Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Explorer II: Childhood Sweetheart Rediscovered

There’s been a lot of controversy over the direction Rolex have taken chubbing up their new case. It’ll suit some and change always taps up new markets (cf. JLC Compressor success). I recently had a chance to size up the now old-news new GMT IIc and was less struck by the podgy case so much as the awful pumped up maxi dial and hands. If Rolex wanted their new face to resemble a Prospex diver, well, then they succeeded. In doing so I think they lost their audience of fans of versatility. I don’t believe these developments allow the new versions to subtly slide under a suit cuff or dinner jacket physically or aesthetically like their forebears.

This year they have pursued the relentless rollout further by going all Kate Winslett on the Submariner in steel. Time is running out; the last of one of the great original tool watches will surely be gone soon. Long missing from the website, or e-brochure, the completely McQuool no date variant is still around co-selling alongside the inexplicably different date version. In a world of reissues at every turn, with the old school bracelet rattle and embarrassingly ill fitting quirky bent steel vintage end pieces, it’s actually pretty much the original Sub' still on sale; like finding a NOS piece in a closeout jeweller.

The only other example like this I can think of is the ‘proper’ Speedmaster Professional but even that has a modern bracelet now. Anyhow, what struck me when I was in the shop was the subtle aesthetic still afforded by my childhood sweetheart - the current Explorer 2*. The combination of the thinner bezel sunk below the crystal in side view and making it brushed silver achieves a more complex 3d effect while keeping the subdued versatility of restrained hour markers and slim case. SEL bracelet, bang up to date Parachrom movement and subtle Rolex rehaut engraving complete the perfect sleeper in the range. Perfect old case, latest internals and the best looking 40mm sports watch Rolex still makes.

*a leaked video has already shown a new orange hand version with maxi dial and hands that was ready for 2010 but delayed coming 2011 to coincide with its 40th anniversary.


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