When it comes to high-end timepieces, it’s hard to go wrong with a Rolex.
However, the great line of Rolex watches is made up of some of the best timepieces in history, so choosing one can be rather overwhelming.
With that said, today we’ll have a head-to-head comparison of two of the most popular models that Rolex has to offer, the Rolex Explorer and Rolex Datejust. Many people are having some trouble choosing between these two excellent Rolex watches, and that’s understandable. In fact, I have to say that it’s a good problem to have.
I prefer the Datejust. While the Explorer is known for its gorgeous and classic aesthetics and it’s pretty much a timekeeping icon, the Datejust edges it out with versatility, robustness, and state-of-the-art timekeeping features.
However, it’s not as straightforward as it looks because the Explorer can definitely give the Datejust a run for its money.
So, let’s compare and contrast these two high-end watches.
Rolex Explorer Review
Originally introduced in 1953, the Rolex Explorer rose to its iconic status and is deemed a cornerstone piece for the company’s catalog. Although it doesn’t have the bells and whistles or any features that are specifically tailored to one activity or sport, the Explorer remains one the purest sports watch by Rolex.
The Rolex Explorer is designed to handle any conditions the user might face.
For this particular head-to-head, we’re going to tackle the Rolex Explorer 214270 which has received a much-needed update back in 2016.
Let’s get to it!
What can I say? The Explorer is a full-blown classic, design wise.
The 214270, as mentioned, was a completely new Explorer. One of the most notable updates is the size. The new 39mm size is just the right size which just can’t be said with the previous 36mm model. The overall case design and proportions have also received a slight update. So the Explorer now has a beefier appearance which I personally prefer and is in line with Rolex’s current model.
The 2016 release of 214270 Explorer also features a revised dial and set of hands. In my opinion, the dial update is a welcome improvement. Instead of the plain gold markers, the 3, 6, and 9 Arabic numerals are now filled with luminous paint (Chromalight) for a more balanced appearance during low-light situations.
Before the 2016 update, I never like the fact that the dial of the Explorer falls short from touching the numerals and indices. All that negative space is just throwing me off. With the update, the hands were made slightly larger to match the larger case diameter.
For some people, the recognizable black dial of the Explorer can be monochrome and uninteresting. However, I do love the understated style with the depth of quality of this Rolex sports watch. The dial is helpfully legible and with the Chromalight, I can easily tell the time during the ungodly hours.
The Explorer is all about sporty elegance and top-notch quality.
Construction and Wearability
Like with of Rolex models, the Explorer makes use of 904L stainless steel which is why the watch looks different than other steel watches. That goes without saying that the watch is highly resistant to corrosion and can withstand even the harshest conditions – a must for any sports watch.
Also, the Explorer’s bracelet is secured with Rolex’s patented Oysterlock safety folding clasp which I always find to be very intuitive in terms of operation. You just need to do two gentle tugs to open the protective bow and unlock the bracelet. Adjustability is another benefit of the Oysterlock system as you can increase the bracelet length by approximately 5 mm for the best fit.
Whether it’s the cold of winter or the humidity of summer, the Explorer is quintessentially comfortable. For some reason, the watch features a metal that just pain enriches my skin which just can’t be said with most stell watches. No uncomfortable scratches or pokes here.
Under the hood, the Explorer is powered by the self-winding calibre 3132 movement. I’ve always liked this movement not just because of its precision but for its robustness as well. Of course, the watch is COSC certified and that in addition to Rolex’s own Superlative Chronometer certification.
Well, there’s not much to say about Rolex watches’ timekeeping features, except for the company’s superior attention to detail and accuracy. The stringent +2/-2 second a day accuracy is truly the draw here. You can trust that the 3132 movement will keep ticking for years without the need to lift the hood.
The 3132 movement is also equipped with Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers for superior durability and high-precision timekeeping.
Rolex Datejust Review
The Rolex Datejust is most noticeably classy and popular dress watches that the brand has to offer. If you are in the market for a classy watch that will make you look and feel like a boss, then you can’t go wrong with the Datejust.
For the most part, the Datejust is a luxury watch but this doesn’t mean that you can’t wear it to work each day. Many would argue that it’s a perfect watch for everyday use.
