⌚ Last updated September 10, 2019
In this list, I’m gonna share with you my favorite Rolex Explorer alternatives for all budgets.
The Explorer is probably one of the best everyday watches ever made by Rolex. It’s sporty yet elegant – simple yet striking.
But what if you want something more affordable? Or just not a Rolex? Well, here are my favorite alternatives.
The rules are simple: the options below all have
- a dial with any combination of the 12, 3, 6 and 9 hour markers (and only them)
- 3 hands at most
So without further ado, here are my favorite Rolex Explorer alternatives:
- Citizen AW1430-86E
- Orient Mako 2
- Sinn 556A
- Seiko SNE331
- Longines Conquest
- Steinhart Ocean One Vintage
- Seiko SNK393
- Casio Edifice EF-106D
- Tudor Heritage Ranger
- Bell & Ross BR V1-92
- Vostok Amphibia 710640
- Omega Seamaster Railmaster
- Rolex Oyster Perpetual 36
I used to like Citizen watches… I now love them.
With Casio, I think it’s one of the best brands on the market, offering tremendous value for money.
In fact, every Citizen I wore impressed my by their built and finishing, and the features they packed.
And this model is no different:
- it’s sporty yet elegant – the stripes on the dial perfectly counterbalance the racing vibe of the slanted hour markers font
- it’s super practical and always on time – thanks to its Eco-Drive mechanism. the battery on this watch is charged by light, and thus always ticking
- it has a very substantial bracelet – like many other Citizen watches, this one is built to last.
Add a water resistance of 100 m and a date complication, and you have a watch that you can wear at work or when you’re out and about.
Yet, the simple stainless steel case and a black dial don’t draw too much attention.
So if you want a bit more punch, you can always go for the white dial variant (which looks very cool too).
But then again, the Rolex Explorer has a simple black dial… the only difference is this one is A LOT cheaper!
- Great build quality
- Solar powered
- 43 mm is big for small wrists
- Mineral crystal
Maybe you will disqualify this Orient because of its bezel – it’s a dive watch after all, something the Rolex Explorer is not.
But you can’t deny both watches share a few similarities when it comes to the dial.
The Explorer was built to withstand harsh conditions, but this Orient Mako 2 is no joke either:
- you can wear it every day and swim with it – with 200 m of water resistance, there is virtually nothing you can’t do with this watch
- it has an automatic in-house movement – Orient produces their own movements, just like Rolex, only for a fraction of the cost
- it’s sporty yet refined – the picture doesn’t do this watch justice, but it rides the fine line between ruggedness and elegance
The result is a watch with great design, that you can wear from the beach all the way to the board room.
Also, the short lug to lug distance makes it a favorite among men with small wrists.
And yes: the day, date, and diving bezel makes for a busier design.
But the again, the added practicality of having these features is what makes the Orient Mako 2 shine!
- 200 m of water resistance
- Excellent built quality
- Works great on small wrists
- Bezel a bit hard to turn
- Mineral crystal
If you don’t know Sinn, you’re in for a treat!
Let’s first address the elephant in the room: this watch, in its basic configuration, comes in a €960 MSRP.
Sure it’s not your typical affordable price, but it’s not your typical watch either.
Sinn watches are made in Germany, and they have nothing to be ashamed about when compared to Switzerland.
And this Sinn 556A is certainly no exception.
- it has a screw down crown, and 200 m of water resistance – something you almost never get on a pilot watch
- the sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating remains scratch-free and legible
- the ETA 2824-2 movement is easily serviceable
Add the excellent build quality and absolutely stunning design, and you have a stellar watch – only measuring 38.5 mm in diameter.
Because it has such a strong pilot vibe (it is a pure pilot watch after all) it doesn’t look quite like the Rolex Explorer… yet is close at the same time.
A small note: the bracelet is a paying option, but a worthwhile one in my opinion.
So why get a Swiss timepiece when you can have a well-built German one? Seriously, I wonder if there’s a good answer to that question…
- sapphire crystal
- 200 m of water resistance
- made in Germany
- a bit pricey compared to other watches
Seiko is one of those brands capable of manufacturing any type of watch, and nailing it almost every time.
The SNE331 is one of those home runs.
They managed to mix the design cues from a pilot watch and a field watch – and the result is absolutely stunning.
- 100 m of water resistance will get you through anything (besides deep diving)
- it’s solar powered, so it’s always charging, and as such always ready to go – no battery change needed, ever
- the integration of the day and date complication is one of the smartest I’ve seen on a watch
But the real star of the show is the simple, beautiful sunburst black dial.
It doesn’t show much in the picture, but this thing is a real stunner!
And because it’s not utterly rugged, you can wear this watch every day – be it out and about or at the office.
Yet the black case and khaki canvas strap add to the ruggedness, and makes it a great all-rounder to wear all the time.
Now, at 43 mm, it’s clearly on the bigger side and won’t suit smaller wrists. But wrists measuring at least 7 inches will be fine.
Given its sub $100 price point most of the time, there’s really no reason to not give in to this awesome watch!
