In 1953 Rolex was once part of history as Sir Edmund Hillary and his team wore its watches as they became the first people to successful ascend to the top of Mount Everest in the Himalayas. The watch on their wrist would later be named the Explorer and helped open a new chapter for how Rolex watches would be perceived as timepieces not only for daily durability and sport, but also for serious adventure and extreme conditions. The 1950s was also when Rolex first released its famed Submariner, which was not only about diving, but also exploration of the sea.
It took about 20 years but eventually Rolex released the Explorer II in 1971, which added an important piece of functionality that the original Explorer lacked – a second time zone. More so, the Explorer II acted to fill a space left open by the GMT-Master (and later GMT-Master II), which was positioned as an aviation timepiece. Lacking a rotating bezel that allowed the GMT-Master to track up to three time zones at once, the idea behind the Explorer II was to offer global explorers, scientists, and researchers not only the option of tracking a second time zone if desired with the GMT hand, but also the ability to use it while synchronized with the time in order to act as a day and night indicator for use in places where the sun never rises (such as underground) or where it never sets (such as in the polar regions).
It is true that Rolex’s significant efforts to enhance the durability of all of their Oyster-style watchcases adds a degree of overlap when it comes to features. This means that those seeking a timepiece for adventure and exploration would be equally well served with a number of Rolex timepieces. With that said, Rolex has specifically positioned the modern Explorer II watches at a price point under both that of the Submariner and GMT-Master II, while being priced just over the its smaller brother, the Explorer that lacks the GMT hand complication and comes in a smaller case. Inside the modern Explorer II watch is the in-house made Rolex caliber 3187 automatic movement and the case is water resistant to 100 meters.
Perhaps the biggest difference in today’s reference 216570 Explorer II over other steel Rolex sport watches (as well as their historic analogs) is the case size, which is 42mm for the Explorer II while the Submariner and GMT-Master cases are 40mm wide, making the Explorer II one of the largest modern Rolex watches. For reference’s sake the modern Explorer has a size of 39mm in width. The only other Rolex watches to have a comparable case size are the appreciably more high-end Sky-Dweller (which currently does not come in steel) as well as the boat racing-themed Yacht-Master II.
Rolex has a history of offering both white and black dials for the Explorer II, making it one of the few sport watches produced by Rolex with a white dial. Casually cool with a deep connection to modern exploration history, the Explorer II remains one of the most modern looking and humble Rolex sport watches today perfect for those who require the durability of a Rolex but who don’t always want to convey the message about their personal success that a Rolex can communicate as the Explorer II certain retains a “professional” character to it.