If you’re shopping for a Rolex Explorer II today, you’ve got a few choices, but there’s no bad decision among them. The watch comes with a black or white dial, and you can decide whether you’d prefer an older, smaller case design or one of the newer, larger models from the last decade or so.
No matter which model you choose, you get Rolex’s unflappable build quality and style. You also get an adventure-ready watch with a beefy case and highly legible dial. Remember, the Explorer II came about as a watch for cavers, so its design is all about being seen.
Rolex offered the Explorer II with a 40mm case for many years before moving to a larger 42mm design in more recent times. Both sizes provide robust water resistance ratings of 110m/330ft and come with a handy GMT function. The early models got a red GMT hand, while larger 42mm models come with an orange GMT.
The Explorer II has carried a few different movements over the years. Rolex’s 3185 movement powered the watch for many years, offering a 48-hour power reserve. In the years just before shifting to a larger case, Rolex transitioned the Explorer II to its 3186 movement. Variants with the updated component also got an engraved rehaut with the now-ubiquitous Rolex text.
All Explorer IIs come in stainless steel and feature Rolex’s excellent Oyster Bracelet. Earlier models came with a stamped clasp and the older bracelet design, but the 42mm models get a milled clasp with an Easy Link function.