Rolex Model Comparison: Explorer II Vs GMT-Master II

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Photo of Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Side by Side
Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Side by Side
Although it shares a name with the original Explorer model, the Explorer II photographed above (reference # 216570) looks and functions more like a GMT-Master II (reference # 116710LN). I have placed the watches side by side for a comparison of their design, functionality and price. There are slight differences in these stainless steel models that could affect your purchase decision, depending on what you are looking for in a wristwatch.

Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Case Comparison 
The first and most obvious difference between the two models is the size of their cases. The Explorer II's case measures 42mm, slightly larger than the 40mm case of the GMT-Master II, as shown in the photo above. The Explorer II is fitted with a 3187 movement, a larger and thicker version of the 3186 movement found in the GMT. Both have a 48 hour power reserve.

Photo of Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Bezel Comparison
Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Bezel Comparison
Another notable difference between the two models is the style and function of the bezel. The Explorer II has a fixed bezel with a 24-hour display on it. In contrast, the GMT-Master II has a bi-directional 24-hour bezel made from Rolex's Cerachrom ceramic. The bi-directional bezel of the GMT-Master II allows the wearer to set the 24-hour hand to GMT time once and then simply rotate the bezel to set the time to another time zone. With the Explorer II, one would have to set the 24-hour hand again using the crown to change to another time zone.

Photo of Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Bracelet and Clasp Comparison
Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Bracelet and Clasp Comparison
Both the Explorer II and GMT-Master II come with an Oysterlock clasp equipped with an Easylink comfort extension link, which allows the wearer to extend the bracelet by 5mm for additional comfort without adding another link to the bracelet. Both are equipped with Oyster bracelets, but the center links of the GMT-Master II are polished, giving them a visible contrast with the satin finished outer links. The links of the Explorer II's bracelet have a uniform satin finish.

Aside from the ceramic bezel, the GMT-Master II also differs from the Explorer II in the color and style of the 24-hour hand. On the GMT it comes in green with an arrowhead shape. The Explorer II 24-hour hand comes in orange in the same shape as the original model introduced in 1971. Another difference between the two is the color options for the dial: unlike the GMT-Master II, the Explorer II is available with a white dial in addition to the black dial shown in these photos.

Photo of Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Side by Side
Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Side by Side
The suggested retail price for the 42mm Explorer II is 7,700 Swiss Francs, approximately $8,073.40 US based on current exchange rates. The stainless steel GMT-Master II currently goes for 8,000 Swiss Francs, or $8,387.94 US.

The ultimate decision between the Explorer II and GMT-Master II comes down to size and utility. A 42mm wristwatch like the Explorer II  is a good value for those who are looking for a larger  stainless steel wristwatch. However, a frequent flyer who would actually use the second time zone feature often may be more inclined to purchase the GMT based on the bi-directional ceramic bezel.

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