If you’re in the market for a vintage Rolex watch, there are innumerable alternatives, from pre-WWII Bubble Back watches, early games models from the 1950s, all-time 1960s classic steel watches or, if it’s your thing, elegant gold watches with complications. In any case, there’s another pattern coming named ‘youngtimer’ (an identical name is utilized in the car industry)… Watches that, for a few, blend the most amazing aspect the two universes, the taste of vintage without the complications of vintage, the size of an old watch with the comfort of advancement. And when it comes down to this sort of watch, the 1990s Rolex Explorer 14270 has many arguments in its favor. And this will be the subject of today’s installment of “The Vintage Corner”.
‘Youngtimer’…? This idea was first utilized in the vintage/classic car market, to characterize models that were not yet classic cars (for instance, in France, a car should be more than 30 years old to be granted the collection tags and registration) yet that were old and important enough to gain a collectable status – yet which weren’t necessarily rare and costly. This usually alludes to 1980s and 1990s cars and ranges from a Testarossa to a 205 GTI to an early BMW M3.
By analogy, we can apply an identical strategy to the watch market and admit that a few watches, which are out of creation, might actually gain in collectability, without yet being deserving of vintage status. We mean 1980s and 1990s models, for instance, early IWC Flieger Chronographs, 1990s TAG Heuer Carreras, the late Mark Speedmasters and, obviously, a lot of Rolex models – Zenith-controlled Daytonas, Sea-Dwellers 16600, GMT-Masters 16700, Submariners 16610 (and in fact, the vast majority of the 5-digit watches and early-sapphire models). And one that is important for this article, the Rolex Explorer 14270, delivered from 1989 to 2001 and conceivably the main update throughout the entire existence of the Explorer model.
History of the Rolex Explorer
If the name Explorer dates back to 1953, when the principal watch with this patronym was presented, the historical backdrop of the model expects us to glance further back in the past to understand where it comes from… And indeed, “Explorer” has to do with exploration (how surprising!).
The Everest connection
Up until the 1930s, Rolex had been associated with exploration adventures and had tried watches on Himalayan endeavors to guarantee their resistance to extraordinary temperatures and low oxygen saturation. The climax (an exceptionally adequate word, to be sure) of exploration for Rolex came in 1953 while Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary became the main climbers to reach the culmination of Mount Everest. It is currently notable that watches were engaged with this undertaking, from Smith and, obviously, Rolex.
In request to furnish the men with reliable watches, Rolex conveyed an early Explorer, known to be an Oyster Perpetual reference 6098, worn by Norgay (as Hillary apparently wore the Smith watch). This watch, nonetheless, had none of the Explorer features – no 3-6-9 dial, no Mercedes hand. However, Rolex registred the Explorer name that same year, with the clear expectation to utilize this effective move as a communication tool.
1953/1959 – Rolex Explorer 6150
As regularly was the case with watches back during the 1950s, the start of the Explorer’s life was a smidgen more complex than the launch of another model. Much the same as the start of the Submariner’s life, the Explorer’s life reveals that not one but rather various references were available simultaneously.
It appears acceptable to admit that the primary watch that displays the classic Explorer features – however not yet known as the Explorer – was the reference 6150, more like a commercialized prototype than a creation watch. In fact, this watch was as yet named “Precision” and was created to be the most rough of the models in the Oyster line. This watch had still a ton in common with the 6098, including its Caliber A296 (not COSC-guaranteed), or the classic 36mm steel case with a smooth bezel. The earliest models, with their without explorer dials, are regularly alluded to as “Pre-Explorer” watches and the name of the model was just presented later on this reference. In any case, it is one of the absolute first Rolex with the notable black dial and 3-6-9 hour markers combined with a Mercedes hand. Because of its almost prototype status, the early 6150 “Explorer-free” is perhaps the most collectable watches in this collection.
1953/1955 – Rolex Explorer 6350
Introduced a couple of months after the reference 6150, the Rolex Explorer 6350 was the absolute first to feature the “Explorer” name on its dial. As such, it very well may be viewed as the real deal with regards to date the presentation of this watch collection.
