The Rolex Explorer Welcomes New 40mm Case

Just a few short years ago, Rolex surprised all of us by returning the Explorer to its 36mm roots, after a relatively short stint at 39mm. I discuss that move and the watch itself at length in this review of the ever charming 124270. While many lamented the change, there is certainly no shortage of larger sport watches across the Rolex catalog to choose from. This year, Rolex again returns to the Explorer, adding an entirely new size option to live alongside the 36mm case, offering something for everyone with a new Explorer 40 reference 224270. They’ve managed to fix some of the odd proportion issues that plagued the old 39mm 214270 in the process. 

The new Rolex Explorer 40 at left, existing 36 at right.

The Explorer 40 was was one of many new releases from Rolex this year, and largely fell into quiet territory alongside blockbusters like a new Daytona, a titanium Yacht-Master, an entirely new formal range called Perpetual 1908, and a pair of unusually colorful watches in the OP and Day-Date range. But, for fans of the Explorer missing a larger option, this was a momentous release worth celebrating. This simple, perhaps iconic even, Rolex dial is now more accessible to more wrists than ever, and more options are always a good thing in my book.


The Explorer 40 is exactly what it sounds like, a slightly scaled up Explorer with the same dial and case design as the 36. Most importantly, the scale and proportions of the 3, 6, and 9 Arabic numerals, as well as the block hour markers, feels harmonious with the new scale of the dial , averting the ‘dinner-plate’-esque nature of the 39mm reference. What’s more, they seem to have nailed down the scale of the hour and minute hand on the first go this time. Each of these elements receive a healthy amount of Chromalight lume, also on the first go. 

The case certainly feels larger than the 36mm on the wrist, obviously, but it doesn’t feel much if at all bigger than the older 39mm reference from memory. We’ve made a note to bring a set of calipers next year, but I’d be surprised if this case measures a true 40mm in diameter. 

Within the newest Explorer resides the same 3230 automatic movement that we got in the 36mm example, with around 70 hours of reserve and a superlative -2/+2 seconds per day of accuracy (fwiw, my 124270 still keeps time well within this range). No official word from Rolex regarding the waning amplitude issues with the 32xx movements but it’s something we’re keeping an eye on. 

The new Explorer 40 in Oystersteel will be available (to what extent we’re not sure) later this year at the price of $7,700. Rolex.

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Blake is a Wisconsin native who’s spent his professional life covering the people, products, and brands that make the watch world a little more interesting. Blake enjoys the practical elements that watches bring to everyday life, from modern Seiko to vintage Rolex. He is an avid writer and photographer with a penchant for cars, non-fiction literature, and home-built mechanical keyboards.