Let’s face it. Watches are jewelry. And I love my jewelry that happens to tell time and have a rich story that is rooted in functionality.
Tool watches are rarely used as tools these days. So when the announcement of a two-tone version of a newly downsized 36mm (back to the original) Rolex Explorer I was announced at the 2021 Watches & Wonder show, it was not unexpected that the watch collecting internet commenters decried it as “a horror.”
Photo by Rolex
But black and gold has always been a winning combo. I mean even as an Eagles fan, I’ll admit that Saints have the best looking uniform in the NFL. I love two-tone Datejusts with a black dial, as opposed to the champagne dial. For me the classic Explorer I was a bit boring, but nevertheless handsome. As I’ve written about, for a sober black dial Rolex, I prefer the Submariner for visual interest.
The new black and gold Explorer I is a nice time-only sport watch at 36mm, which, for me, is a major win. The steel and gold Tudor Black Bay 36 is also a solid alternative if you like the look. Time-only is what I happen to love. No worrying about setting the date and super clean dial layout is, again, great for an attractive piece of jewelry.
I also like it because this new version disrupts convention. Hodinkee writer Jon Bues, whose has gone on the record for his love of two-tone, because he penned a piece defending the new two-tone Explorer I, wrote: “On the dial, all of the applied markers are surrounded in yellow gold (where normally you'd find white gold), and hands, too, glimmer with yellow-gold goodness. It's hot! No one's forcing us to buy this stuff, and it's wonderful to see the Explorer now available to a broader range of tastes.”
Photo by Rolex
It’s those small details, the yellow gold outlines on the markers that have the wearer of this watch ready feel like a boss. Most of the world will have no idea that the Explorer I is rooted in mountaineering. Casual observers will probably say or think “nice watch, looks upscale.”
The two-tone versions of the Submariner, GMT-Master and Sea-Dweller all have a look that makes them stand-out in a crowd of all-steel sport watches. The two-tone guy (or gal) may project a little bit of a sleazy side, but that just adds to the intrigue.
Another criticism of two-tone is that it looks like you couldn’t afford an all-gold watch. Well, let me tell you, two-tone is an advantage. You can wear a gold or silver ring and your belt buckle could be silver or brass. The two-tone watch is the ultimate one watch for all occasions.Shop our straps for the Explorer I here.