- great overall value for money
- solar powered
- excellent legibility
- big 43 mm case
- mineral crystal
There are actually a lot more affordable quartz watches available on the market, if that’s something you’re looking for.
If so, discover my favorite quartz watches under $100.
If I could only pic ONE alternative to the Rolex Explorer with a decent price, it would be this Longines Conquest.
Beware! There are many variations of this watch.
Here I’m featuring the 39 mm version but there’s a 43 mm version as well.
I would go with the 39 mm case because it will suit most wrists – and certainly the smaller ones.
Now, this Longines Conquest conveys a bit of the same feeling as the Rolex Explorer, but then again it’s completely different:
- the bold, angular bracelet looks much more rugged
- the simple hands make for a strong design
- the date window departs from the real deal while adding a super useful feature
But if you think it’s all in the looks, think again.
This watch is water resistant up to 300 m (with a screw down crown), and has a sapphire crystal coated with anti-reflective material.
Seriously, I can’t think a single thing this watch wouldn’t be able to handle.
And if you love sportier options even in a business environment, then this Longines Conquest is probably the best of the bunch in this list.
- Sapphire crystal
- 300 m of water resistance
- Screw-down crown
- no micro-adjustment on the bracelet
If you you prefer more vintage pieces, then have a look at this Steinhart Ocean One Vintage!
I know this is a dive watch, so not a proper Rolex Explorer alternative on the paper…
But if you don’t take the bezel into consideration, all of a sudden, you have a pretty close reinterpretation of the Explorer reference 1016!
Yet, even if the design of this watch is a direct throwback to the 60s, there’s nothing vintage about this piece:
- 300 m of water resistance means you’ll be to do anything you want, from washing your hands to deep diving
- the sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating makes this watch legible and will keep it scratch-free
- the ETA 2824-2 is a workhorse movement that is easily serviceable
Now, it’s not a sterile design: the guilt markers and hands, and the red triangle on the bezel give a nice warmth to the watch.
But one of the best things I have to say about Steinhart watches is their build quality – it’s excellent.
You can feel it down to the bracelet and end links. This thing is certainly no joke and is built to last!
If you like vintage the Rolex Explorer but don’t wan’t to blow your bank account, I really think there is no greater alternative than this Steinhart.
- 300 of water resistance
- sapphire crystal
- screw-down crown
- maybe too close to the original Rolex Explorer 1016?
- 42 mm is a bit big for smaller wrists
The Seiko SNK393 is part of the Seiko 5 line.
And like most of them, it’s super underrated… because it seems very few people know about it.
This piece is actually closer to the older Rolex Explorer model, with a case size of only 37 mm. This might seem small – but in real life, it easily suits wrists up to 7.5 inches (which is above average).
Sure, the SNK393 has a bit of an Explorer vibe going on, but with its own flair.
And this piece punches way above its weight:
- the dial features concentric grooves all around that elevate the look of the watch
- the day and date complication is super handy to have (which you don’t get on the Rolex Explorer)
- it’s one of the cheapest automatic watches available today
And that case… it’s the single best case in the whole Seiko 5 line up – if you have a small wrist, you’ll like how well it will hug yours.
Sure, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns.
The bracelet quality is not great, and the 7-link design is a bit dated. And only having 30 m of water resistance means you’ll have to be careful in your daily activities.
But I still think it’s a fun little watch with a lot of character, and one that you will enjoy for years to come.
- only 37 mm in diameter
- one of the only affordable automatic watches in this list
- movement doesn’t hack or hand wind
- only 30 m of water resistance
Okay, it’s wildcard time!
The 3, 6 and 9 hour markers is about the only thing that this funky Casio shares with a Rolex Explorer… yet, it’s still an interesting choice.
- the hands have a very unusual shape, making this piece something completely different
- the blue dial is a refreshing twist on a classic design, while still remaining tasteful
- the date function is a welcome addition (one I use daily on my watches)
The areas where this one really shines is the size and the price tag.
37 mm is about the perfect size for small and medium wrists alike – men with wrists up to 7.5 inches can happily wear it.
And it’s the single most affordable watch in the whole list, coming in at well under $50.
As usual, Casio delivers when it comes to value for money.
The only gripe I have with this watch is the integrated bracelet – you just can’t swap it for a leather or rubber band.
So either you love it… or you’ll have to looking somewhere else.
But if you’re not bothered by it, then it doesn’t get cheaper (and funkier) than this Casio!
- unique design
- super affordable
- 100 m of water resistance
- integrated bracelet
I feel a bit weird featuring a Tudor as an alternative to a Rolex… but there you go.
This watch is fairly new addition to the Tudor catalog – it was released in 2014.
And you can obviously notice the 12-3-6-9 dial, which is kind of a throwback to an older model of the Explorer.
But this is about where the comparison ends.
The unique hour hand, the red seconds hand, the size… this watch clearly is something different.
