Article By: Logan Hannen

What is up, watchfam?! Today, we’re taking a look at whether the Rolex Explorer I or Datejust is the better Rolex to buy as your one and only luxury watch.

Now, if you’re familiar with Theo & Harris, you’ll probably already know what our answer to this question is going to be – the Datejust. The thing is, though, we actually have a good handful of reasons for choosing this one over the Explorer.

Let’s add some context here, though. For this situation, we’re looking at the non-watch geeks, those to whom this is at most a fascination, let alone a hobby or passion. For these people, it isn’t about, in our example, which one to buy “first,” but rather which one to buy alone. There is likely not going to be another Rolex, or an Audemars Piguet, or a Lange in their future – this is their luxury watch, the one they break out for weddings and graduations and funerals, and that’s about it. And with all of that in mind, the number one reason for buying a Datejust over an Explorer I is versatility.

Rolex Datejust on a T&H x JR 740 Strap
Source: Anna Griffin

The Datejust is arguably the most versatile Rolex design ever, behind only perhaps the Oyster Perpetual which, in essence, is just a no-date Datejust (holy oxymoron Batman!). On it’s own, the Datejust admittedly looks a bit on the dressier side, especially in a variation that features yellow gold Roman numerals and the iconic fluted bezel. However, all it takes is a strap change to take it from dressy (like the example pictured above) to more casual (like the one pictured below).

Rolex Datejust on a T&H x JR Type I Strap
Source: Anna Griffin

The other thing when it comes to versatility is that you can very easily stick your Datejust on something like, say, a sailcloth strap, and it becomes even more casual. I’m not a fan of the way Datejusts look on NATO straps, but if you are then by all means, go for it.

Now the Explorer I – the Explorer I is a funny watch. It is, by all accounts, a sport watch. It’s the watch that has ascended Mt. Everest, and lived to tell the tale, as well as the watch that was worn by Ian Fleming, the man that is exclusively responsible for the creation of James Bond. It’s an icon. Nobody will dispute that. But here’s the thing I don’t think that it does particularly well…

Rolex Explorer 214270 on Everest Alligator Strap
Source: Everest Bands

To me, the Datejust just does sporty far better than the Explorer I does dressy. Because of those massive Arabic numerals, and because of the lume-filled triangle at the 12 o’clock position and the Mercedes hands, it just doesn’t quite pull off, to me, the look of a watch you could wear to an important occasion. Well, that’s almost true.

Rolex Explorer 1016
Source: Robert Maron

Above, we have the reference 1016 Explorer on what I believe to be an alligator strap. To my eye, this looks significantly better than the chunky, modern update of the watch. It has significantly slimmer numerals, which definitely help the dial look more casual, and because of its smaller case size, coming in at 36 mm, it lends itself to a far more refined, well-balanced watch that ultimately enables you to more easily keep it classy, watchfam.