For the first time, A WATCH BORN TO EXPLORE Exhibition will take place in Malaysia exclusively in the Centre Court of the prestigious Pavilion Kuala Lumpur from 6 to 14 August. Discover the extraordinary story behind the development of the Oyster Perpetual Explorer and Explorer II watches that evolved from Rolex’s involvement in some of the greatest adventures in exploration of the past century.
A Living Laboratory
The story of the Explorer is deeply bound with the history of Rolex. From the 1930s, the Swiss watchmaker began to test its watches in real-life conditions – using the world as a “living laboratory”. More than a dozen high-altitude expeditions and some of the world’s greatest explorers were equipped with Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches as they ventured to the most hostile terrain on Earth. In return, the brand received valuable feedback on the performance of its timepieces in extreme conditions. This was used to develop precise, reliable tool watches.
The successful ascent of Mount Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953 was hailed around the globe. Rolex played its part by equipping the expedition with Oyster Perpetual watches. The same year, following the mountaineers’ achievement, the Explorer was released. Its creation had been years in the making. As early as the 1930s, Rolex had begun to equip expeditions to the Himalayas in a bid to observe how its watches would behave in the extreme conditions at high altitude. After every trip, the climbers gave feedback on how the watches had performed, which enabled the brand to make improvements for future models. Just as a watch’s movement is propelled by the motions of the wearer, so watchmaking techniques advanced thanks to the explorers’ experiences, and Rolex timepieces have gone on to accompany many more voyages of discovery to the remotest areas of our planet.
Designed for Explorers
Special features have made the Oyster Perpetual Explorer particularly attuned to the needs of explorers. It was created to tell time accurately, whatever the circumstances. Not only is the watch robust, it has simple, contrasting aesthetics that aid legibility. As it evolved over the years, the Explorer has remained faithful to its heritage and unique identity, while encompassing Rolex’s technological innovations, such as the inclusion of Paraflex shock absorbers to enhance robustness and durability.
The Explorer features a 36 mm Oyster case – in 2021, it returned to the size of the original model, after having been increased to 39 mm in 2010. The Chromalight hour markers are filled with a luminescent material emitting a long-lasting blue glow that offers excellent legibility in any situation, while the emblematic 3, 6 and 9 numerals stand out in contrast on the sleek dial.
The Explorer II, first released in 1971, joined the collection with the same adventurous spirit. The watch allows the wearer to clearly distinguish between daytime from night-time hours, thanks to the 24-hour display by means of an additional hand and an engraved fixed bezel. On expeditions, the Explorer II, which is equipped with calibre 3285, can also be used to display the time in two time zones.
The self-winding mechanical movement exemplifies the qualities inherent in all Rolex watches: reliability, precision, and ease of use. Designed for extremes, the Explorer and Explorer II watches have evolved from the relationship between Rolex and exploration.
From Discovery to Preservation
As the 21st century unfolds, Rolex has shifted from championing exploration for the sake of discovery to preserving the planet. This commitment was reinforced by the launch of the Perpetual Planet initiative in 2019, which supports individuals and organizations using science to understand the world’s environmental challenges and devise solutions that aim to restore balance to our ecosystems.
Visit A WATCH BORN TO EXPLORE Exhibition at Centre Court, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur from 6 to 14 August. Track the evolution of the Explorer and Explorer II collections through the years, and witness how it came to be the watch of choice for speleologists, volcanologists, and explorers in every corner of the globe.