9 Best Affordable Alternatives to Rolex Explorer [Best Rolex Explorer Alternatives]

Best Affordable Alternatives to Rolex Explorer

9 Best Affordable Alternatives to Rolex Explorer [Best Rolex Explorer Alternatives]

The Rolex Explorer is one of the most iconic timepieces in the world. Originally launched in 1953, it was originally built for exploration and to function in extreme conditions, hence its name. The Rolex Explorer was early on able to prove its robustness and performance in extreme conditions when it was brought to the first-ever successful Mount Everest climb.

The Rolex Explorer is all about performance and durability, with a focus on legibility, durability, and the ability to withstand harsh conditions. In other words, it is the ultimate watch for explorers. Over the decades, the Explorer has gained huge popularity amongst all kinds of different users. Like all Rolex watches, it has been upgraded, refined, and improved over the decades. Whilst the current Explorer looks very similar to the original (not to mention since 2021 when Rolex changed the case size from 39mm to 36mm to make it closer to the original (which was also 36mm).

Background and history of Rolex Explorer

With its relatively simple and sporty design, the Rolex Explorer is a versatile timepiece that works great for essentially any occasion. Whilst it can stand up to the most demanding situations, it also makes for an excellent daily watch. Even if most owners today do not come anywhere near the extreme situations that an ascent to Mount Everest involves, it is also popular as a durable tool watch for adventurers, explorers, mountaineers, and those who truly use their watches for what they were built for. 

The fact that the watch looks more or less the same as it did when it was launched just proves that it is a truly timeless design that will never go out of style.

The first Explorer was based on the Oyster Perpetual, meaning an overall very simple and sleek design. But to make it suitable for exploring, Rolex did a number of tweaks to its design – perhaps most distinct is the 3, 6, 9 markers on the dial which are meant to improve the legibility. By now, the 3, 6, 9 markers have become a distinct and iconic element of the Rolex Explorer.

Whilst the Rolex Explorer is a wildly popular watch that is appreciated by many, it is a luxury item, meaning it has a price tag that reflects that. The cheapest Rolex Explorer watches come in at about 7000 USD and upwards. Naturally, most people are not willing to spend thousands and thousands on a watch but the good news is that there are many affordable alternatives to the Rolex Explorer that you can discover. But before we dig into the list of affordable Explorer alternatives, we need to define a few criteria for our picks.

Some of the most iconic and distinct features of the Explorer can be found below. The watches in this list will meet some of these criteria but not all. The most important part is that they have a similar design but also follow the ethos and thought behind it, meaning having a robust and durable build quality that is meant to handle harsh conditions and of course exploration out in the field.

  • 3, 6, 9 markers on the dial (or Arabic numerals around the dial)
  • A robust and durable construction meant to handle extreme conditions
  • Excellent legibility
  • Great lume
  • Automatic movement
  • Stainless steel bracelet
  • Versatile design that works well on many different occasions

We have focused on timepieces that have a design that reminds of the Rolex Explorer and looks similar to it in one way or another.  

Do note, this article features alternatives to the 39 mm Explorer and not Explorer II. Since the Explorer II is so distinct but most importantly includes functions that tend to increase the price quite a bit, we have 

Since Homage watches split opinions, we won’t be focusing on these in this article (although we have included one). But if you don’t mind homage watches and want a watch that looks more or less identical to the original, this is something you can explore.

Without further ado, let’s look closer at our top picks for the best affordable Rolex Explorer alternatives.

Best affordable alternatives to Rolex Explorer

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Longines Conquest Automatic L3.777.4.58.6

First up on this list, we have the Longines Conquest L3.777.4.58.6. This watch is based on the highly popular and iconic Hydroconquest which is a tough and robust dive watch. The Conquest, on the other hand, has been revised to not be a full-on dive watch, but instead to be more versatile. At the same time, it hasn’t lost its sporty nature which makes it a great Rolex Explorer alternative.

In terms of design, there are a lot of similarities. It is presented with a 41mm stainless steel case with a smooth polished bezel and crown guards which protect the crown. The case design is clean and versatile and it is presented on a sporty stainless steel bracelet. On top of the case sits a sapphire crystal. 

The water resistance is an aspect that impresses at 300m/1000 feet which is dive watch performance, and actually better than what the Explorer offers. Powering this watch is a Swiss automatic movement.

The dial is black and has applied rectangular hour markers filled with luminescence for excellent legibility. The hands also help with this. Positioned at 3 o’clock, it has a date window which can be useful for everyday wear. Perhaps the most important part, at least from this article’s point of view, is that it has Arabic numerals for the 12 and 6-hour markers. Whilst it is not a 3, 6, 9 like the Explorer, it does help make it more similar.

