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Review of the Rolex Explorer I replica

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We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time

'TS Eliot

After the Submariner, the Explorer is one of the most easily recognizable of all Rolex watches. With its black dial, large luminous triangle marker at 12, and luminous arabic numerals for the other quarters, it is the perfect mixture of a sport and a dress watch. It seems to have been around as long as there have been Rolexes, but that is not exactly true.


The generally accepted origin of the Explorer is that it was first designed and made in honor of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

They were the first to reach the summit of Everest on May 29, 1953, and did so wearing Rolex wristwatches. Robustness, temperature deviation, water ressistance and mechanical load - I couldn’t think of a better (and probably harder) way to prove the abilities of a watch. That has not been a coincident by any chance, but a very clever marketing trick: it is worth noting that the name "Explorer" was registered in Geneva on the January 26, 1953, obviously before the conquest of the world's highest mountain.


Since that Event, the Explorer has been patiently developed and in the early 1970s a larger model appeared: the 1655 Explorer II. It is essentially a GMT-Master with a fixed bezel. Using the same calibre 1575 movement as a GMT- Master, it also had a fourth hand which rotated once every 24 hours, however on the Explorer II the hour was read from this from a fixed, engraved 24 hour steel bezel.


The watch was introduced as being especially useful for the speleologist ( or cave explorer), who, Rolex claimed "soon loses all notion of time: morning, afternoon, day, or night. " For these intrepid souls Rolex developed the watch which would tell them whether the "2" on the dial was 2:00 a.m. or 2 :00 p-m. (14:00 h). This may well be true, and perhaps cave dwellers are more susceptible to losing track of time than others. :lol:

Check out By-Tor’s cool review of it, here.

With it’s date display and a second timezone, it got a litte away from the basicness of the older brother, that stayed what it was supposed to be: a robust three hands watch.


Genuine Technical Data:

Reference: 14270

Caliber: 3000

Movement: Selfwinding mechanical

Powerreserve: min. 42h

Vibration: 28.800bph

Jewel: 27 jewels

Calendar: none

Case: Steel

Crown: screw-locked, 2 gaskets

Caseback: Screwed in

Crystal: sapphire

Diameter: 35.5mm

Thickness: 11.4mm

Weight: 105g

Water-resistance: 100m

The Replica


The case.

The relatively simple three piece case (bezel, band, and back) is clearly strong and rigid. (Rigidity is an important issue in maintaining water-resistance in use that involves impact that can distort the alignment of the case.) While the bezel and band sides (which are integral with the strap lugs) are polished, the upper horizontal surface of band and lugs is brushed. Actually, the gen’s finish of the brushed parts is NOT superior to the finish of the replica, as you can see in the picture below:


The polished sides of the case, however, are an unusual, peculiarly appealing double-horn shape characteristic of many Rolexes, and are polished to a shine close to white gold. The replica for comparison here has been worn frequently, so there are desk-diving scratches. However, as you can see, the polished sides are of an almost equal quality to the genuine ones.


The uncoated sapphire crystal, as can be seen, is set largely outside the bezel on the 14270. You got to be careful for it is actually not protected by the bezel anymore and you could bust out a piece of the crystal easily by knocking against a hard object. In my opinion, the flat sapphire is reflecting so strong, it causes difficulties in easily reading the time on genuine and replica from certain angles. Last mentioned has it’s first “weak” point here: it’s crystal sits high – but not as high as the genuine’s.


Also for the 14270, there shouldn’t be a laser-etched coronet at six o’ clock.


When I received the replica, I thought that the internal surfaces and backs of the lugs are quite poor finished way worse than the visible top and side surfaces: even with the bracelet in place, the inside lower lug edges and tips are pretty sharp.

Then I found out about the gen. Check it out:


The completely undecorated back is made like in common Rolex-style with the famous serrated wrench ring.

You can open it with any Rolex-style case-opener, but a Bergeon will be best as a watchmaster assured me (#5, 29.5 mm). In his opinion, the Rolex system is perhaps the finest screwed back design in available. Unlike other designs – with holes, slots, or hexagonal protrusions - it allows removal / reattachment of backs without the slightest visible mark left on the watch. Another point where the replica is equal to the gen.


Dial and hands.


The Explorer I has got a black, powder-coated glossy dial with an outer ring of second-indexes. Did you know that it is 1.15mm larger than a modern seadweller-dial? The hour-markers are made of white gold just like any modern Rolex sportsmodel has them. The dial and hands are detailed, extremely well made, and immaculately finished. I was told by the AD that, together, they represent a significant portion of the manufacturing costs of this watch.

I don’t know how expensive this little amount of white gold can be, but I am sure it won’t be more expensive for Rolex to produce, than for the rep-makers. The hands look good, imo.

Unfortunately, there are some quality differences between rep and gen, the font looks a bit crisper and it appears bolder. Not that much you could notice if not comparing side by side:


The dial is AWESOME. I really can’t think of an other dial so close to the genuine.

Note that the imitated model, a 14270, with the space between “swiss made” measuring about 1mm below the six, has had tritium markers. The current 114270 has got Superluminova.

