When it comes to luxury watches that offer a GMT function, two of Rolex’s most popular models are the Explorer II and the GMT-Master II. Both share similarities, such as the brand’s signature Oyster case and ability to display a second time zone. However, there are key differences between them, making them distinct in their aesthetics and purpose.
The Rolex Explorer II was originally designed to cater to the needs of adventurers and explorers, particularly those involved in cave exploration or spelunking. The tool watch offers a bold and robust presence on the wrist, befitting those who traverse challenging environments.
On the other hand, the GMT-Master II was developed with pilots and international travelers in mind, featuring a smaller case size, a careful balance of materials and colors, a unique rotating bezel, and several bracelet types for a versatile and classic look that appeals to various wrist sizes.
So, which clenches the top position in a horological battle? Keep reading the Rolex Explorer II vs GMT II review below to learn more.
Rolex Explorer II Vs. GMT II
The table below gives a side-by-side look at the luxury watches’ main features:
|Aspect||Rolex Explorer II||Rolex GMT II|
|Case||Larger, bold and robust 42mm Oystersteel case with a crown with a triplock waterproofness system||Smaller, more stylish 40mm case with various materials and a crown with a twinlock/triplock waterproofness system|
|Bezel||Fixed steel, with 24-hour graduations||Bi-directional rotating, with 24-hour graduations and a ceramic Cerachrom insert in various colors|
|Strap||Oyster bracelet with 5mm Easylink extension system||Oyster/Jubilee bracelet with Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link|
|Dial||Black or white, with luminous Mercedes-style hands and a brighter orange 24-hour hand||Black, green, meteorite, with luminous Mercedes-style hands and a distinctive red 24-hour hand|
|Movement||Self-winding Caliber 3285 Movement (latest models) With 70-Hour Power Reserve||Self-winding Caliber 3285 Movement (latest models) With 70-Hour Power Reserve|
|Price Point||More affordable, costing between S$10,632 and S$36,613 on the private sales market||More expensive, with a price of between S$16,250 and S$190,434 on the private sales market|
Here’s a detailed look at the above aspects:
Heritage and Brand
Both Rolex watches boast a rich history and stellar reputation among most watch enthusiasts and collectors.
The Rolex Explorer II was introduced in 1971. It replaced the Rolex Explorer (released in 1953) and is bigger, more confident, more functional, and offers more dial alternatives. It’s known for its resilience in extreme conditions.
Meanwhile, the Rolex GMT-Master II was presented to the watch world in 1982. This Rolex watch replaced the Rolex GMT-Master (which was released in 1955. However, it was created in 1954).
The major difference between them was the GMT Master allows wearers to read two time zones simultaneously. On the other hand, the Rolex GMT-Master II enables wearers to read a third time zone. It’s bigger, more expensive, and has independent hour and 24-hour hands- compared to its predecessor.
The GMT watch is known for its iconic design, durability, and ability to indicate multiple time zones.
Design and Aesthetics
Rolex Explorer II features a more casual and rugged design, with a fixed brushed stainless steel bezel and engraved 24-hour numerals painted black. Its larger 42mm diameter results in bigger Chromalight lume-filled hands and markers, making it easier to read.
On the other hand, the Rolex GMT-Master II is known for its iconic two-tone ceramic Cerachrom bezel with numbers etched in the ceramic and coated with platinum, giving it a more distinctive and sophisticated appearance. This pilot’s watch has a 40mm diameter, slightly smaller than the Explorer II.
Materials (case, bezel, strap)
The watches have unique materials that suit their purpose.
The Rolex Explorer II’s case and bezel are made of brushed stainless steel (Oystersteel), while the strap is a stainless steel Oyster bracelet with a Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with an Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link. Its bracelet option emphasizes its sporty and casual characteristics.
The GMT-Master II offers more colors and material options for its case, 24-hour bezel, and bracelet. The case and bracelet materials alternatives include:
- Yellow Gold
- Stainless Steel (Oystersteel)
- Everose Gold
- Everose Rolesor
- White Gold
- Yellow Rolesor
As for the bidirectional bezel options, they include:
- Black and brown Cerachrom
- Blue and red Cerachrom
- Black Cerachrom
- Black and blue Cerachrom
Its case is also made of stainless steel, but the bezel is crafted from Rolex’s innovative Cerachrom material, a ceramic compound renowned for its scratch resistance and immunity to UV light. The strap is a Jubilee or Oyster bracelet with a Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with an Easylink 5 mm comfort extension link.
Movement and Precision
Both watches are powered by same movement- Rolex’s self-winding Caliber 3285 movement- providing reliable and precise timekeeping. The movement has 31 jewels, a 70-hour power reserve, and a 28,800vph frequency.
It also has several features that make it an asset to the watches, like stop-seconds (hacking), instantaneous date, central hours, and a central GMT hand.
The Rolex Explorer II tends to be more affordable, with prices typically ranging from S$10,632 to S$36,613 on the private sales market, according to WatchCharts. On the other hand, the Rolex GMT-Master II can cost between S$16,250 and S$190,434 on the private sales market, as per WatchCharts.
However, please note they can be cheaper or more expensive depending on their rarity, condition, and materials.
As luxury Swiss watches, the Explorer II and the GMT-Master II hold their value well and can potentially appreciate over time. However, specific GMT-Master II models, especially those with rare dial or bezel combinations, may have a higher investment potential due to their limited production and higher demand among collectors.
