About Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II was introduced by Rolex in 1971, 18 years after the first Explorer came to the market. However, the overall history of the Explorer models dates much farther back to the 1930s. As Rolex continued to test the limits of what’s possible with mechanical watches, they began sending watches on mountain expeditions as a form of “research and development.” By doing this, their goal was to produce the perfect explorer’s watch for true expedition-seekers to wear. The final test run was in 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary became the first person to summit Mount Everest while wearing one of these early prototypes. The first Explorer was released later that year, and the Rolex Explorer II came nearly two decades thereafter.

A Watch Designed for Adventurers

The Rolex Explorer II takes the adventurous spirit of the first Explorer and turns it up a notch. It separates itself from the earlier Explorer models with a fixed steel bezel, lume plots circling the dial, a date display at 3 o’clock, and the well-loved bright orange 24-hour hand. Each of these additions were made with the adventurer in mind. The lumed hour markers enhance legibility in dark environments, and the 24-hour hand and date complications indicate A.M. vs P.M which is something that would otherwise be impossible at the extremes of this Earth, like in caves or on the poles. The Rolex Explorer II also differentiated itself by being offered in the now highly collectible white “polar” dial.

Key Features of the Explorer II

Given the nuanced complexity and breadth of Explorer II models, it’s important to narrow in on what defining features make up the collection. From its signature case style to its bezel and movements, here is a selection of elements you can’t miss.

  • Oyster Case

    Developed in 1926, the Rolex Oyster case is named after its ability to be sealed for maximum water-resistance. It’s a staple feature for the brand’s dress and sports watches, and it’s trusted to protect the watch’s inner components and detailed movements. Most Explorer II watches offer water-resistance up to 100m which is perfect for adventures and expeditions.

    • 24-Hour Bezel

      As a hallmark of the Explorer II collection, this bezel was created to track day and night hours or display a second time zone, depending on the reference number. Additionally, it’s a fixed bezel and is equipped with a 24-hour track that works in tandem with an additional hour hand that sweeps the dial once every 24 hours.

      • Oyster Bracelet

        Known for its flat, three-piece links, the Explorer II collection is almost always complimented by a striking stainless steel Oyster bracelet. Another notable feature for modern Explorer II’s is the Easylink extension system that can be manipulated on the go.

        • Movements

          As the Explorer II collection has evolved, so too has its movements. You can find a range of calibers, depending on the reference—these include the 1575, 3085, 3185, 3186, 3187 and 3285.

Discover Rolex Explorer II Models

There are a number of Explorer II references that warrant a deeper discussion—check out a handful of models that we consider to be a part of the upper echelon.

  • Ref. 1655

    This inaugural reference was produced for over a decade. In total, there are five variations of the model, and dial markings denote signifying differences in the font and logo.

    • Ref. 16550

      As the first in the collection to offer either a white or black dial, this reference was a groundbreaker. Particularly, the white dial sparked interest because the hour markers are trimmed in white gold which was a feature phased out when the ref. 16550 was discontinued. If you’re interested in one of these highly sought after pieces, check out this pre-owned stainless steel model.

      • Ref. 16570

        Whether the white dial needed an upgrade or not, Rolex decided to give it one. Featuring black trim around the hour markers and hands instead of polished white gold, the ref. 16570 boasts better definition between the lume and the white paint on the dial. Learn more about the “white” hot reference when you read this article about the Explorer II 16570 vintage dual time, or check out this pre-owned black dial version for another great option.

        • Ref. 216570

          Bringing back the orange arrow 24-hour hand seen on the ref. 1655, this reference features a Maxi dial and larger luminous display filled with Chromalight that glows in the dark—it’s a proprietary material that’s praised for its 8-hour glow. Learn more about Rolex’s suite of proprietary materials, or check out a pre-owned ref. 216570 featuring a stainless steel case and black dial.

          • Ref. 226570

            Now equipped with a small Rolex logo between the words “Swiss” and “Made” below the 6 o’clock mark, you can immediately recognize the current iterations of the ref. 226570. If you’re interested in one of these pieces, check out this pre-owned model with a white dial and stainless steel case.


          What Makes the Rolex Explorer II So Desirable?

          The Rolex Explorer II represents a high level of value to collectors in terms of complications for the money spent, especially at pre-owned prices. This watch offers both GMT and date complications—two additions that usually command much higher price tags from Rolex. This watch is also a great alternative to the GMT Master II, which is an all-around larger and more expensive model. Lastly, the elusive white dial Rolex Explorer II is among sparse company when it comes to Rolex sports models with a white dial. Wondering how the GMT-Master II “Batman” stacks up against a Rolex Explorer II? Watch this thorough comparison for an up close view. However, if you’re curious how much a Rolex Explorer II might cost, our current inventory ranges in price from $9,250 to $14,950, depending on the reference.

          Why Buy Pre-Owned Rolex Watches and the Explorer II?

          Though this is not the case for the newest Rolex Explorer II models, the pre-owned market offers great value when it comes to earlier Explorer II’s. Due to the increased popularity of the Rolex sports models, the secondary market is the best place to shop for the most recent models. If you are in the market, Watchbox’s global inventory is the best place to start your search because we guarantee authenticity and an unrivaled selection. Be sure to also explore our selling and trading opportunities if you have a collectors piece you’re looking to part with.

Explorer II Pricing Guide