For many years, the Rolex Explorer II stood in the shadow of its older, aviation themed brother, the GMT-Master. While the GMT was designed for pilots and frequent air travelers, the Explorer II was built for speleologists exploring caverns beneath the earth’s surface.
The Original Explorer II
The original reference 1655 Explorer II had a very unique appearance, and its poor initial sales were largely due to its oddly specific target demographic rather than an overlap with another watch in Rolex’s lineup. The successor to the reference 1655 Explorer II, the reference 16550 was largely based off of the GMT-Master line of watches, and its numerous, similarities ultimately hindered potential Explorer II sales.
Throughout its history, including several different reference releases, Rolex’s Explorer II line of watches more-or-less remained a GMT-Master with a fixed 24-hour bezel and the option of a white dial. However, at Baselworld 2011, Rolex released a new version of the Explorer II – one that followed a design entirely unique to itself.
White Explorer II 216570
The new Explorer II, the reference 216570, featured a brand new movement – one never before seen in any other Rolex model – the caliber 3187, and also featured a larger, 42 mm case. With 31 jewels, a blue Parachrom hairspring, a variable inertia balance wheel, and the addition of Paraflex shock absorbers, the 3187 movement can be considered an improvement over the caliber 3186, which is found inside Rolex’s current GMT-Master II line of watches.
Details on the White Explorer II 216570
Another change that significantly helps separate the reference 216570 from the contemporary GMT-Master II is the revival of its bright orange, 24-hour hand – a trait borrowed from the original Explorer II. The reference 1655 had its triangular-shaped 24-hour hand finished in bright orange so that cave explorers could easily differentiate between day and night when viewing their watch in low-light conditions. Subsequent generations of the Explorer II shared a 24-hour with the GMT-Master and GMT-Master II lines of watches, so the revival of the orange 24-hour hand certainly helps tie the reference 216570 to the Explorer II’s past.
Although relatively minor, the white dial option, bright orange 24-hour hand, and extra 2 mm in case diameter help make the reference 216570 a significant departure from Rolex’s GMT-Master II line of watches. While the contemporary GMT-Master closely resembles the modern Submariner, the Explorer II has now become a watch entirely of its own design; and it does not resemble any other watch in Rolex’s current lineup.
For multiple decades, the Explorer II became the forgotten sibling to Rolex’s GMT-Master line of watches; however in 2011 (for its 40th anniversary), Rolex finally gave the Explorer II the long awaited upgrade that it deserved. The reference 216570 is a modern watch that fully embraces its past and history without ever losing sight that it is a contemporary timepiece. While the reference 216570 Explorer II from Baselworld 2011 is a bold, modern watch by all standards, the reference 216570 also retains the cornerstone DNA that defines Rolex’s Explorer II line of watches.
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