Rolex Explorer "Blackout"

SKU AS02323
SKU AS02323

Why We Love it

We can all be resistant to change. The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” holds true in many cases, not least of all in watches. Certain watches have become so fixed in the minds of collectors that any deviation from the classic design is met with derision on all sides.

Such a thing happened when Rolex released the Reference 14720 Explorer.

Make no mistake, the Explorer has an impressive lineage. Early versions were worn by members of Sir John Hunt’s 1953 expedition to Everest, in which Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first to reach the summit. Ever after, Rolex has touted that feat in advertising material for the Explorer, and became a sponsor of further expeditions to Everest.

Its distinctive 3-6-9 layout has become so iconic that any other watch with a similar dial is referred to as “Explorer-style,” whether it was made by Rolex or not.

For decades, and through countless references, the movement of the watch might have changed but the fundamental layout of the dial did not.

That is, until the 1990s, when the Reference 14720 was introduced.

Instead of a matte dial that had been found on the Explorer since the 1950s, it was now glossy. The crystal was sapphire. The numerals—the same 3, 6, 9 they’d always been—were now surrounded in white gold.

And certain versions of the Reference had numerals filled in with black enamel.

Details are scanty, but collectors have found that all of these “Blackout” Explorers (as they’ve come to be called) bear serial numbers that start with E or X, putting their production years to 1990 or 1991. Sometime in 1991, the numerals metamorphosed back to the white ones that we’ve come to associate with the Explorer. As the Explorer continued to change (even becoming 39mm instead of the usual 36mm in 2011), sharp-eyed collectors saw value in these rare and elusive watches.

Since the one featured here bears an X serial number, it’s one of the later ones.

While some collectors might lament the presence of a glossy dial, white gold surrounds, and a sapphire crystal, these are changes that Rolex made throughout its sport watches, the result of the manufacture shifting into the luxury realm. In fact, one might even defer to Winston Churchill on the subject: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” In the case of the Explorer—particularly the Blackout model—we think that it is faithful enough to the traditional Explorers (with its 36mm case and drilled lugs) to please even the most diehard of purists like ourselves.

A:S Guarantee


Our Pledge

Analog:Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.


Since our pieces are vintage or pre-owned, please expect wear & patina from usage and age. Please read each item description and examine all product images.


We back each Analog:Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.

International Buyers

Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

Shipping & Returns


All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states.

Most of our products are on hand and will ship directly from our headquarters in New York City. In some cases, watches will be shipped directly from one of our authorized partners.

We generally ship our products via FedEx, fully insured, within 5 business days of purchase. An adult signature is required for receipt of all packages for insurance purposes. Expedited shipping is available at an additional cost. We are also happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.

Returns must be sent overnight or by priority international delivery, fully insured and paid for by the customer. A restocking fee may apply. Watches must be returned in the same condition as initially shipped.

We welcome international buyers, please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options.

Rolex Explorer

Rolex Explorer "Blackout"

Rolex Explorer


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