Rolex Explorer II vs Submariner Date Model Comparison

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Rolex Explorer II vs Submariner Date Cases Side by Side
Perhaps two of the most popular stainless steel professional models amongst Rolex enthusiasts, the Submariner Date (Reference # 116610LN) and Explorer II (Reference # 216570) offer similar sporty aesthetics but different bezels and functionalities. The Explorer II has a 24-hour hand and 24-hour fixed bezel while the Submariner features a unidirectional 60-minute graduated bezel in Cerachrom, Rolex's patented ceramic bezel insert. Both of the configurations in the photo above (Explorer II on left, Sub on right) are made from 904L stainless steel and feature black dials.

Since 2011, the Rolex Explorer II model has come with a 42mm case, slightly larger than the Submariner and GMT-Master II models and slightly smaller than the Deepsea and Yacht-Master II models. Like the GMT, it features a 24-hour hand and 24-hour bezel that allows the wearer to set the time of two locations on one watch. However, the Explorer II features a fixed brushed steel bezel, not the bi-directional ceramic bezel found on GMT models. The clear display of the Explorer II, including larger hour and minute hands than the Submariner, makes it very legible as compared to other professional models. It is equipped with a 3187 movement that is manufactured completely in-house by Rolex.

Rolex Submariner Date Case Atop Explorer II Case
The Submariner model was introduced in 1953 and soon became one of the most recognizable Rolex models in the world. The current reference features a 40mm case and 3135 movement manufactured by the watchmaker. Like the Explorer II, the Submariner Date model shown above has a date aperture at 3 o'clock with a Cyclops magnifying lens. The main function of the Submariner is that of a professional dive watch, so its depth rating is substantially higher than the Explorer II's. The Sub is waterproof up to 300 meters, the Exp2 to 100 meters. Both watches have a power reserve of approximately 48 hours.

Another similarity between the watches is their satin finished Oyster bracelets with polished edges. However, when it comes to the clasp there is a difference between the two. The Explorer II has an Oysterlock clasp with an Easylink that extends the bracelet by 5mm. The Sub's Oysterlock clasp comes with the Glidelock extension system that allows the wearer to extend the bracelet an additional 20mm by 2mm increments. This allows divers to wear their Submariners over their thick wetsuits when diving in colder waters.

Rolex Explorer II Oysterlock Clasp (left) and Submariner Date's Oysterlock Clasp with Glidelock (right)
The suggested retail price for the stainless steel Rolex Explorer II (Reference # 216570) is 7,700 Swiss francs or approximately $8,073 USD. This model also features a white dial configuration that is commonly known as the 'Polar' explorer. The Submariner Date (Reference # 116610LN) retails for 8,100 Swiss francs or approximately $8,503 USD. It is also available with a green bezel and dial combination known as the 'Hulk' which retails for 500 Swiss francs more than the LN shown above.

There is not a large difference in price between these two models, which makes the purchase decision come down to personal style and functionality. Many like the larger case and highly legible display of the Explorer II, however, a 42mm case may appear too large on smaller wrists. The Cerachrom bezel of the Submariner Date is a selling point for that model, but unless you're planning a deep sea dive in the near future, its functionality may not be as useful as a 24-hour hand and bezel. Both are great stainless steel professional watches and they will retain their value and hold up nicely due to the materials used, so the choice ultimately comes down which looks and feels better on your wrist. 

For more information on either of these models, check out the Rolex Shopping Guide page of this blog or visit Rolex's official website at

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