The Explorer 6350 is as yet an exceptionally special watch, a genuine instrument watch made deliberately for exploration – for example, special development oils with – 20C to 40C operation range could be requested. The 6350 is the aftereffect of the tests done by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when climbing the Everest. It was also controlled by Caliber A296 yet “Officially Certified Chronometer” and housed in a 36mm stainless steel case. Other than the 3-6-9 dial, the Explorer printing and the Mercedes hand (not always), the most remarkable feature of this model was, on certain watches, a honeycomb dial, a pattern also found on early Milgauss models. The Rolex Explorer 6350 had a short life and was suspended in 1954, while the 6150 was still in production.
1955/1963 – Rolex Explorer 6610
Launched in 1955 as a replacement to the 6350 and delivered until 1963, the Rolex Explorer 6610 is the watch that characterized the foundations of the model and that really gotten the watch’s position in the permanent assortment. It bears all the classic traits of the Explorer, with the 3-6-9 dial, the Mercedes hand, the Explorer-printed dial with overlaid markings and the 50m water-resistant case with 36mm diameter. It also came with another development, Caliber 1030.
Some models carried a pined for red profundity rating, some have a white profundity rating, some are liberated from a profundity rating. There’s even an incredibly rare “polar” form (unquestionably a prototype), which sold for approximately multiple times the actual cost (on average, EUR 17,000) of a regular reference 6610.
1963/1989 – Rolex Explorer 1016
To most gatherers and vintage enthusiasts, the Rolex Explorer 1016 is the authoritative form, having been created for a staggering 26-year time frame – not without updates, however. It is the essential Explorer, and because of its long creation run is the one that is the easiest to gather and to discover on the vintage market.
The reference 1016 started existence with a 36mm steel case, water-resistance to 100m, a plated 3-6-9 dial with brilliant hands, the Caliber 1560 and a bolted or collapsed connect bracelet. It would go through different developments over its long career, as for instance in 1975, when Rolex updated the model with a strong connection bracelet (however not strong end-joins) and the Caliber 1570 with a hacking capacity. Throughout the long term, the overlaid dials would make space for classic matte black dials with tritium records and white markings. And in the heart of gatherers, the Explorer 1016 is as yet considered as the last of the genuine vintage Explorer watches.
1989/2001 – Rolex Explorer 14270
The most important update in the existence of the Rolex Explorer happened in 1989 when the brand presented a brand new form of this watch – which, until this point, hadn’t gone through any drastic developments. This watch is reference 14270 and is the model that marked the renaissance of the Explorer during the 1990s when rough, instrumental watches were changed for more extravagant pieces. Despite the fact that it featured a portion of the classic traits of the assortment, this watch marks a colossal departure from reference 1016.
Evolutions were noticeable wherever on the watch. The 14270 featured another case, still at 36mm, however with a cutting edge shape. It replaced the Plexiglas crystal with a sapphire. The dial was lacquered with applied lists in white gold loaded up with tritium rather than painted tritium numerals. Finally, the development was updated to the advanced Rolex Caliber 3000.
The Rolex Explorer 14270 was created from 1989 until 2001, with inconspicuous advancements over its career (more on that beneath), prior to being replaced by the visually similar reference 114270.
2001/2010 – Rolex Explorer 114270
The Rolex Explorer 114270, launched in 2001 and stopped in 2010, was the last of the “small” Explorer watches with a 36mm case. Visually similar to the previous reference, it carried mainly mechanical updates with the Caliber 3130. All the models, obviously, had Super-LumiNova dials. The bracelet also featured strong end-links.
As of 2010 – Rolex Explorer 214270
Last however not least is the Explorer 214270. The model as we probably are aware it today, with its advanced look, its 39mm case with a cutting edge Oyster bracelet, its advanced Oyster clasp, its dial with applied files and the Caliber 3132.