Overall, this is a great versatile watch that works for virtually any occasion, but also has a design and performance that makes it suitable for extreme conditions as well. The legibility, water-resistance, and overall durability of this timepiece make it a perfect alternative to the Rolex Explorer.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 41mm
  • Thickness: 11.5mm
  • Crystal: sapphire
  • Movement: Swiss automatic
  • Water-resistance: 300m/1000 feet

Seiko 5 SNKE63J1 Automatic

Next up, we have the Seiko 5 SNKE63J1 which is another great affordable alternative that shares several design elements with the Rolex Explorer. It also has a great relation between price and quality, making it a great value proposition.

The watch features a stainless steel case with a diameter of 39mm (just like the predecessor Explorer, reference 214270 which was discontinued in 2021). The watch has a smooth polished bezel and the crown is positioned at Seiko’s signature 4 o’clock position. It is also presented on a stainless steel three-link bracelet which adds to its versatility and sportiness. On top of the case sits a mineral crystal.

Like all Seiko 5 watches, it is powered by an automatic movement. There are not a whole lot of automatic watches in this price range that are as well-built as this one, with a movement that has proven to be robust and long-lasting, so that is a great bonus. Also, the movement can be viewed through the see-through case back.

The dial follows a similar design theme as the Explorer with applied hour markers filled with luminescence for excellent legibility. But instead of having 3, 6, 9 Arabic markers, this one has Arabic numerals at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock. At 3 o’clock, it also has a day and date window which helps make it more useful.

The only downside I can say about this watch is that the water resistance is only 30m/100 feet which isn’t the best. But to be honest, at this price point, I cannot complain.

Overall, this is just a great affordable option that has a versatile design that leans towards sportiness, making it suitable for more demanding situations, but also great for everyday wear.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 39mm
  • Thickness: 11mm
  • Movement: automatic
  • Water-resistance: 30m/100 feet
  • Crystal: mineral

Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision Watch

If you want a seriously tough watch that is built for performance and to handle the most extreme conditions, the Victorinox Swiss Army Night Vision watch is a great choice. This watch does not look exactly like the Explorer, but it shares the same ethos of functionality, and it also has some design elements that remind of the iconic Rolex watch.

First off, it is presented with a stainless steel case with a diameter of 42mm and a crown guard which protects the crown. Overall, the case has a sporty and robust case design that is meant to withstand tough situations. On top of the case, it also has a sapphire crystal.

The watch is powered by a quartz movement, and whilst that is not everyone’s cup of tea, there is a good reason for that. In fact, it is equipped with an ingenious LED lighting system that includes six lighting functions and is activated by the push of a button to make it possible to read the time in any condition. With that said, you can see how this watch is all about functionality, just like it is supposed to be.

The dial of this watch is black and has great luminescence in addition to the light function. It also has Arabic numerals for the 3, 9, and 12 o’clock markers as a nod to the Explorer. For convenience’s sake, it also has a date window at 3 o’clock.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Water-resistance: 50m/165 feet
  • Movement: quartz
  • Crystal: triple-coated anti-reflective sapphire

Invicta 9400 Pro Diver Collection G.M.T.

This is the first and only homage watch on this list, and it also happens to be the only alternative to the Rolex Explorer II as well.

As you can see, the Invicta Pro Diver GMT 9400 has a design that looks essentially identical to the Rolex Explorer reference 16570. It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 39.5mm and 24-hour markings on the bezel, just like the Explorer II which works together with the additional GMT hand to allow you to keep track of multiple timezones simultaneously. The dial has applied hour markers filled with luminescence, Rolex’s iconic Mercedes hour hand, as well as a date window at 3 o’clock with a cyclops on top, making it easier to read the date.

In relation to its price, the water resistance is actually quite impressive at 200m/660 feet, especially considering the fact that this is just an explorer’s watch and not really a dive watch. Inside this watch is a Japanese quartz movement.

The Rolex Explorer II is a model that needs no real introduction, and if you’re a big fan of its design and don’t really mind homage watches, then this is a great affordable pick.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 39.5mm
  • Water-resistance: 200m/660 feet
  • Crystal: Mineral glass
  • Movement: Japanese quartz

Tissot T0354461105100

The Tissot T0354461105100 is not a homage watch, nor is it a watch that is very similar to the Explorer in design, however it does share a few overall similarities.

First and foremost, it is equipped with a stainless steel case with a diameter of 39mm which is a versatile size that fits man different wrists and is also the same size as the Explorer 214270. Furthermore, the case has a similar design with a smooth polished bezel and an overall case shape that looks elegant and sophisticated, but also sporty and versatile. It is this perfect balance that makes it so popular but also so useful in all kinds of different situations and occasions.

For added versatility, it is presented on a stainless steel case.

The watch is presented with a black dial but it doesn’t quite have the same focus on legibility. It has applied metal hour markers and skeletonized hands, but the lume isn’t there, so if you need a watch with great legibility, this isn’t the best option. But if you want a versatile watch that you can use every day, it’s definitely a watch to consider.

