Today we are focusing on a well-known watch from a mythical Swiss manufacturer, the Rolex Explorer, for which we will offer you some affordable alternatives. Because yeah, at a price tag of $6500, it's not accessible to many...
Released in 1953, the Rolex Explorer was designed for adventurous expeditions with a robust build quality, a 100m water resistance and a comfortable stainless steel bracelet.
It was one of the first watches made for professionals, noticeably mountain climbers that are often exposed to harsh conditions like freezing temperatures well below -30°C. This watch was the first to make it to the top of the Everest.
You will find below some watches that can be considered as affordable alternatives to the Rolex Explorer and are available for sale on eBay.
The automatic watch Alpha Explorer is a very similar looking alternative to the Rolex Explorer. This homage from the Chinese watch manufacturer Alpha is made of 316L stainless steel and is equipped with an automatic Miyota movement that can be seen at work through the transparent case back. The Alpha Explorer is relatively cheap and can be found new at prices around the $110 mark.
For this amount of money, you get a sapphire crystal and a 5ATM water resistance with a screw down crown. The proportions of this watch are pretty reasonable and loyal to the spirit of the Rolex Explorer: the case is 38.5mm wide, 12.5mm thick with a lug to lug length of 43.5mm.
The dial is once again very much inspired by its iconic Swiss model, with a black dial, applied markers, and the classic 3,6 and 9 Arabic numerals. The hands and markers are luminous and provide a high legibility in all situations.
The Oyster style bracelet is also present, and with a width of 20mm it can be easily changed. If you like this legendary design but don't quite have the budget, this could be the Rolex Explorer alternative you're looking for.
The Seiko SARG009 is a Japanese domestic market (JDM) model. Despite its rather large diameter of 40.3mm, it can be considered as a great Rolex Explorer alternative. It definitely carries the essence of what its Swiss counterpart is about while keeping its own identity. The case is 12.4mm thick and it measures 47mm lug to lug. Between the lugs, you will find a classic looking stainless steel bracelet that is 20mm wide.
The Seiko SARG009 has a date function and is powered by a reliable 6R15 automatic movement which can be seen through the case back. The 6R15 is a premium caliber offering 50hours of power reserve that can be usually found in higher-end Seiko models (e.g. Seiko Prospex).
At $500, this is not a cheap timepiece, but it's worth it. The luminescent Arabic hour markers contrast strongly with the black dial, making the face of the SARG009 very easy to read, even in the dark.
The dial and hands are protected by a scratch-resistant domed sapphire crystal. In terms of water resistance, this watch is rated at 100m (10ATM), making it suitable for swimming and exploring under heavy rain. The crown is signed with the S of Seiko, another way to indicate that this watch offers a lot for its price. Whether you're looking for an affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer or simply a great watch to wear outdoors, the Seiko SARG009 is an excellent choice.
The Seiko SARB017 aka Alpinist is a very well made watch. It has gained strong support from watch enthusiasts and is very often mentioned as a legendary watch. The SARB Series was introduced in 2006 and was discontinued in 2018, which made this watch even more desirable, contributing to a rather high price increase (ranging from 20 to 50%) in the last year or so.
The watch features a green dial with gold indices and lumed hands. It is a perfect watch for going outdoors and hiking, but looks very refined too. It even has a solar compass which can prevent you from getting lost - provided you know how to use it.
The Alpinist sports a reliable 6R15 calibre, with a 50h power reserve. We love the comfortable size of the case which has a diameter of 38mm and is 12mm thick. The SARB017 Alpinist really incarnates the spirit of adventure, and can be seen as an affordable Rolex Explorer alternative.
It comes with a brown leather crocodile print strap which is not of great quality, fortunately with the 20mm lug width finding a decent replacement strap is an easy mission. The water resistance of the Alpinist is 20ATM making it a solid companion even in tough conditions. This is a watch purchase that you will definitely not regret!
The Seiko SARB033 ($350 On the used market), also called baby Grand Seiko due to its similarity with its big sister (SBGR001 retailing in the $2k range on the used market). Discontinued in 2018, this watch saw its value increase by up 25% in a few months. This model was only available on the Japanese domestic market (JDM) but is easy to find on eBay. It is still very desirable to this day.
The execution of the black dial is classy and the design is timeless. The watch features a date window at 3 o'clock. The automatic mechanical movement 6R15 - which can be seen through the see-through case back - is the same as the one used in the Seiko Brightz range, priced at the upper $1000 level. The 6R15 movement has a generous 50-hour power reserve. The diameter of this watch is ideal to me, 38mm makes it wearable in all conditions, whether it's while wearing a suit, or going for a walk on a sunny day. The thickness is 11.2mm.
The glass is sapphire crystal, with no anti-reflective coating (probably to keep the cost down). The stainless steel bracelet received some criticism, but for this price, you will get a lot of watch for the money. This watch is a strap monster, I own one and it will fit a big range of straps, you will find me currently wearing it on a honey leather strap from Two-stitch straps. Watch resistance is 100 meters.
If you do not like the black dial, the Seiko SARB035 offers the same package but with an off-white dial. Buying one of those SARB models will be one of your best decisions.
