One of Rolex’s most talked about announcements at Basel World 2011 was an updated Explorer II (Ref. 216570), with a 24-hour arrow hand in orange, harking back to the original 1971 Ref.1655 Explorer II, which was an addition to the Explorer model released in 1953.
After the release of the Ref. 1655, it wasn’t until 1984 that Rolex introduced a new Explorer II, Ref.16550. Changes included the sapphire crystal, the calibre 3085 movement, the shape of the hands (the 24 hour hand changed from a small red-orange arrow shaped hand to a long red 24 hour hand with a white arrow at the end), and a new white dial version. The 16550 is also referred to as a transitional model, transitional to the Ref. 16570 introduced in 1989.
Recently, I got to have some hands-on time with the latest Explorer II.
Available in black or white, at 42mm and 12mm thick it is bigger than the 1655. The white model has black hands with black rings around the hour markers, and the black version has silver hands with silver rings around the makers. The dial is covered by a scratch resistant sapphire crystal with the standard magnifier over the date.
The Ref. 217570 is powered by the in-house automatic Calibre 3187, which beats at 28,800, has a blue Parachrom hairspring, Breguet overcoil, and is protected by Paraflex shock absorbers. The date is an instantaneous jump at 12, the 24-hour hand independently adjustable to display a second time zone. There are 31 jewels and the cal 3187 has a power reserve of 48 hours. The crown is a Twinlock screw-down, and the watch has a water resistance of 100m or 330ft. The lume is said to last up to 8 hours after a full charge.
This is very much a modern Rolex, not a homage to the Ref. 1655. It’s big but not too much so, sitting comfortably on the wrist, the bracelet with the “Easylink” feature which allows the wearer to fine-tune the fit to within 5mm.
I really like the orange hand, which looks great against the white dial. In comparing it with its immediate predecessor the Ref.16570, my personal preference is for this current model. I like the larger size and for me, the orange hand is a nice nod to its origins, but also thoroughly contemporary in its colour and how it has been realised, with the matching orange text on the dial. What I realised is that this is a watch that has to be seen in the flesh; it’s actually a lot more engaging than I had expected it would be. If you’re in the market for a Rolex or a solid sports watch of this type, the Explorer II is worth taking a look at.