Is Explorer 2 the Most Underrated Rolex Professional Model?

December 08, 2016

The redheaded stepchild of the Rolex professional collection, the Explorer II doesn't get as much love as popular models like Daytona, GMT-Master II and Submariner. However, even though it flies under the radar for the most part, the Explorer II is a simple and solid watch that is ideal for daily wear. It combines the minimalism of the Explorer with the functionality of the GMT2 to create an understated - and underrated - tool watch that can go with you anywhere. 

Rolex Explorer II (photo: Rolex/Sam Ferrara)
Technical Information
The Explorer II (Reference # 216570) model is available in stainless steel with a 42 millimeter case and either a black or white dial. It is equipped with a 3187 self-winding mechanical movement that is manufactured in-house by the watchmaker. It features a fixed 24-hour graduated bezel made from brushed 904L stainless steel and an orange 24-hour hand. Its highly legible display features Chromalight appliqués with long-lasting luminescence. Its Oyster bracelet is fitted with an Oysterlock folding clasp and Easylink comfort extension that extends the bracelet by 5 millimeters.

Celebrities Wearing the Explorer II
While the Explorer II model is often tied to Steve McQueen, this seems to be a misnomer as the King of Cool was never photographed wearing the Rolex model. Someone who has been photographed wearing the Explorer II shown in the photo above is the Oscar-nominated English actor Tom Hardy. He is not the only Brit to sport the model, with Prince Harry also shot wearing the Explorer II in paparazzi photos. While most celebrities opt for the flashier Daytona and Day-Date models, this rough and tumble wristwatch is the ideal choice for pragmatists looking for a low-key timepiece.

Rolex Explorer II and GMT-Master II Models
Explorer II Model Comparisons 
The Model Comparisons section of this blog features detailed comparisons of Rolex models including photographs, pricing and technical information. I include side-by-side comparisons of the Explorer II with the Submariner Date (Reference # 116610LN) and the GMT-Master II (Reference # 116710LN), shown in the photo above next to the Exp2. It is also featured in the comparison of Rolex professional model case sizes alongside the Yacht-Master II and Deepsea models. As you can see when placed next to the GMT case, this model offers a slightly larger case size that isn't as bulky as the Deepsea at 44 millimeters.

History and Legacy 
Introduced by Rolex in 1971, the Explorer II was given the name of the original Explorer model, but functionality more similar to the GMT-Master. It actually used the same movement as the GMT at the time, either a 1570 or 1575. For its 40th anniversary in 2011, the Exp2 was given a larger case size - 42 millimeters up from 40 millimeters. The watchmaker ties the legacy of this model with that of the original Explorer and its ties to explorers like Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. One of the benefits of the 24-hour function is that it allows you to tell the difference between day and night without daylight. This is useful in the poles, where the sun goes away for weeks at a time. The "Polar" Explorer II with the white dial seems to pay homage to this aspect of its functionality.

While the Explorer II may not be as sexy as the Daytona or as ubiquitous as the Submariner, it possesses a charm that rounds out Rolex's professional collection. In a previous post I mentioned that it oozes masculinity, something that I believe makes it attractive to those who may not like the flash of other models. Although the idea was shot down in forums, I would love to see the Explorer II in a bronze configuration in 2017, maybe with a leather strap. It would be nice to see this underrated model get some love from the watchmaker in the future. For more information on this model, visit


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