The Everest (PRS 25) from the Smiths brand by Timefactors is an interesting and affordable watch. The Oyster case design, the black dial, and Mercedes hands remind us a lot of the Rolex Explorer, this watch is very simple yet elegant.
For $350, you get a Miyota 9015 automatic movement in a comfortable 40mm wide and 14.5mm thick case. The water resistance is 100m and the glass is acrylic so it can scratch but you can easily polish it.
This timepiece can definitely follow you in the mountains or in the jungle! It is therefore a great and affordable Rolex Explorer alternative.
A new 36mm version (2nd gen.) has a hi-dome sapphire crystal, the bracelet has been improved and is now fitted with an adjustable clasp which has four adjustments to ensure a perfect fit.
The dial has been slightly changed with shorter and thinner hash markers and the “Everest” is now in dark grey instead of black. Although these changes are small, it makes the dial look more balanced.
The lume on this great Rolex Explorer alternative is SuperLuminova C3. The Smiths Everest PRS 25 has quite a few fans and is often out of stock, so you will have no problem reselling it at a good price.
The 556A from the German brand Sinn is a great watch that can be considered as an affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer. Its 316L steel case is 38.5mm wide and 11mm thick and it has a black dial.
The 556A has a 20mm lug width and comes with a high quality stainless steel bracelet. We love those dimensions, it is definitely designed with the same spirit as the Explorer, it is classic and will not go out of fashion. The Sinn 556A is marked "A" for Arabic numbers. There is also the Sinn 556i which has baton indices and a date window at 3 o'clock.
Sinn's inspiration for the design of this watch is the historic Sinn NaBo clocks long manufactured for use in cockpits as a navigational tool. Even today Sinn continues to produce these clocks which are used in both civilian and military aircraft, as well as specialty cars.
The sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating protects the black matte dial which contrasts well with the indices. The indices are not applied but have a generous layer of SuperLuminova lume. The four anchor Arabic numerals on the quarter hours allow for a quick read of the time. The hands also play well against the matte black dial providing excellent contrast: it's one of the reasons this design has worked so well in cockpits around the world.
The Sinn 556A is powered by a reliable ETA 2624-2 equipped with a golden oscillating weight which you can admire through the transparent caseback that is also made of sapphire crystal and A-R coated. In terms of waterproofness this little beast it rated at 200m (20ATM).
The case is entirely brushed, meaning scratches will be less apparent: one more reason for which this is a great everyday watch!
The date window on the Sinn 556A is present at 4 o'clock. We find it remarkably well executed: unlike most 4 o'clock date windows, this one is horizontally displayed. It is very discrete, keeping the visual balance of the dial while still being there when needed. Sinn really did a great job here.
To conclude, the Sinn 556A offers a great mix of performance, durability and classic Sinn design. Although it's not cheap at a price in the range of $1150, this watch definitely has a great personality and can definitely follow you in your next adventure.
The Longines Conquest Classic is a great alternative to the Rolex Explorer or the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra as it has similar traits. Nevertheless, it also has its own identity. Longines is a very reputable Swiss brand with a rich history that provides very high quality watches.
The 40mm diameter case is in stainless steel case and has a classic looking fixed bezel. The movement is Longines Calibre L619/888 providing you with 42 hours of power reserve at 28800 vph. The glass is made of sapphire crystal which is scratch resistant. The watch is water resistant at 50 meters / 165 feet. It has numerals in the same arrangement as the Rolex Explorer and has a date window at 3 o'clock.
The black dial of the L2.7184.108.40.206 is very nice and will remind you of the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Skyfall and Spectre dials. This watch is perfect for every occasion and its quality will not disappoint you!
The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra (AT) is a fantastic watch that is very versatile and is a strong candidate for your one watch collection. It was released in 2003, sporting the first co-axial movement developed by Omega: the Omega 2500.
This first AT model got discontinued in 2010, it was available in 3 sizes:
The lugs on those models are quite long, so the watch wears bigger than its diameter suggests. We find that the 36mm model in black (2504.50) is a great Rolex Explorer alternative.
The dial colors available for this timepiece are:
No matter what the size is, the layout of the dial is the same. You will find a date window at 3 o'clock, along with a shortened hour marker.
The size of this marker will vary depending on the size of the watch: it is a good way to check out what the diameter is when you are looking at the pictures.
As mentioned earlier, the first AT models sport the Omega 2500 co-axial movement, which was first based on an ETA 2892 (before 2003) and Frederique Piguet (after 2003) movement to which a 2 level co-axial escapement was added. This movement is relatively thin, allowing the first AT models to be worn comfortably with a thickness of 11mm.
Omega changed the 2500 caliber 4 times, through revisions A, B, C and D. The revisions A and B beat at 28,800vph whereas at C and D have an oscillation frequency of 25,200vph. The latter frequency is closer to what George Daniels envisaged in his co-axial movement.
The 2500D revision was released in 2011 and is therefore not equipping any Omega AT models since they were discontinued in 2010. The 2500D is however present in Omega Planet Ocean (PO) and DeVille models with serial numbers above 8525XXXX.
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