 31 277200-0005

Oyster Perpetual 31 277200-0005

Market Price

  • Retail Price: N/A
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $14,900

The Rolex OP 31, with its sleek stainless steel case and captivating yellow gloss dial, is a symbol of timeless elegance and luxury. Powered by the robust caliber 2232, this watch ensures precision while its sapphire crystal and 100m water resistance uphold durability. The stick indexes and hands accentuate its refined look.

3. Oyster Perpetual 36 126000-0003

Oyster Perpetual 36 126000-0003

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$7,833
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $9,400

Introduced in 2020, this OP 36, showcases a sleek stainless steel case with a radiant sunburst blue dial. Its sapphire glass and water resistance up to 100 meters combine durability with elegance. Distinct stick indexes and hands enhance its timeless appeal.

4. Oyster Perpetual 31 177200-0018

Oyster Perpetual 31 177200-0018

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD S$7,200
  • Pre owned Price: SGD S$6,454

The OP 31 in dark grey boasts a sunburst finish with elegant Roman numerals. Powered by the self-winding caliber 2231, this water-resistant watch strikes a balance between sporty resilience and timeless elegance. Ideal for ladies seeking both style and performance.

5. Oyster Perpetual 34 124200

Oyster Perpetual 34 124200

Market Price

  • Retail Price: SGD $8,050
  • Pre owned Price: SGD $9,500

Crafted with precision and durability in mind, this tool watch features a stainless steel case with sapphire glass, ensuring both elegance and resilience. Its classic round shape and 34mm diameter make it a versatile and stylish accessory for any occasion.

Final Word

In the face-off between the Rolex Explorer and OP, both models showcase Rolex’s iconic craftsmanship and innovation. While each timepiece appeals to different tastes and needs, their timeless design and precision remain unparalleled.

Key Takeaways

  • Explorer takes the lead with its adventure-driven aesthetics.
  • Oyster Perpetual offers a more accessible entry point.
  • Explorer holds a slight edge due to its iconic status and historical appreciation.

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