And we are back with another Watches & Wonders 2023 prediction article. This time we’re going to turn to one of my favorite looking watches, the Explorer 1 in 36mm. In a previous article, I speculated that we could see a white dial Tudor Black Bay Pro given that Rolex has a polar dial Explorer 2 and that Tudor tends to follow in the footsteps of Rolex. Although I can only do predictions and that I could be very wrong, in this article we’ll explore the three reasons why we could see a white dial Explorer 1 appear in the Rolex boutiques in the next few months or the next year.
The Ancestors of the Explorer 1 Had White Dials
Well, the dials were actually more cream than white but they were definitely not black. Here I am referring to the famous Oyster Perpetual worn by Sir Edmund Hillary when he ascended Mount Everest. Although the first Rolex to bear the name “Explorer” had a black dial, its ancestor had a cream dial with silver applied indices and Dauphine hands. This combination of colors and design had an unparalleled elegance for what was a sturdy exploration watch. Although nowadays we tend to assimilate white and cream dials with dressier timepieces, I believe that they would look as good in 2023 as they would in 1953.
Vintage Inspired Watches Are Everywhere
Just like Tiffany Blue dials were the trend two years ago or that Swiss and Japanese brands are back to offering smaller watches, one trend that has been prevalent in the past few years is that of recreating historical references. Whether it be Longines, Tissot, or Mido, many Swiss brands decided to open the dusty pages of their 1950s catalogs and to re-create—almost 1:1—copies of old references. (With modern technology, of course.) And the sub-trend within that trend is to now go further back in time to the 1920s and 1930s.
So, what does this mean for Rolex and the Explorer 1? Well, Rolex is not a brand that re-issues historical references, but it does like to offer not-seen-in-a-long time or never-seen-before dial colors and patterns. In order to fulfill my prediction, the team of designers at Rolex would have to think a little outside the box than they normally do, and do something that they have never done before. But I believe in them!
We Didn’t Expect a Two-Tone Explorer 1
The third reason why I would argue in favor of a white dial explorer is the fact that we didn’t expect a dual-tone Explorer 1 last year. And this in itself supports the argument I’ve made just above: Rolex, for once, surprised us with something that nobody expected to see and that actually never existed before. Looking at the entire genealogy of the Explorer 1, I believe that Rolex never released a two-tone version of the Explorer 1, so why not a white dial Explorer 1? And, I would add that the first Explorer 2 also came with a black dial and Rolex later introduced a white dial variant.
There is definitely a precedent here coming from Rolex.
How Would A White Dial Explorer 1 Look Like?
Let’s get a little deeper here and think about a few key design details the Explorer 1 with a white dial could have. First, naturally, a white dial that would be lacquered and come with a subtle sheen, like the black dial Explorer 1 does. Second, the surrounds on the applied markers (including the Arabic numerals) would be black, *a la* modern Explorer 2. Furthermore, Rolex could even go to the length of adding a touch of color to contrast with the white dial, for example an orange seconds hand or a different colored lume. The latter could be cream or have an elegant fauxtina look.
The rendering below doesn’t get into the details I listed above, but I think you get the gist!
Will we see a white dial Explorer 1 in 2023? Maybe, maybe not. The jury is still out for another few weeks and I cannot wait to see if Rolex will pull this off. While I don’t see Rolex as being the most daring brand, I do believe that it has the potential to surprise us. First, it re-released the Explorer 1 in 36mm which was one of the best decisions the brand has made in the past two decades. (And it really surprised a lot of Rolex collectors.) It also offered a dual-tone version, nice. And then Tudor came up with a brand new model, the Black Bay Pro which looked like a 1970s Explorer 2. Well, at this point we can only wait and see.
What are your thoughts on a 36mm Explorer 1 with a white dial? Please leave your comments below.