There are two generations of 214270s. The Mk1 shows non-glowing 3-6-9 applied records and hands that are relatively short – which some way or another caused a few inconveniences in the gathering community as they were straightforwardly taken from the 36mm reference 114270. In 2016, Rolex revised its Explorer 214270 with the Mk2, bringing back the brilliant 3-6-9 records and some appropriately longer hands.
The Multiple renditions of the Rolex Explorer 14270
As regularly with more established Rolex models, one reference number doesn’t necessarily mean one single style, a solitary arrangement of specifications and watches that are totally identical. Perhaps the best example of a watch that has known various lives in its day to day existence is the Rolex Explorer 14270. There isn’t only one generation of this watch, yet different generations. And it generally has to do with dials and radiant materials.
Before we proceed onward to the various variations of this watch, let’s take a gander at the common points:
- Case: all models share a 36mm stainless steel case with 100m water-resistance, a flat sapphire crystal, and a screw-down crown (not excursion lock). The highest point of the carries is brushed, with an angled pattern, the caseband is adjusted and cleaned and the bezel is flat and polished.
- Dial: all models have a reflexive lacquered black dial with white markings, applied white gold lists, classic Rolex handset with Mercedes hour and candy seconds. The dial has “Oyster Perpetual Explorer” printed at 12 o’clock and “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” printed at 6 o’clock.
- Movement: all Explorer 14270 models have the same automatic development: Rolex Caliber 3000, beating at 28,800 vibrations each hours, with 27 gems and 48h force save. It is the last of the Rolex development with a balance cockerel (prior to changing it for a transversal bridge).
- Bracelet: all forms are outfitted with strong connection steel bracelet reference 78790, collapsed end-joins reference 558B and a standard stamped clasp.
Let’s presently take a gander at the various forms of the Rolex Explorer 14270:
- Early “Blackout” tritium dial, drag holes – somewhat of a secret, yet additionally the most collectable (being the rarest) of the Explorer 14270s, the “Blackout” features 3-6-9 records loaded up with black enamel. Examples announced from late 1989 until 1991, and it appears to be that these were the main models to leave the manufacture. Comes with a T-SWISS-T <25 tritium dial and haul holes.
- Tritium dial, drag holes – as of 1991, Rolex returned to white records all over the dial. No other advancements, still a T-SWISS-T <25 tritium dial and haul holes.
- Late tritium dial, no haul holes – following the removal of carry openings across the assortment, Rolex marginally updated the Explorer with plain carries around 1994. The dial, in any case, doesn’t change and retains its tritium-filled indexes.
- “Swiss-only” dial, LumiNova, no haul holes – with tritium being banned from watchmaking, brands had to discover another arrangement, namely LumiNova. To mark the change from tritium to this advanced, non-poisonous iridescent material, Rolex updated the dial of the Explorer 14270 with “Swiss-only” signature. This model was created for under two years, somewhere in the range of 1998 and 1999.
- Late “Swiss Made” dial, Super-LumiNova, no drag holes – For the last three years of creation, Rolex updated its Explorer 14270 with Super-LumiNova and, incidentally, a “Swiss Made” dial.
Below, from left to right and start to finish: Blackout 3-6-9 and tritium, white 3-6-9 and tritium, Swiss-just dial and Swiss-Made dial (all photographs by analogshift.com ).
What makes it a great Youngtimer watch?
The Rolex Explorer 14270 is a model with its own market and own potential customers. From one viewpoint, it won’t appeal to hardcore vintage enthusiasts who will highlight the lack of patina, the lack of charm, its too rich appeal, the applied lists or the polished dial as proof of this watch’s innovation. Then again, watch enthusiasts in the market for an advanced measured, new watch with heartiness and wrist presence will certainly be reluctant to go for a rather small 36mm watch, which will feel marginally outdated.