However, these two references are so close to each other, that you could easily superlume it with C1 mixed with just a little bit of C3 without getting called out, believe me.


The rehaut.

It is not very deep on the genuine, and it is not at the rep. Not an issue here as it is with modern Subs.


The crown.

It is pretty airy. The line under the coronet tells us that it is a twinlock, which is also used for several Datejusts or Day-Dates. It has two gaskets that will keep the watch water-resistant. In contrast to the big brother, Explorer II, it is not protected by crownguards.

Unfortunately, the replica’s crown is not as close to the gen as the rest of the watch – again, it is hard to notice. It screws in and out very smooth.


The genuine Explorer’s Oysterbracelet consists of 12 links, two of them can be removed to fit smaller wrists (such as mine). The replica’s bracelet however can be adjusted by three parts.

Both are connected with screws that make adjusting pretty easy (just like on any other Oyster).

The replica imitates the bracelet of the modern 114270, as it has a brushed surface, but polished sides. However, it doesn’t have solid end-links, like the gen.

The older 14270, which the rest of the rep is closer to, has hollow end-links like this:


The modern bracelet suits the whole watch a lot better than the old one if you ask me.

The conection to the case is on all versions, no matter if gen or rep, pretty bad. It looks wrong and cheap, for the bracelet is not attached to the bezel in a clean way.


The clasp is a little shorter than the one of a Submariner, because it does not have to hide a diver-extension. It comes with a flip-lock which prevents an unintentional opening. You can also adjust it by small pins. All marks are stamped, and they are stamped pretty well on the replica.

It differs visually a little between gen and rep.



If there is a Rolex with at least some sort of understatement, it will certainly be the Explorer I.

The classic, black glossy dial is timeless and there is no disturbing datemag.

The replica is powered by a swiss ETA 2836, which is pretty damn reliable and could be fixed by every watchmaker around the planet. It has the same beatrate as the genuine movement, 28.800bph and there is no date trouble. If I don’t regard the unworthy endlinks (which are the same on the genuine as well), I have to say that this replica is very well constructed and more than worth a 150 bucks. Compared to the $4k+ you gotta pay for the gen, this is an awesome deal – truly a “superrep”, if you ask me!


It is the perfect daily beater, if you don’t mind it’s rather small size. As Rolex has let this model almost unaltered since its first release, I am quite sure that the mixture out of 14270 and 114270 won’t be noticed by even experienced watch collectors.

I pressure tested mine and it took 5 bar without any modification (I do not guarantee for others though). You can wear an Explorer I perfectly to jeans, as well as to a suit. But honestly, it fits just BEST my girlfriend. I simply cannot tell how good it looks on her.



After my 1665 GW review got a little too much into history of this great watch, I have tried to keep that part more briefly – I apologize to all interested.

I hope you like it anyway. Thanks for reading! :D


Edited by Seadweller4000
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The uncoated sapphire crystal, as can be seen, is set largely outside the bezel on the 14270. You got to be careful for it is actually not protected by the bezel anymore and you could bust out a piece of the crystal easily by knocking against a hard object.

But honestly, it fits just BEST my girlfriend. I simply cannot tell how good it looks on her.

Great review of a cruelly ignored replica.

The 2 points I quoted from you- it is vulnerable. My girlfriend destroyed her Explorer I crystal on my Sinn U1-scraping the AR of the Sinn and it's super hard tegimented bezel- rep 0, gen 1.

I bought the Exp 1 for my girlfriend and it looked great on her slender wrists, far better than it did on my fat ones at least.

All in all a fantastic watch, I'll be buying my girlfriend a genuine so maybe I'll get chance to post my thoughts on a comparison!

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Very nice review.

The Explorer I was the second rep I ever purchased. Got it from EL back in 2004. Don't wear it much, but I doubt I would ever sell it. Plain and simple timepiece.

Over the years I am afraid I have gotten spoiled by some of the beautiful chronos available these days. The Explorer case seems pretty small anymore. Nevertheless a beautiful piece, and a wonderful rep.

Thanks for the great review.


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Thanks for the review, very well done!

The Explorer I is truly one of the best and most priceworthy buys out there, if you can live with the small size. Safe movement and a very versatile watch.

I have an Air-King with the same Explorer style dial. One of my favorites! :) It does also have a small etched crown on the crystal, probably not correct. Otherwise it is a stunning, yet stealthy Rolex.


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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...
I have this watch, and have been curious since purchasing it--

Can a more authentic crystal be purchased and installed, meaning one that would be thicker and stand higher above the bezel?

I seriously doubt it, but if you try and it works, let me know! :D

Superb review.

Thanks for the hard work.

Thanks man!

Also [EDITED] with a wristshot of my girlfriend from our trip to Tunesia last week. B)

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  • 3 months later...
Wow, a lot of nice feedback for an old posting - thanks guys!

It's fun to be here and write all this stuff for the commuity.

And yet again someone who reads an old review :)

Excellent review SD4000 :good: After my initial thoughts about the Expl.I went away instantly when i had a genuine in my hands last summer i knew i wanted one. After reading this great review i know i can easily buy a replica version without doing too many mods :)


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