5 Best Explorer II Watches
The following are some of the best Explorer II watches in the market:
1. Rolex Explorer II 216570
- Retail Price: S$11,426
- Pre-Owned Price: S$13,900
The Rolex Explorer II 216570 is a discontinued luxury model with a timeless charm. The sports watch features a 42mm stainless steel casing and matching Oyster bracelet, a fixed, brushed stainless steel bezel showcasing engraved 24-hour numerals, and a white dial. The watch is powered by a Caliber 3187 movement.
2. Rolex Explorer II 16570
- Retail Price: S$8,655
- Pre-Owned Price: S$10,642
Looking for an Explorer II with a slightly smaller case size? The discontinued Rolex Explorer II 16570 is an excellent choice. It boasts a 40mm stainless steel case, a fixed stainless steel bezel with engraved 24-hour numerals, and a black dial for a balanced look. It’s powered by the Caliber 3185 movement.
3. Rolex Explorer II 16550
- Retail Price: S$4,105
- Pre-Owned Price: S$14,043
A vintage gem in the Explorer II collection, the Rolex Explorer II 16550 features a 40mm stainless steel casing and a fixed bezel with distinctive 24-hour numerals. Additionally, it includes the iconic “cream” dial, in addition to the standard white and black dial options and is brought to life by the Caliber 3085 movement.
4. Rolex Explorer II 1655
- Retail Price: N/A
- Pre-Owned Price: S$35,900
Often referred to as the “Steve McQueen,” the Rolex Explorer II 1655 is a highly sought-after vintage piece for collectors. It has a 39mm stainless steel case, a straight-edge bezel marked with 24-hour numerals and a unique, orange-colored GMT hand. It’s powered by a Caliber 1575 movement and exudes an understated charm, making it a perfect choice for classic watch enthusiasts.
5. Rolex Explorer II 226570
- Retail Price: S$13,205
- Pre-Owned Price: S$15,170
The latest member to the Explorer II family, the Rolex Explorer II 226570 showcases a 42mm stainless steel body and a fixed, stainless steel bezel with updated 24-hour numerals. It’s available in white “Polar” and black dials and grabs attention with its larger, lume-filled hands and hour markers. It runs on the new Caliber 3285 movement, providing an impressive 70-hour power reserve and improved anti-magnetic properties.
5 Best GMT-Master II Watches
Here are some top GMT-Master II Rolex models for the avid watch lover:
1. Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi 126710BLRO
- Retail Price: S$14,642
- Pre-Owned Price: S$27,200
The Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi ref. m126710BLRO features a distinctive red and blue Cerachrom bezel, representing day and night, on a stainless steel Oyster case. This eye-catching design is a favorite amongst collectors and offers a high readability of various time zones.
2. Rolex GMT-Master II Batman 126710BLNR
- Retail Price: S$14,642
- Pre-Owned Price: S$22,300
The Rolex GMT-Master II Batman ref. 126710BLNR is characterized by its handsome 40mm Oystersteel body and black and blue Cerachrom bezel, representing day and night transitions. Its combination of iconic colors and advanced functionality makes it an appealing choice for frequent travelers.
3. Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer 126711CHNR-0002
- Retail Price: S$22,100
- Pre-Owned Price: S$27,900
The Rolex GMT-Master II Root Beer ref. 126711CHNR-0002 boasts a unique combination of 18k Everose gold and stainless steel. It features a brown and black Cerachrom bezel- reminiscent of a root beer. The two-color tones and refined design elements make it an elegant yet functional choice for the modern enthusiast with a taste for unmatched style.
4. Rolex GMT-Master II Yellow Gold 116718LN
- Retail Price: S$45,500
- Pre-Owned Price: S$56,900
Want a more luxurious option? The Rolex GMT-Master II Yellow Gold 116718LN offers a combination of form and function. It features an 18k Yellow Gold Oyster case and a matching Oyster bracelet, complemented by a black bezel with golden details and a green dial, making it more of a dress watch than a casual accessory.
5. Rolex GMT-Master II White Gold 126719BLRO-0002
- Retail Price: S$55,557
- Pre-Owned Price: S$75,800
The Rolex GMT-Master II ref. 126719BLRO-0002 stands out with its truly unique aesthetic. It features a striking meteorite dial adorned with Chromalight lume-filled hands and golden hour markers. It also has a 40mm White Gold case with a blue and red ‘Pepsi’ Cerachrom bezel, showcasing Rolex’s true artistry and technical excellence.
The Rolex Explorer II and GMT II watches are Rolex timepieces that showcase the brand’s innovation, functionality, and unrivaled design. Their differences in functionality and design elements means the superior luxury watch between them depends on your personal preference, budget, and taste.
- The Explorer II was designed with spelunkers or cave divers in mind. Meanwhile, the GMT-Master II was made to cater to frequent travelers, pilots, and professionals who need to be able to keep track of different time zones simultaneously.
- The Explorer II has a larger case size measuring 42mm, while the GMT-Master II sits at a slightly smaller 40mm size. Its larger case offers a bold and robust presence on the wrist, whereas the GMT-Master II’s smaller case provides a classic and versatile wearability suitable for various wrist sizes.
- The Explorer II and GMT II are worthwhile investments for their ability to retain and potentially rise in value. However, the GMT Master II has a higher investment potential.
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