The idea of ‘youngtimer’ is about compromise. These not-so-old however not-so-youthful anymore watches are, to many, unbalanced – for the reasons we just referenced. They don’t fall into the advanced watch idea however they can hardly be named vintage (yet). The ‘youngtimer’ watch is a specialty market until further notice. Nonetheless, it will unquestionably react to the necessities of in excess of a couple of gatherers. As long as you take a gander at the other side of the coin, ‘youngtimer’ watches bring their own balance, and starting here on, you can consider them to be combining the most awesome aspect the two universes. Tritium markers that will get a pleasant, light-shaded patina, the incomparable beauty of a more established Rolex case, elegant extents, immortal plan on one side. The vigor of the case and the development, the water-resistance, the sapphire crystal and the marginally more formal appeal of the applied records and reflexive dial on the other.
Wearing a vintage watch consistently can be troublesome, because of the natural dangers. Without referencing the lack of water-resistance, a stun could destroy parts that are very hard to source, or so patinated that replacing them would murder the beauty of this vintage piece. Overhauling a 50-year-old development and having it precisely adjusted isn’t as easy as with an advanced caliber. The bolted bracelet of a 1960s Rolex will have some stretch and can potentially break. Some accept these dangers and become vintage gatherers, some don’t. However, that doesn’t mean they want to wear a 40mm square of steel on the wrist.
The Rolex Explorer 14270 is a great watch because it is a Rolex Explorer, and that alone is a serious deal. However, it is also a great ‘youngtimer’ watch because it has an appealing balance among charm and reason. You can wear it without considering the big picture. Unscrew the crown, wind it, set the time and it’ll go, always. Be that as it may, you’ll also appreciate those amazing sharp drags and the pleasant adjusted casebands, as well as the charm of wearing a smaller watch, and taking a gander at the tritium records gradually building up a touch of patina – yet not the sort of poisonous looking patina you can at times see on 1950s watches.
And then comes the price… Vintage Rolex watches, for the most part steel sports watches from the 1950s to the late 1970s, are presently almost unattainable for the majority of watch enthusiasts. An Explorer 14270 is still today among the most accessible of Rolex watches – more on that underneath. Maybe you’ll question the collectibility potential of these watches… at the same time, who, during the 1980s, would have imagined that a pleasant (however not extraordinary) 1960s Submariner 5513 would cost about EUR 15,000 today? Indeed, given this, and the right now reasonable costs for a 14270, it very well may merit the danger. Apparently average costs are gradually going up, however will hardly at any point go down.
And then there’s the trust factor. Purchasing a vintage 1960s Rolex can be troublesome, except if you have full trust in the merchant or you’re sufficiently knowledgeable to recognize right parts from inappropriate parts – which, with Rolex, isn’t easy. With a ‘youngtimer’, this danger will be exceptionally minimized.
So, indeed, the Rolex Explorer 14270 isn’t the ideal watch. It has its own target gathering, the ‘youngtimer’ enthusiasts… yet for them, what a great watch it is!
Rolex Explorer 14270 – The market
Finding a Rolex Explorer 14270 is relatively easy as the creation ran for more than 10 years. Also, being a rather current Rolex watch, it is known as a reliable piece, with parts generally available and administration operations done easily. Second, being a ‘youngtimer’, finding an example with box and papers isn’t so troublesome. As always, this will add a couple hundred to final cost however it won’t be unimaginable (at all) to locate a full-set, all around preserved example. With a touch of patience and research, the 14270 could easily be yours – as long as you regard basic standards, for example, “buy the vender, not the watch” and making sure that creation numbers, parts numbers and papers all match.
Regarding the value, it will rely upon the form, however on average EUR 5,500 will be an appropriate spending plan for a pleasantly preserved, full-set, no drag openings, tritium dial model. Early models with haul openings will probably require an extra EUR 500, so will “Swiss-only” models and you’ll have the option to discover late Swiss-Made examples without box and papers for about EUR 4,500. And regarding the “Blackout” models, anticipate a massive premium, as this particular model can easily sell for over EUR 17,000. Is it worth the venture? As far as I might be concerned, no. Be that as it may, if you’re in the market for a rare Rolex watch, you know what to expect.