Plus, you also get:
- a domed sapphire crystal
- a pretty unusual 150 m of water resistance
- an ETA 2824-2 movement
It the grand scheme of things, I think this is the third best luxury alternative to the Rolex Explorer.
(Read on for the first two ones.)
The Tudor brand flies under the radar for the vast majority of people, yet gets a nod from watch enthusiasts.
And this watch is certainly not the first that comes to mind when we think about Tudor either.
Getting this watch is like being part of a special club.
So if you just want something different – with a simple, clean dial – from a luxury brand and without completely breaking the bank, then this Tudor might do the trick just fine.
- screw-down crown
- sapphire crystal
- easily serviceable movement
- on the bigger side at 41 mm
- not the most affordable alternative
When we think of Bell & Ross, we think of big, square watches reminiscent of airplanes cockpits and instruments.
For a reason: this is exactly the inspiration behind the vast majority of the watches this brand makes.
Not with the BR V1-92.
This is a refreshing departure from what we typically see from B&R. And a very elegant one, at that.
You could very well wear this piece casually with a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, or with a shirt at the office.
Given its size, small date window and simple, restrained design, you could even wear this as a dress watch (if you need one only for a few days a year).
But the beautiful dial and hand set is not everything this watch has to offer:
- the smaller 38.5 mm size is perfect for just about every wrist size
- the sapphire crystal stays legible thanks to the anti-reflective coating
- the 100 m of water resistance is perfect for everyday activities and surface swimming
Of all the luxury pieces featured in this list, this one is the most affordable.
But it’s certainly not the cheapest when it comes to design and features – quite the contrary.
And I love how they still integrated a tiny bit of the aviation theme, with a typical sword hour hand you can find on pilot watches.
It’s also available with a blue sunburst dial. But I think the simple matte black dial is the winner.
What’s your pick?
- very legible
- sapphire crystal
- date position a bit awkward
Wait, WHAT? A Vostok Amphibia as a Rolex Explorer alternative. It’s a dive watch, COME ON MAN!
I know… but hear me out.
The goal here is not to propose something close to the real deal, but rather something shares 2% of the design while still being enjoyable.
Let’s agree on this: this watch leaves nobody indifferent.
- the cushion case has short lugs, making for a wearable watch even for small wrists
- it’s still a proper dive watch, with a diving bezel and 200 m of water resistance
- the funky design is a joy to look at
Yes it’s quirky.
And it doesn’t have the best bracelet, plus the crystal is made of acrylic.
But seriously, if you’re having a bad day, just have a look a this watch – it will cheer you up while you save for the real deal…
… and even after. Sure, it couldn’t be further from the Explorer, but this is a cool watch in its own right.
And given the super affordable price point, why resist?
- 200 m of water resistance
- FUNKY design!
- weird date window integration
- acrylic crystal
In 2017, Omega celebrated the 60th anniversary of the release of 3 of the most iconic watches ever made: the Speedmaster, the Seamaster…
And the Railmaster.
The Railmaster doesn’t get much press or love from the watch community.
Not because it’s a bad or ugly watch, but just because the other ones take so much of the spotlight.
The design of this Anniversary Edition works better than the regular 40 mm model, in my opinion.
With its simple minute track, big hour hand and more contained 38 mm size, I think it’s a more interesting everyday watch.
And between the two, this one makes the biggest departure from the Rolex Explorer, too.
The original Railmaster was built to resist magnetic fields of up to 1,000 Gauss. This one? Up to 15,000 Gauss – a feature many other luxury watches still don’t have.
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room: this watch is limited to 3,557 pieces.
Yes, watch enthusiasts love to hate Omega’s endless limited editions, because they dilute the brand heritage and catalog.
And I think they went overboard with the “vintage water resistance” – I love the 60 m nod to the anniversary… but such a piece should be water resistant to at least 100 m.
Still, it’s one of the most enjoyable and interesting designs for an everyday watch available as of today.
So it’s up to you to decide if the cons outweigh the pros…
- sapphire crystal with anti‑reflective coating
- 5-year warranty
- 19 mm lug width makes it harder to find strap options
- only 60 m of water resistance
A Rolex as an alternative to another Rolex?
And there are two excellent reasons for me to feature the Oyster Perpetual.
The current model of the Rolex Explorer:
- only comes with a black dial. If you want something else, your only choice is to go vintage and pick a white dial.
- has a 39 mm case. If you want to go smaller, you should get a watch from 2009 and before.
So what if you could hit two birds with one stone? Have a colored dial and a smaller case on a modern watch?
This is where the Oyster Perpetual comes into play.
It has the exact same dial as the Explorer, but with a striking blue sunburst effect.
Now, the Oyster Perpetual an exact copy of the Explorer:
- the case has a different, more curved shape
- it features baton hands instead of Mercedes hands
- the bezel is domed, unlike the straight bezel on the Explorer
So when you look at the details, you can see how the design is actually unique.
And probably one that will make heads turn – some watch lovers still don’t know about it!
- same same but different design
- screw-down crown
- smaller 36 mm case
- no anti-reflective coating on crystal