1997 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer
Brand and manufacturer - Rolex, Swiss
- Year - 1997
- Serial # U428949; Model # 14270
- Movement & caliber - 3000 Automatic
- Case diameter - 36 cm
An automatic, stainless steel, Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer reference 14270 model with a glossy black dial with the unmistakable Explorer configuration. It is hard to compare Rolex models in terms of "importance". But, when looking through the Rolex stable of watches, the Explorer is certainly worth including in a conversation as one of the most identifiable and, dare I say it, iconic references. As Ian Flemming, one of a number of notable owners of Rolex Explorers, wrote; "A gentleman’s choice of timepiece says as much about him as does his Saville Row suit.”
The origin story of this watch takes place amongst the equipment of Sir Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzig Norgay's famous journey to the top of Mount Everest in 1953. Another example of Rolex's uncanny ability to market themselves with pioneers, great human achievement, and iconic individuals. That watch was nothing like what began to be rolled out by the Rolex marketing monster, hot off the heels of this monumental human achievement, in 1953. The reference 6350 had a black, "Explorer" printed, waffle dial with the iconic three six and nine demarcation and a thirty six millimeter case. So popular has this watch been over the years that it essentially remained unchanged from the main production model; the reference 1016 launched in 1963, to the precursor to this example, the 14270 introduced in 1989. Of what are regarded as Rolex 'sport' models, this really is the only one to have so few reference numbers over such a long period in the catalog.
So, to this reference: the 14270. This model replaced the 1016 in 1989 and did so by featuring a brand new movement. The watch is powered by the Rolex, Swiss made, thirty one jewel automatic caliber 3000 movements. This is the fourth generation of the Rolex three thousand caliber, and differs from the caliber 3135 by having no date. The movement has a Chronergy escapement as well as optimized and improved gears and lubricants which allows for a better power reserve. Upon launching its new generation 3000 calibers, Rolex stated that 90% of the components have changed from the previous generations. As can be seen on the dial of this watch, it did obtain COSC certification hence the original paperwork and the dial mention the 'official chronometer certification'. It has been so widely impressive across the line that it has remained unchanged for over twenty years now.
This movement is also powering other Rolex watches at this time, such as the other icon – the 14060 no date submariner.
Other design changes to the watch are the introduction of the sapphire crystal, which replaced the less durable acrylic Made circa 1997 with a serial number U428XXX engraved between the lugs. The watch is in superb original condition. It is unpolished, the condition is “worn”, but there are no deep scratches to the case or bracelet. It comes on a very tight, also unpolished, 1997 production (“Z11” code), stainless steel Oyster bracelet, with the improved flip lock deployant that was found on the Submariner models. This was another upgrade that happened to these more recent examples. The watch is also presented with original Rolex punched papers, issued in Taiwan. It is always fun to have the additional stickers and punchings that these Asian issued papers tended to have. A pleasant additional touch.
This watch is really the only sport watch in the Rolex stable that is truly versatile when dressing it. Being a thirty six millimeter case, it can fit neatly under a shirt cuff and suit jacket. The clean black dial has a more refined appearance, and the lack of bezel keeps the profile low and more elegant overall. Concomitantly, it can look great with a white t-shirt and jeans. This early production number comes without the engraved rehaut, which adds a very unnecessary extra detail to a clean design. It is also the “no holes” case, which was another improvement, although some like the exposed lug holes! This is a superb looking, and hard to find complete unpolished example of a model that is increasing in its popularity.