Never a dull moment in the world of watches. Earlier this year, I wrote about the five watches that are cheaper and better than the Rolex Explorer. And by “better” we didn’t mean objectively better. This was obviously intended to be a potentially better choice for you as a watch enthusiast, especially when it comes to the high prices you have to pay for Rolex watches. While we’ve seen a decrease in prices for many Rolex models, including the current Rolex Explorer ref. 124270, this watch continues to be plenty more expensive on Chrono24 than its $7,200 list price. Prices for it start at roughly $8K and quickly work their way up to $10K. At these prices, there are definitely better and cheaper alternatives. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve seen some new releases that could definitely give the current Explorer a run for its money. That’s why we’ve put together this Top 5 list of alternatives to the Rolex Explorer.
1. Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M
The first pick on this list is the same as on the previous one: the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M. But what has changed is that Omega has added a series of new 38-mm models with colorful sunburst dials to its lineup. The regular Aqua Terra models come in 34, 38, and 41 mm, with a dial featuring a “teak” pattern. If you are not a fan of this look, the new dials could be the perfect option for you. They’re made from brass and lacquered, and feature what Omega calls a sun-brushed finish, and are available in blue, green, yellow, red, and light brown. Inside the stainless steel case, you’ll find Omega’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer caliber 8800, which many watch enthusiasts consider superior to Rolex movements. Combined with incredibly comfortable stainless steel bracelets, these watches not only look stunning, they also wear like a charm. At $6,000, the colorful Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra 150M models are perfect for daily outings and a great option if you are after something different from the Rolex Explorer.
2. Tudor Ranger
On to a completely new model that was recently added to the Tudor lineup. The Tudor Ranger is a true explorer’s watch that was introduced to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the British North Greenland Expedition. While this watch has the same dial style as the Rolex Explorer, its overall feel is different. The designed is inspired by the Tudor Oyster Prince from the 1960s, but is bolder and more modern. The watch has a 39-mm stainless steel case and a black dial with a classic 12-3-6-9 dial layout. Inside the case, Tudor equips the Ranger with the COSC-certified caliber MT5402 that boasts 70 hours of power reserve. Furthermore, there’s a selection of bands: a stainless steel bracelet, a hybrid leather and rubber strap, or a colorful NATO-style strap. My recommendation would always be to go for the bracelet and add any straps you want after that. Whatever you decide, this timepiece looks fantastic on the bracelet. And at $3,050, the new Tudor Ranger is a great affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer. Plus, you can actually walk into an AD and get it. It’s an exciting new release from Tudor that solidifies the brand’s position in relation to “The Crown” as the new cool kid on the block.
3. Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-creation
Number 3 on the list is another remake of a classic. The Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-creation is Seiko’s modern version of their classic Laurel Alpinist that has become an industry classic. The modern version retains the handsome and immediately recognizable aesthetics while adding a good dose of modern execution to make this a great affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer. The watch features a neatly-sized 38-mm stainless steel case and the choice of a stainless steel bracelet or leather strap (you know by now what my choice would be). Additionally, Seiko offers the watch with a blue, green, gray, brown, or cream dial. The style of the watch is classic but relevant. Seiko has fitted this timepiece with the automatic 6R35 caliber we see in much of the Prospex line. The Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-creation is priced at just $750, making it a great affordable option alongside the more modern Alpinist models I featured in my previous article.
4. Tudor Black Bay
Another Tudor? You bet! The standard Tudor Black Bay is still a great alternative to the Rolex Explorer. The watch clearly draws inspiration from the Rolex Explorer when it comes to design, which means the Black Bay manages to perfectly capture the spirit of an Explorer without the Rolex price tag. The Tudor Black Bay in stainless steel comes in a number of sizes: 32 mm for women, 36 mm for men or women, and 41 mm for those looking for something bigger. The watch is available with an array of different dial colors, but if you want the best Rolex Explorer alternative, a black dial is the only way to go. It wouldn’t be a modern Tudor if it didn’t come with the characteristic snowflake hour hand and oversized hour markers on the dial. Inside the stainless steel case, Tudor equips the watch with the Tudor T600 caliber, which has a 38-hour power reserve. Prices for the Black Bay on a stainless steel bracelet start at around $3,000 for the 32-mm version and climb to approximately $3,500 for the 36 and 41-mm editions. Tudor also introduced a steel and gold version of the Black Bay that comes in 31, 36, 39, and 41 mm. It’s a great alternative to the two-tone Explorer. But if you plan on doing some proper exploring, the stainless steel version is definitely the way to go.
5. Grand Seiko SLGH017
To close out this list of Rolex Explorer alternatives, I’ve selected another new model. The Grand Seiko SLGH017 is also known as the “Night Birch,” and is the sibling of the popular “White Birch.” These names refer to the dial color and the unique patterns and finish for which Grand Seiko has become so well-known. The SLGH017 is part of the brand-new Evolution 9 collection that sees Grand Seiko introducing modern, stunning case shapes. Furthermore, the collection has seen the introduction of a number of new Grand Seiko movements that are nothing short of impressive. The SLGH017 features a 40-mm titanium case and titanium bracelet, making the watch lighter and therefore easier to wear than the stainless steel Rolex Explorer. And leave it to Grand Seiko to finish the watch to dazzling standards, even in titanium. The watch is powered by the Grand Seiko 9SA5 movement. This modern hi-beat caliber was introduced in 2020 and features an astounding 80 hours of power reserve. The price for this Grand Seiko comes in at $10,400. Although this makes the watch more expensive than the Rolex Explorer (if you can get it at list price), what the Grand Seiko offers is unbeatable in terms of overall quality, movement, and finish.
There you have it, five great alternatives to the current Rolex Explorer ref. 124270. While the Rolex Explorer has a great legacy and is an absolutely iconic watch, its continued unavailability at authorized dealers and higher prices on Chrono24 might cause people to look at other watches. One of these five timepieces could very well be your next pick. Whatever your choice, happy hunting!