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Watch or Accessory Review Rolex Explorer, 36mm

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September 02, 2011 05:30AM
Often described as The Stealth Rolex, this is the one that made this poor man drool over the Rich Man's Watch. I devised a way to purchase it... for 11 months.

Fit & Finish: 10/10
This is one area in which Rolex has earned their reputation. Everything is just perfect. The tension of the spring under the crown, the feel of the crown, the tension of the flip-lock on the bracelet... it is all just perfect. Although this is a rugged watch, Rolex has chosen to finish it more as jewelry and less.... tactical. No anti-reflective coatings, for example. Just high polish about everywhere. It flashes in the light and draws the eye as a result.

Accuracy: 6/10
Maybe it is just mine, but it always ran fast. Faster than COSC allowable spec. of +6. It ran more like +14s. If I put it face-down at night, it would lose a few seconds. So I deduct two points for lack of COSC accuracy, and two points because I expected better at this price point.

Bracelet: 9/10
Simply put, this was the best bracelet I've ever had on a watch. It has solid steel links, solid end links, the slight curve to the links. The clasp is stamped so it matches the pattern of the bracelet. The latching action of the clasp has the perfect tension, both for snapping and releasing. The flip-lock also has the perfect tension. Perhaps the best thing about it is the very fine adjustments available in the clasp. I'm not sure, but it seems like they are in 1/3 link increments. On every other bracelet in my collection, it is either too tight or too loose. When I put them on in the morning, they feel perfect. Then, when I dry out they're flopping all over the place, or they're fused to my wrist. Not this one. I've had it adjusted at just the right place. I like the looks of my Seamaster Pro bracelet better, but the Rolex one feels better. It doesn't pull hair at all. I gave it a 9 only because it shares one trait with every other bracelet: it doesn't allow the skin to breathe much. Maybe mesh bracelets are better in this regard, but I feel like they would pull hair more. The fit of the bracelet between the lugs of the case is fantastic. It is actually so good that it takes some doing to remove the bracelet. First, one has to reach down in the gaps with a very fine tipped spring bar tool. But the fit is so snug that one cannot lift one edge to "hold" that end of the spring bar while one works on the other side. There is just no clearance to twist it between the lugs. It has to be pulled straight back. I only removed and replaced the bracelet once, and somehow scratched the polished part of the back in the process. It took a solid 20 minutes to do, also.

Movement: 9/10

^This photo is courtesy of www.omegarolex.com

There are several features I like about the Rolex 3130 movement. It is handwound and hacking. It has a 42 hour power reserve. Hi-beat, for that smoothly sweeping seconds hand. Capable of top-notch accuracy. (I think mine being off was just a matter of regulation) Breguet overcoil, microstella fine regulating, 31 jewels. A sore point for me toward the beginning was the fact that the winding rotor runs on a jewel instead of a ball bearing, which means it depends on proper lubrication. On the other hand, the winding action is completely silent, and I think this is why Rolex has stuck with the jeweled rotor instead of moving to a ball bearing. One of the things Rolex is often criticized for is not offering a lot of finish on the movement for the amount of money they cost. On the other hand, they don't have display backs, so what is the point? This is a very pragmatic point of view, and uncommon among high-end Swiss watch companies. All the areas that need to be finished well are finished to a high functional level. Other folks have said that Rolex makes the finest mass-produced movements in the world; they don't seem to need much, if any, hand finishing. When I turn the crown backwards, I can hear the ratcheting action, and it sounds like pure precision. When I wind it forward, there is another clicking action, along with the SSSHHHHHH sound. It sounds and feels perfect. So: deduct 1/2 point for lack of finish, and 1/2 point for the winding rotor running on a jewel instead of a bearing.

Crown: 10/10
As with the fit and finish, everything here is just perfect. It has the handsome Rolex crown with the underscore. The serrations are just easy enough to grasp to tighten and loosen the screw-down part. When it is unscrewed, it pops out far enough to make the watch easily wound. When pulled out, it clicks firmly, and the rotational action is well-damped. Even pushing in an out on the crown against its spring, one notices it is the perfect tension: firm, but not so firm as to make it hard to engage the threads. The threads on the case don't seem to always try to getting cross-threaded.

