The Rolex Explorer II has been around in various forms for decades. The underground adventurer’s watch is unconventional and unique compared to other watches in the Rolex catalog, but its design, colors, and size make it a desirable piece for people who want a little less flash. The 216570 Explorer II was just discontinued last year in favor of a refreshed 226570, but it’s still a great watch that’s worth a look. Here’s why.
The 216570 Explorer II pushed the watch’s size from 40 to 42mm and got a new handset, along with an Easy Link function for the bracelet. Those improvements made the watch far more modern and appealing to people who like large watches, but they also made the Explorer II a sort of oddball in the Rolex lineup.
Unlike other steel sports watches from the brand, the Explorer II’s styling is that of a sports watch first and a luxury watch second. There’s a feeling of utility and the few polished surfaces help keep the Explorer II under the radar. It’s a large watch, to be fair, but it’s not as flashy as its size suggests.
One big benefit of that size is the Explorer II’s dial, which is large and in charge, and easily legible in almost any light. Rolex puts that space to good use with large hour markers and broad hands with plenty of lume. The 24-hour GMT hand is coated in bright orange, a throwback to the 1655 Explorer II and a great way to make it pop in low-light conditions. Part of the hands are painted black near the center of the dial, giving them a unique “floating” look on the black dial Explorer II.
Rolex’s 3187 powers the Explorer II, and it was the first watch to use the movement. It features a 48-hour power reserve and shock-resistant construction. It’s not as advanced as newer movements that power the GMT-Master II, but It’s a reliable unit that faithfully produces Rolex’s legendary accuracy.