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Rolex Explorer II

The GMT Master II is the successor to Rolex' legendary pilot's watch from 1955. Like the first GMT Master, it is also available with dual colored-bezels that give the watch its unique look. The most famous combinations include red/blue, blue/black and black/gold.

Rolex Explorer II
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The history of the Rolex Explorer II

Rolex has always been known for providing explorers with watches designed for specific sports and circumstances. Starting with the legendary Oyster Perpetual, the world's first automatic and water resistant watch, this success story continues today. The special Oyster housing provides optimal water protection and is particularly robust, which is why the watch was used for the expeditions in the Himalayas for a long time. Coinciding with the first expedition to the summit of Mount Everest in 1953, the Rolex Explorer was introduced. This was explicitly designed to withstand exceptional extreme situations. It is robust, scratch-resistant and legible thanks to its large dial with extra visible indices in all weather conditions. It came with a massive stainless steel bracelet, which made the watch even more stable. It was also one of the first Rolex watches officially developed for professional use. The watch does not lose its accuracy even in high altitudes, extreme temperatures and exceptional situations.

In 1971, this popular series was then expanded by the Rolex Explorer II. Equally robust, this new watch now has a fixed bezel with a 24-hour display, an additional hand that moves half as fast as the hour hand and thus circles the dial once every 24 hours. The Rolex Explorer II is thus ideally suited for cave and volcanic explorers who have to do without days for several days and may lose sense of time. People who live in polar regions and often experience polar nights also benefit greatly from this extra hand.

Rolex Explorer II - 216570

Top features of the Rolex Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II is characterized by its straightforward, robust style. When the bezel of the Rolex Explorer I was still polished, the Explorer II brings a modern matte finished bezel. The numbers on the bezel, which can only be found on the Explorer II, are kept simple, giving the watch an unobtrusive but elegant accent.
The striking orange-colored hand, however, stands out from the otherwise very restrained design and is thus a real eye-catcher. It can be found on the latest models as well as the original model of the Rolex Explorer II with the reference 1655 from 1971. This hand provided the colloquial name "Orange Hand". Other nicknames that have formed over time are "Steve McQueen" or "Freccione", which comes from the Italian la fraccia and means arrow-shaped.

The Explorer II had a radical dial change in 1985, unlike anything else in Rolex history. With the Rolex Explorer II Ref 16550, the watch was for the first time no longer available with a black dial and also in a light ivory-colored version. This discolored, due to a mis-production, within a very short time in a deep Crémant and gives the clock today the nickname "Cream Dial". Due to low production figures, the watches with this dial are particularly interesting for collectors today. In 2011, in honor of Rolex's 40th Anniversary, the newly redesigned Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570 appeared. It has been enlarged from 40mm diameter to 42mm for optimized readability.

If you compare the Explorer and the Explorer II, you will notice that the watch has increased from 39 mm to 42 mm, apart from the hands and the 24-hour display of the bezel. The Rolex Explorer I is thus a more classic, elegant, less sporty-looking watch as opposed to its successor. The Rolex Explorer II looks even more robust due to its size, which is underlined by the matte design of the bezel.

Another difference can be found in the target group. The Explorer is aimed at mountaineers and climbers, whereas the Explorer II is designed for darker areas like caves. Both watches, however, share the basic feature that they are among the most robust and durable watches in the family of Rolex. Because of this, these models also provide a good value of investment, as they often look like new despite prolonged wear, one can assume in these models a constant value.

Rolex Explorer II - 216570

Known owners of the Rolex Explorer II

The most well-known bearer of the Rolex Explorer II is the iconic actor Steve McQueen, although there are no pictures on which he wears the said watch, however, he is so strongly associated with the watch that the model with the ref 1655 enthusiasts simply know as "Steve McQueen Explorer".
Also well known for his exceptionally extensive Rolex collection is world-renowned actor Brad Pitt. His arm, among other models of Rolex already adorned more often a classic Rolex Explorer. Reinhold Messner was the first man to climb Mount Everest without additional oxygen, and he is also an award-winning mountaineer. On his hand is often the "orange hand" to find, and thus optimally reflects the durability of this unique watch.

The current collection of Rolex Explorer II

The current models of the Explorer II Ref. 216570 come with a simple elegant bracelet made of extremely robust stainless Oystersteel. This matte silver bracelet is definitely one of Rolex's most classic models. The dial comes in bright white or deep black, depending on your preference. Only the bright orange arrow is a colorful accent and makes the watch despite the understated design an eye-catcher.

Rolex Explorer Vintage

More Rolex models

  • Those who love the outdoor experiences and feel at home on the water with their boat or yacht will love the Rolex Yacht-Master. With a bezel that can be turned in both directions, the time between two tons during a regatta can be optimally measured.
  • The Rolex pilot's watch, the GMT-Master II with its eye-catching two-tone bezel, is very popular among cosmopolitans. Thanks to the adjustable bezel and the extra GMT-hand, three time zones can be identified on the watch simultaneously.
  • Probably the most classic Rolex model is the Oyster Perpetual. As the first waterproof and automatic watch in the world, it is the pioneer of all today's Rolex watches and thus a true legend! Especially for newcomers, it is very popular because it is in the lower price segment of the Rolex watches.
  • Not to forget the Rolex Submariner, the most well-known model of Rolex. On the arm of the famous secret agent James Bond, it became a movie star in numerous films, whether for suit or diving.
  • The Rolex Milgauss defies magnetic fields of up to 1000 Gauss. This is particularly relevant for physicians, scientists and researchers, who often live in strong magnetic fields. The bright orange second hand is a special eye-catcher.
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