Dial: 9/10
This is the blackest black I've ever seen on a watch dial. The markers and numerals have white gold bordering them that is buffed to a high gloss. I think the black enamel used to paint the dial is also high gloss, but truth be told, I can't tell, on account of the crystal being so reflective. The dial is so black that every little smudge or speck of dust shows up clearly. The lume is very good, but does not last as long as that of my Seamaster Pro. It starts out bright and clear. By the morning, it is barely visible. It is better than my Seiko 100m diver, but not as good as my Seamaster Pro. It all sounds great, so why only a 9? Because Rolex has cluttered it up with a lot of text. The especially superfluous text is very small, but to me, it is the one thing above all else that robs this watch of some class. I would have preferred it to have the crown on the top half (maybe even replacing the triangular marker at 12:00 with a white gold crown) with 'ROLEX' underneath, then EXPLORER above the 6. All the other crap should go on the back, or be absent altogether.

Bezel: 10/10
They did a great job here. It is highly polished, and therefore a real scratch magnet. But it adds a bit of flash to what might otherwise be kind of a dull face.

Crystal: 10/10
It's sapphire crystal, and I like how it stands proud of the bezel. It is as if it is trying to say: "I'm sapphire, and uncoated, and therefore, 99% scratchproof. (watch out for your wife's engagement ring) I don't mind standing way out here."

Case: 10/10
It is exquisitely sculpted, with no apologies for its sharp lug tips. Be careful putting this down on your dresser if you have it on a strap, those tips will gouge the finish. (ask me how I know) On the bracelet, as Rolex intended, it is hardly noticeable, and never abrades the wrist. Rolex has done an excellent job of alternating polished and brushed areas. For example, the flat part of the back is coarsely brushed, so as to allow the wrist to breathe. This watch only sticks to my wrist when it is hot and humid outside, or when I've been sweating. Then, where it angles down it is highly polished, as if to say: "Go ahead and TRY to open me with the wrong tool, and just see what happens. Oops!" These little details are ones that are usually not appreciated by looking at photos online, but a watch aficionado will notice them after wearing the watch for a while. Likewise, the sides of the case are polished, and the top is brushed, where it contrasts with the polished bezel. Nice.

Value: 5/10
Here again is another mixed blessing. On one hand, it does not perform better enough compared to a $500 watch to justify costing 10X more. But on the other side of the coin, even when bought new, the value tends to "catch up" over the years. The best way to get value out of a Rolex watch is either to buy it new and keep it a long time or to buy used. Buying used can be tricky, as Rolexes are often counterfeited. One has to be careful. As an investment, it is good. As a watch, it is just expensive. I liked to think of mine as equivalent to all of my wife's jewelry, since a watch and a wedding band are the only jewelry I wear.

Overall: 9/10
When it comes right down to it, the only thing to really criticize this watch for is price. Either you like the style or you don't. To me, it is not a true sport watch. It has too much polish on the case and crystal. It is more like rugged and versatile jewelry.

If you can afford it and really like the design, buy one. Used offers the best value, if you can confirm it is the genuine article or if you really trust the seller. By buying used, you would likely get your money back if you change your mind later. If you have to stretch to afford it, I recommend one of the fine homages out there and use this review to put the curiosity out of your mind. Or go try one on in an upscale jewelry store. Be careful with that though; that's what roped me in!

Watch or Accessory Review Rolex Explorer, 36mm

Smaug18410September 02, 2011 05:30AM

Administrators please PMWF Museum please! (n/t)

Anonymous User365September 16, 2011 02:02PM

Interesting and (somehat) unusual to see a comprehensive, detailed Watch or Accessory Review after the watch is gone. No offense..

Anonymous User506September 03, 2011 06:19PM

Good points Ricky.

Smaug241September 04, 2011 12:27AM

Nice job on the review! Great Pics! Thumbs up! (n/t)

Timemiser220September 03, 2011 02:49PM

Thumbs up! Thumbs up! Drooling (n/t)

DanB165September 02, 2011 07:57PM

Nice Review on a Classic.......Thumbs up!

MCS247September 02, 2011 03:51PM

Excellent review! Very good read! SmileThumbs up! (n/t)

Need_Omega229September 02, 2011 03:06PM

Great and detailed review!

Dre204September 02, 2011 03:00PM

Bye bye Explorer! I am crying (n/t)

cmoy487September 02, 2011 01:23PM

I am very respectfull of Rolex watches but not really a huge fan....

Paul J Costa478September 02, 2011 11:58AM

No argument about the Explorer.... Jpeg Attachments

Flasharry555September 02, 2011 03:12PM

Thumbs up!Smile (n/t)

IF203September 02, 2011 10:32AM

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