It is powered by a quartz movement and has a water resistance of 100m/330 feet which is okay (and the same as the Explorer).

Specifications

  • Diameter: 39mm
  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Movement: quartz

Orient ‘Mako II’ Japanese Automatic FAA02001B9

The Orient Mako III is a sporty dive watch with a few design notes and similarities to the Rolex Explorer. Of course, being a sports watch, it certainly ticks the boxes in terms of functionality and durability that an alternative needs to tick.

It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 41mm and crown guards for protecting the crown. On top of the case, it has a mineral crystal. Like all dive watches, it features a unidirectional rotating bezel for measuring elapsed time, rotating with 120 clicks. This is a function that can come in handy even when you are not diving.

One of the key value propositions of this timepiece is that it is powered by an automatic movement, caliber F6922 which not only has proven to be robust and long-lasting but also has a power reserve of 40 hours. Furthermore, the movement has both hand riding and manual winding functions.

Being a dive watch, it has the water-resistance to back it up at 200m/660 feet, meaning you can go swimming and diving without any issues.

All in all, if you’re looking for a tough, sporty, and durable timepiece with a classic design at an affordable price, you simply cannot go wrong with this Orient timepiece.

Specifications

  • Crystal: mineral
  • Diameter: 41mm
  • Power-reserve: 40 hours
  • Movement: automatic caliber F6922

Citizen Eco-Drive Garrison Quartz AW1430-86E

The Citizen Chandler Eco-Drive watch ticks several Rolex Explorer boxes and also share the same ethos of being robust, durable, and of course versatile.

It has a stainless steel case with a diameter of 43mm and is fitted on a three-link Oyster bracelet. The case features crown guards and has a smooth bezel. For added sportiness, the majority of the case and bracelet has a brushed finish.

Inside it is an Eco-Drive quartz movement which gets its energy from ambient and solar light. This is a convenient feature that means you won’t have to replace its batteries. This is also a great feature that can be useful out in the field or when you are exploring.

The dial also ticks several Explorer boxes as it has a black background with applied markers filled with luminescence allowing for great legibility. For the 3, 6, 9, and 12 ’clock markers, we have Arabic numerals, reminding of the signature 3, 6, 9 Arabic numerals.

The water resistance is okay at 100m/330 feet.

Overall, this timepiece finds a nice balance between sportiness and versatility which makes it a great everyday companion that can also handle harsh conditions when you need it to.

Specifications

  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Diameter: 43mm
  • Movement: Eco-Drive quartz

Seiko 5 SNZG15 Automatic

The Seiko 5 SNZG15 is one of the most popular affordable automatic watches due to its extremely affordable price but still great build quality and durability.

Whilst it doesn’t quite tick all of the Rolex Explorer’s boxes, it does share the same ethos and thoughts behind it. This watch is meant as a functional tool watch and is not meant to be just an accessory or fashion statement.

It has a 42mm stainless steel case with a mostly satin finish for a sportier look and a Hardly crystal on top. It is powered by an automatic movement which has proven to be long-lasting, robust, and durable – in other words, perfect for a sporty tool watch. It has no crown guards, like the Explorer.

The dial is black and features large luminous markers as well as Arabic numerals around the dial. For this dial, we find Arabic numerals all the way around and not just for the 3, 6 9 markers, but this does help improve the legibility.

The water-resistance of this timepiece is 100m/330 feet.

If you want a high-quality timepiece at an affordable price and with great durability that can both work for everyday use but also handle harsh conditions, this timepiece is a great choice.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Crystal: Hardlex
  • Movement: Automatic

Seiko SNE329 Sport Solar

Last but not least, we have the Seiko Sport SNE329. This timepiece has a relatively large case with a diameter of 43mm but an overall case design that is meant to be a bit sporty. As such, it is mostly satin finished. For added sportiness, it has a coin-edge bezel. On top of the case sits a Hardlex crystal.

The watch does not have a stainless steel bracelet which would have been nice to add to its sportiness and give it a look that is more similar to the Explorer, but the fabric strap is still nice and will perform well in extreme conditions.

Inside this watch, we find a solar-powered Japanese quartz movement that gets its energy from solar and ambient light. It has a 10-month power reserve when fully charged.

Apart from the sporty nature of this timepiece, the most distinct feature about this timepiece is its beautiful back dial with a sunburst finish, large markers, and most importantly, its oversized Arabic numerals at 3, 6, 0, and 12 o’clock.

The water resistance is 100 meters/330 feet.

All in all, with its larger case size, this watch is most suitable for people with larger wrists and who enjoy large watches. In addition, it does include a number of sporty elements which makes it tough and functional. And as a result, it makes for a great affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer.

Specifications

  • Diameter: 43mm
  • Crystal: Hardlex
  • Movement: Solar-powered quartz
  • Water-resistance: 100m/330 feet
  • Power reserve: 10 months

 

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