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Explorer II

Explorer II

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Rolex Explorer II - Adventure Beyond Limits

Crafted for explorers of the harshest terrains, the Rolex Explorer II boasts a 24-hour bezel, dual time zone display, and exceptional legibility in any condition. Since its debut in 1971, it upholds the legacy of the Explorer, maintaining its renowned durability in extreme environments.

With a robust Oystersteel case and a highly legible dial, the Explorer II ensures reliability and readability, even in icy polar conditions. Its distinctive face, available in black or white, features large geometric hour markers for instant time reading. The white dial version, with its matt black hour markers and hands, exemplifies Rolex’s commitment to excellence and innovation. 

Enhanced by the Chromalight display, the Explorer II guarantees optimum legibility, making it a trusted companion for explorers worldwide.

History of Rolex Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II was first introduced in 1971, designed specifically for spelunkers who navigate the dark confines of caves. The inaugural model, reference 1655, featured a 38mm stainless steel case and a unique 24-hour hand bezel that helped distinguish between AM and PM, a crucial feature for those who spend extended periods in darkness. This model, affectionately nicknamed “Freccione” for its arrow-tipped hand, set the stage for future iterations.

In 1985, the Explorer II underwent significant upgrades with the introduction of reference 16550. This transitional model boasted a larger 40mm case, a sapphire crystal, and the ability to track a second time zone independently, transforming it into a GMT watch. The 16550 also introduced the option of a white “Polar” dial, which became an iconic variant due to its striking contrast and legibility.

The evolution continued with reference 16570 in 1989, which retained many features of its predecessor while incorporating the new Caliber 3185 movement and enhanced luminescence for improved readability. 

This model remained in production until 2011, when it was succeeded by reference 216570, celebrating the Explorer II’s 40th anniversary with a larger 42mm case and the return of the orange 24-hour hand.

The Rolex Explorer II has consistently combined robust functionality with timeless design, making it a favorite among adventurers and collectors.


What Are The Main Features Of Rolex Explorer II Watches?

These features make the Rolex Explorer II an ideal watch for adventurers and explorers who require durability, precision, and readability in the most challenging environments.

  • 24-Hour Hand and Bezel: Features an additional orange central hand with an arrow-shaped tip that circles the dial every 24 hours, providing a way to read the time on the fixed bezel. This is essential for distinguishing between day and night in extreme environments.
  • Chromalight Display: The dial, available in black or white, includes a luminescent material that glows intense blue in the dark and bright white in daylight, ensuring optimal legibility in all conditions.
  • Cyclops Lens: Displays the date at 3 o’clock with a magnifying Cyclops lens, improving readability. This feature includes a double anti-reflective coating and is made from virtually scratchproof sapphire.
  • Oyster Case: A 42mm case made of Oystersteel, offering robustness and waterproofness up to 100 meters (330 feet). This patented design includes a screw-down bezel, case back, and winding crown.
  • Oystersteel Alloy: Constructed from 904L steel, it is known for its exceptional corrosion resistance and unique radiance, maintaining its luster even under extreme conditions.

What Are The Best Pre-Owned Rolex Explorer II Models?

The best pre-owned Rolex Explorer II models are highly sought after for their durability, timeless design, and functionality. Here are some of the top choices:

  • Rolex Explorer II 40mm Stainless Steel Cream Rail Dial Ref. 16550: Introduced in 1985, this model features a larger 40mm case, a sapphire crystal, and the Caliber 3085 movement. It’s known for its “Polar” white dial, which sometimes develops a unique creamy patina over time, adding to its collectible appeal.
  • Rolex Explorer II 40mm White Polar Dial Ref. 16570: Produced from 1989 to 2011, this model improved on its predecessor with the Caliber 3185 and later the Caliber 3186 movements. It’s celebrated for its reliability, the distinctive black surrounds on its white dial markers, and its versatility as a rugged tool watch and a stylish accessory.
  • Rolex Explorer II 42mm White Polar Dial Ref. 226570: Launched in 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Explorer II, this model features a 42mm case, the Caliber 3285 movement, and a return to the classic orange 24-hour hand. It combines modern advancements with the timeless design elements that have made the Explorer II a favorite among collectors.


Are Pre-Owned Rolex Explorer II Watches A Good Investment?

Investing in a pre-owned Rolex Explorer II can be a wise financial decision. Models like the Explorer II 226570, with a retail price of S$14,200, are trading for approximately S$14,470 on the secondary market as of April 2024. This slight premium indicates strong demand and the potential for appreciation. Moreover, buying from a secondary market dealer often means paying about 5% more, reflecting the model’s desirability and investment value.

Historically, Rolex watches have demonstrated robust value retention and often appreciate over time, especially discontinued or unique models. The Explorer II’s timeless design, durability, and evolving features contribute to its status as a valuable asset. Collectors and enthusiasts seek out these models for their blend of heritage and innovation, ensuring sustained market interest.

Why Is The Rolex Explorer II So Special?

The Rolex Explorer II blends robust functionality with a storied history. Initially designed for spelunkers and adventurers navigating extreme environments, its features like the 24-hour bezel and luminescent display make it indispensable for those who explore the world’s most challenging terrains.

The ref. 1655, introduced in 1971, is a sought-after vintage tool watch among collectors, with notable owners including Anthony Kiedis, Jason Statham, and Orlando Bloom.

In 1985, the Explorer II evolved with the ref. 16550, featuring a larger case and improved movement. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, known for his love of vintage Rolex watches, sports a 16550 with a creamy dial patina, showcasing its timeless appeal.

The ref. 16570, produced from 1989 to 2011, brought further refinements and is favored by notable figures such as tennis legend Roger Federer, American explorer Ed Viesturs, and actor Aaron Paul. This model’s blend of ruggedness and elegance makes it a favorite among adventurers and watch enthusiasts.

The Rolex Explorer II’s enduring appeal lies in its combination of practicality, durability, and a rich legacy of exploration, making it a prized possession for collectors and adventurers.

Why Is The Rolex Explorer II So Expensive?

The Rolex Explorer II commands a high price due to its exceptional craftsmanship, advanced features, and brand prestige. Each Explorer II is made from high-quality materials, such as the corrosion-resistant Oystersteel, and features a robust 42mm Oyster case that ensures durability and waterproofness up to 100 meters. The watch’s sophisticated movements, like the Caliber 3285, offer high precision and reliability.

The Explorer II’s unique functionalities, including the 24-hour bezel, an additional time zone display, and the luminescent Chromalight display, cater to professional explorers and adventurers, further enhancing its value. Moreover, the association with notable individuals such as Anthony Kiedis, Gordon Ramsay, and Roger Federer adds to its allure and desirability.

Additionally, Rolex’s stringent testing and limited production contribute to the watch’s exclusivity, making it a coveted item among collectors and enthusiasts.

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