For this review, we’re going to talk about the Datejust 41 which is basically the replacement for the Datejust II.
For all its intents and purposes, the Rolex Datejust 41 is a classic and elegant watch.
The Datejust 41 reference 126334 we have is the stainless steel and white gold which is branded as the Rolesor. This Datejust is actually predominately made of stainless steel and the only 18k white gold component is the fluted bezel.
With the 41mm Oyster stainless steel case, the Datejust should sit nice and large on your wrist. It’s easy to think that the larger case diameter will result in a bulkier design but that’s not the case at all. The design still gives off a slim profile, thanks to the slimmer case, thinner bezel, and more tapered lugs.
The white Rolesor Datejust 41 is available in several dials including black, rhodium, blue, and mother of pearl. It’s also available in two bracelets which are the Oyster and the Juliet, the latter being the dressier option. Lastly, you have two options for the bezel, the polished “flat” bezel or a fluted bezel.
Hands down, the most photogenic variant of the new Datejust is the one with blue dial, stick indices, and the Oyster bracelet model. It definitely looks gorgeous and contemporary but still manages to give that classical Rolex vibe. As per usual, the 12 o’clock features the Rolex coronet and at 3 o’clock is the date window.
The Datejust is all about the right proportions which provided the watch a more restrained but still elegant look.
Construction and Wearability
The Oyster case of the new Datejust 41 is waterproof up to 100 meters. Being an Oyster case, the DJ41 is also fitted with a Twinlock double waterproof system.
The iconic middle case is crafted from 904L steel which provides the much-needed elegance and robustness. If you go with the fluted bezel, you will get a watch which is branded the Rolesor. Basically, Rolesor is the combination of gold and steel which is a signature brand since 1933.
The crystal case is made of scratch-proof sapphire. One of the first things you’ll notice is just how svelte the 41mm case which not only makes the watch appear slimmer, it adds a certain degree of comfort as well.
As mentioned the Datejust is available in Oyster or Jubilee bracelet, though the latter is by far the dressier option. Both options are 904L steel bracelets that benefit from new hidden attachment system underneath the bezel. Both are equipped with the Oysterclasp which provides maximum comfort and adjustability.
The Datejust 41 is undoubtedly one of the most comfortable watches I’ve had the please of wearing.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes with the Datejust that went virtually unnoticed is that it’s not powered by the calibre 3235. It’s a new generation movement which is now a forefront in the art of watchmaking.
At this point, Rolex is just flexing its muscles.
The calibre 3235 is a consummate demonstration of Rolex’s state-of-the-art watchmaking technology. The movement features 14 different patents. This results in fundamental benefits to aspects like precision, resistance to impacts and magnetic sources, power reserve, and reliability.
The new patented Chronergy escapement is particularly a standout because it gives the timepiece a high-energy efficiency. It’s also completely resistant to magnetic interference since it’s made from nickel-phosphorus.
The blue Parachrom hairspring that’s fitted to the oscillator has now been optimized with 10x more precision than traditional hairspring, despite of shocks. Precision is still -2/+2 sec/day, and performed after casing. There’s also the Rolex overcoil which guarantees regularity regardless of the position. As expected, the chronometer is COSC certified.
Rolex Explorer VS Datejust Spec Comparison
Below are the direct comparisons of some of the key specifications of the Explorer and Datejust.
214270 Black Luminous
126334 Oystersteel and White Gold
Stainless Steel / 18k White Gold
Rolex Folding Oysterlock Safety Clasp
Rolex Folding Oysterlock Safety Clasp
Scratch Resistant Sapphire
Scratch Resistant Sapphire
Again, this is a tough comparison.
On one hand, we have an iconic timepiece that stood well against the test of time. On the other hand, we have a highly versatile watch that captures the true essence of a Rolex piece.
I always have the penchant for understated timepieces so these two are some of the favorite Rolexes. However, the Datejust comes out on top for its striking wrist presence, superior movement, along with other improvements under the hood.
If budget is an issue or you’re looking to buy your first Rolex, you can’t go wrong with the Explorer. However, if you’re ready to take your collection up a notch, the Datejust 41 should be a worthy addition.
So what do think of this Rolex Explorer vs Datejust comparison review? Which of these two flagship watches do you prefer? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!