Ah, the Explorer 1. The original and ultimate adventure watch that has inspired many to climb Mount Everest, discover the Amazon forest, or create their own watch brand in order to create a personalized version of this iconic timepiece. The current reference 124270 is the best modern iteration of the Explorer 1 since it is back to its original 36mm case diameter. However much one can dream of the Explorer 1, it is not attainable for everybody, both from price and availability stand points. So, what options do we have from other luxury and independent brands? This is what we are about to find out in this article.
We will go over a few options going from the most expensive to the least expensive and look at both established and younger brands. In order to offer legitimate alternatives to the 36mm Explorer 1, we will stick here to watches that have a case diameter of around 38mm or less. Otherwise we would not be comparing apples to apples and it wouldn’t be fair since the 36mm Explorer 1’s size is a key element in defining its versatility and adventure-ready nature.
Omega Aqua Terra Mid Size
To start off, I would bring your attention to the Omega Aqua Terra Mid Size Chronometer reference 2504.50.00. Although it is no longer in production, it is possible to find it pre-owned for about $3,500, which is still half of the retail price of an Explorer 1 ref. 124270. Just like the Explorer 1, the Aqua Terra 2504.50.00 is chronometer-certified and has a versatile design and overall great specifications. It comes with 150 meters of water resistance, a date complication, and a stainless steel case and bracelet construction. The combination of the COSC movement and dimensions are perfect for everyday adventurers and more serious ones. Surprisingly, we don’t hear people talk about this model enough.
Perhaps it might feel strange that I picked the Noble and not the Triumph as MONTA’s alternative to the 124270. This is because the Noble is, according to me, more visually versatile than the Triumph, although both are outstanding watches. By its specifications and dial layout, the Noble is closer to the aforementioned Aqua Terra than it is from the Explorer 1. Indeed, the Noble comes with a date complication which the Explorer does not have. From a dimensions standpoint, the Noble has a case of 38.5mm and a thinness of 9.7mm. Retailing for $1,836, the Noble is half the price of the Aqua Terra and therefore a fourth of the price of the Explorer 1.
Further in the independent watch market we will find the Serica 4512. The French brand released its field/exploration type of watch two years ago and sits under the $1,000 price bracket. Like the Rolex Explorer 1, the Serica does not come with a date complication and its case of 37.7mm is closer to that of the Aqua Terra. However it comes with its own charm and a reasonable price tag: $570 which makes it attainable for many watch collectors. Just like MONTA that offers different models that are all very capable, Serica does too, however this article focuses on exploration-type watches which is why I selected the 4512 and not the brand’s diver.
Lorier Falcon III
Last but not least, the newly released Lorier Falcon III is the closest to the Explorer 1 ref. 124270 in terms of dimensions and functionality. Coming in with a case diameter of 36mm, its dimensions are very similar to that of the Rolex. However, it doesn’t have a chronometer movement but it does have some serious Explorer 1016 vintage vibes, the latest being seen as the ultimate explorer’s watch by many collectors. The Falcon III is also the most affordable of the four Explorer 1 alternatives listed in this article as it retails for $499.
There are many other alternatives to the Explorer 1. In this article I listed four watches that I have either experienced in the metal or that I know off well and seem to offer the right specifications and dimensions to give anyone the taste of the Explorer 1 vibe. The latter has become iconic because it flies under the radar, it’s robust, and can be used in any and all situations. It is therefore ultra versatile and could be anyone’s one-watch collection. Finding alternatives is a fun exercise as it forces me to think of the core defining elements that make the Explorer 1 so iconic.
Please suggest other alternatives in the comments below.Featured image: www.chrono24.com