Rolex Predictions 2024: White Dial 'Polar' Explorer I

Rolex Predictions 2024: White Dial 'Polar' Explorer I

Here we are again, folks. It’s nice to see you. Seemingly every year approaching Watches & Wonders (and formerly Baselworld), the prospect of a white dial Rolex Explorer I captures the minds of enthusiasts, leading to a slew of predictions. Obviously, we have yet to see such a release. With years of ‘Polar’ Explorer I speculation and no watch to show for it, why would 2024 be an exception? Before addressing the primary reason why this year might be different, I’d like to highlight why exactly Rolex would do such a thing.

Why Would Rolex Make a White Dial Rolex Explorer I?

Everest Rolex pre-Explorer

Image Source: Hodinkee

Beyond aesthetics and enthusiast demand (which shouldn’t be discounted), one concrete reason for Rolex to produce a white dial Explorer I has to do with the model’s history. The watch that accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary on the first-ever summit of Mt. Everest – the “pre-Explorer” ref. 6352 – has a white dial. Although most people couldn’t care less about Rolex’s involvement in this summit (myself included), Rolex certainly does. If you visit the Explorer I’s product page, your browser will trudge through an onslaught of large images depicting Sir Edmund Hillary’s summit, Mt. Everest, and all things related. This story is integral to the Explorer's identity. While Rolex would never do a 1:1 reissue of the ref. 6352 – with its triangular indices, chapter ring dial, circular 12 o’clock lume plot, etc – a white dial Explorer would be a subtle nod to the model’s roots without sacrificing mass appeal. 

That said, Rolex knows better than I that the pre-Explorer has a white dial, and they have for more than 70 years. If we haven’t seen a “Polar” Explorer I thus far, why would we see one in 2024?

Rolex Finally Made Up Its Mind On The Explorer I

Explorer 36 vs 40

Since the Rolex Explorer’s 1954 release, the model has maintained its diameter of 36mm. That is, until 2010, (the midst of the large watch era) when Rolex upped the Explorer’s size to 39mm. This size lived on for 11 years until Rolex reverted the Explorer to 36mm. Finally, in 2023, Rolex settled on offering the Explorer in two sizes: a historically-accurate 36mm and a larger 40mm. With the Explorer's case dimensions out of flux, the model feels, for lack of a better term, resolved. With sizing squared away, Rolex has more leeway to experiment with their mostly-untouched Explorer silhouette. Just look at last year’s two-tone Explorer 36: the last release anyone expected from The Crown.

Final Thoughts

With years and years of unfulfilled speculation, a ‘Polar’ Rolex Explorer I feels more out-of-reach than it might actually be. Not only would this watch serve the history of the Explorer's design, it would serve the new era of Explorer, existing in a broad collection of sizes, dial colors, and materials. While your guess is as good as mine regarding the likelihood of this release, I certainly think we could see a white-dial Explorer I at Watches and Wonders 2024. Like last year’s two-tone model, I expect this variation to roll out in just one size. Knowing Rolex and their propensity to give enthusiasts a watch one degree removed from what they actually want, I predict that, if we see a white-dial Explorer I this year, it will come in 40mm. 

Header Image Source: Monochrome Watches

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