The Rolex Explorer has been a steadily popular watch since the 1950s, however, the design and overall look is becoming more and more sought after in recent years. This is due to the fact that the design of the Rolex Explorer has all the hallmarks of a versatile dressy toolwatch: it is not bulky, not flashy, but its history is still rooted in discovery and adventure.
The first Rolex Explorer (more like a prototype to be exact) was provided to British mountaineers in 1952, who climbed to the top of Mount Everest. These Pre-Explorer Rolex watches were 36 mm wide, bigger than the average size of men’s watches that time, which was around 32-33 mm. Therefore the Rolex Explorer made an impactful first appearance, not just with its larger size, but being the first watch to reach the highest point of Earth.
Today, the Rolex Explorer is sought after as its 3-hand simplicity, comfortable and elegant size, and the characteristic 3, 6 and 9 numerals are creating a very classy look that elegantly strikes the balance between a tool watch and a dress watch.
Undoubtedly, acquiring a Rolex Explorer can be quite a challenge. Given its considerable price tag and our profound admiration for the Explorer’s aesthetic, we embarked on a quest to find viable alternatives. We sought out high-quality watches currently available on the market that exude a similar timeless allure.
Without further ado, we present our thoughtfully curated list of the best Rolex Explorer alternatives.
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Rolex Explorer Affordable Alternatives
Vaer A3 Tradition
The VAER A3 is an affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer. VAER watches are assembled in the USA, and they go through rigorous testing. The A3 Tradition blends class-leading durability with a combination of a rugged look and classic elements to display an evergreen design. The 36 mm case width is on the smaller size, therefore it’s a great fit for smaller wrists as well. The classic syringe hour and minute hands give a touch of elegance that can easily be further elevated with a stainless steel bracelet.
Seiko SBDC159 Prospex Alpinist
The Seiko SBDC159 Prospex Alpinist is another crowd favorite. As the dial doesn’t feature the characteristic 3, 6, and 9 Arabic numerals, it might feel a bit more minimalistic at first glance. Instead, we have sharp angled triangle shapes as the hour indices at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions, and the sword hour and minute hands further strengthen this angular look and feel. The dial itself doesn’t feel empty due to the vertically ribbed decorative element that has a deep blue color. A pop of color cruises smoothly around the face of the watch, as the bright orange seconds hand is employed to bring dynamism to the design.
Citizen’s Garrison is playing it safe with no surprising design elements, but overall, they created an attractive watch. The larger Arabic numerals at 2, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock resemble the Explorer look, their addition is the vertically ribbed dial to counterbalance a potentially empty space towards the center of the watch. The case itself is bigger than most watches featured here, the 43 mm width is a better fit for medium to larger wrist sizes. As with most Citizen watches, the Eco-Drive movement needs light to power the watch.
The Victorinox Alliance is exactly what you would expect from a Swiss brand for an everyday watch. A gorgeous, clean looking timepiece, with truly timeless design elements. The black dial and brushed stainless steel is a combination that is hard to beat. The reliable quartz movement is housed in a moderately sized (40 mm) case. An overall great watch.
The Longines Conquest is an excellent option from a Swiss brand with an undeniable heritage in the watch world. This larger (43 mm case width) timepiece is powered by a quartz movement, and they’re using classic evergreen design elements to tie everything together. The pencil hour and minute hands fit really well with the larger 6 and 12 Arabic numerals and the date window is located at the 3 o’clock position. This Longines Conquest is available for around $600, and due to the quartz movement, you can count on a low maintenance, sturdy companion.
The Tudor Ranger was originally introduced in 1969, and it was always a popular Tudor watch but it was never their most popular timepiece. The Ranger was discontinued in 2020, and it was restarted in 2022. The hour hand is referred to as the “shovel hand” is now known as the “Ranger hand”. The Tudor Ranger is making a comeback and we support it! It’s an excellent option for a field watch.
Omega Seamaster Railmaster
A functional yet stylish anti-magnetic watch, the original OMEGA Railmaster was created in 1957 for railroad employees, or anybody else who frequently came into contact with electrical fields. These days, its inventiveness and industrial spirit have been modernized for a contemporary collection.
The “blue denim” dial’s brushed stainless steel hands and recessed hour markers are all filled with light grey Super-LumiNova. The dial is vertically brushed. Additionally, the transferred “Railmaster” signal and beige center seconds hand add a vintage touch.
The Omega Seamaster Railmaster is often overlooked but it’s a wonderful timepiece with a very elegant look.
Nivada Grenchen Super Antarctic
Nivada Grenchen’s Super Antarctic timepiece is closely related to the iconic Nivada Antarctic collection that made its debut in 1950. The original collection gained widespread recognition when it was utilized by members of the American Navy’s Deep Freeze 1 Task Force during their expeditions to the South Pole between 1955 and 1956. Renowned for its reliability and robustness in the harshest of conditions, it proved its mettle time and again.
The present-day Super Antarctic represents an evolution from its predecessor, drawing inspiration from the lines and design elements of the 1950s. Similar to the original Antarctic models, all current Super Antarctics proudly bear the 1957 International Geophysical Medallion on the case-back. This medallion serves as a tribute to the heritage and legacy of the Antarctic collection, creating a direct link between past and present.
Lorier Falcon SIII
Drawing inspiration from the timepieces worn by explorers during the mid-20th century, the Falcon watch embraces both elegant design and durable specifications, making it suitable for any situation. With a 36mm size, it strikes the perfect balance between sophistication and sportiness.
The Lorier Falcon retains its signature honeycomb dial, and the black and silver color combination effortlessly complements a wide range of straps, bracelets, and outfits.
Sinn 556 A RS
The 556 series’ striking shape, minimalist dial layout, and excellent readability are typical SINN characteristics. The watch has a sporty yet stylish appearance. The sapphire crystal used in the 556 watches is also used for the transparent back.