It’s a question that’s probably crossed the mind of anyone seriously considering their first Rolex. How do we know? Because it’s crossed our minds too.
Besides being choice models to pop your Rollie cherry, both the Submariner and Explorer actually share many similarities. In fact, while going through the specs of each, we had to constantly ensure we weren’t confusing the two. But make no mistake—they are thoroughly unique creations. Here’s a quick look at each:
First off, the Submariner (above) is a diving watch meant for the ocean depths. This explains its water-proofness up to 300m plus a screw-down crown that has a Triplock triple waterproofness system. It also features a uni-directional rotating bezel so you can accurately set your dive times. A Rolex Glidelock extension system (below) allows you to adjust the bracelet in 2mm increments (up to 20mm in total) to fit comfortably over a dry/wetsuit.
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While the Submariner goes into the deep, the Explorer (below) was built to scale mountain peaks, following Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful ascent of Mount Everest with their Oyster Perpetual timepieces.
Since it wasn’t made for deep-sea diving, the watch is waterproof up to 100m, unlike the Submariner’s 300m. This means you can still go swimming with it and do practically everything in your daily life with it. Just no expeditions to the Titanic wreckage, please.
Now that we’ve sorted out the basics, let's look inside the watches. The Submariner here uses Calibre 3130 which is basically the same as the very reliable workhorse Calibre 3135, except it doesn’t have the date function. The previous Explorer also ran on Calibre 3130 but the new version here uses Calibre 3132, which includes the high-performance Paraflex shock absorbers. Both the Submariner and Explorer are certified Superlative Chronometers with a power reserve of 48 hours and feature the proprietary paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring.
When it comes to aesthetics, the basic models look similar with their stainless steel case, bracelet and black dial. However, the Submariner has a sportier feel, thanks to its uni-directional rotating bezel and slightly larger case (40mm to the Explorer’s 39mm). On the other hand, the Explorer, with its baton indexes and fixed stainless steel bezel, looks more versatile—you can take it hiking but also to a black tie gala.
Now for many of us, this is what it really comes down to, isn’t it? For a sports model, you can expect the Submariner to cost more than an Explorer but at about $10,000 for a basic model, it may be slightly out of reach for the average executive. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the most popular Rolex models around and stocks fly off the shelves as fast as Republicans ditch Donald Trump.
On the other hand, the Explorer’s $8,770 price tag is a little more manageable for an entry-level piece. Since both the Submariner and Explorer are comparable in terms of movement, the Explorer scores on versatility, value, and the sheer fact that it’s not going to be lost in the sea of Submariners out there.
At the end of the day, if this is your first Rolex, get the Explorer. But if you’re looking to expand your collection, a Submariner is an iconic piece you’d want to add to it.