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Rolex Watches

History of Rolex Explorer II

As an updated version of Rolex Explorer, the Rolex Explorer II was introduced in 1971 which came along with the 24-hour indication bezel as a professional adventure watch.

Rolex, the unbeatable icon in the world of luxury wristwatches known to most of the world’s population, always impresses with its incomparable excellence. As its classic models such as the Submariner, GMT Master, and Datejust garner huge attention among collectors and watch lovers, the Rolex Explorer II does not lag behind in its popularity.

Before we dwell on its amazing collection, let us learn a bit about its history and look at its evolution in all these years through a couple of references first.

Introduced in 1971 as a special new addition to the Rolex Explorer I family from 1954, the Rolex Explorer II came with the new feature of a 24-hour indication. It can be used for distinguishing the day and night hours and also for tracking a second time zone. This addition along with some other new features were designed for use by professional cavers.

Rolex Explorer II 1655

Reference 1655 released in 1971 was the very first Rolex Explorer II model and it features a dial size of 39mm, larger than its Explorer I sibling. The stainless steel case is matched by a steel bracelet. This model was designed specifically as a tool watch for the spelunkers, or cave explorers, with several practical new features. First, it comes with a fixed bezel with 24-hour markings as well as an additional 24-hour hand. It allows the spelunkers to tell the exact time of the day, whether it is in the morning, afternoon or at night despite the darkness of the caves. To enhance legibility for such purpose, this model is also notable for its rich lume details and the hour hand contains luminescent material that glows in the dark. 1665 features an orange-colored hand at first release, but was replaced by a red one later. It is powered by a 1570/1575 Caliber movement, the same one used by the GMT-Master.

It may come off as surprising, but the Rolex Explorer II 1655 was not an instant hit after its immediate release. It slowly caught the attention of Rolex’s fans in the coming years, and earned several new nicknames that added to its popularity. The nickname “Freccione”, for instance, is a word from Italian that means big arrow, referring to its eye-catching orange arrow tipped hand. Another famous nickname is “Steve McQueen”, which came from the famous actor’s name who always wore the Rolex Explorer II.

Rolex Explorer II 16550

The Rolex Explorer II 16550 was released in 1985. It is the first Explorer member to feature a 40mm case, and the first ever Rolex model to introduce a scratch resistant sapphire crystal. Besides the case size, it also features a longer, thinner arrow tipped 24-hour hand than its predecessors, and the other center hands come in Rolex’s unique Mercedes style. It runs on the advance Caliber 3085 movement, a GMT movement that displays a second time zone with an additional adjustable hour hand. 16550 is available in two dial options: black or white. The 16550 model was only in production from 1985 to 1989.

Rolex Explorer II 16570

The Rolex Explorer II 16570 was a successor of 16550 released in the year 1989, and it shares many of the same features as the previous model. One of the notable changes is the new Caliber 3185 movement which would continue to be used for another 22 years until it was replaced by the Caliber 3186 movement. Another major upgrade is the inclusion of a Rolex engraved rehaut with the “ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX” markings. In addition, unlike the usual white gold outlines that surround the round hour markers on the white dial, it uses black outlines instead which would become a signature look of the Explorer II.

Rolex Explorer II 216570

Rolex released the new reference 216570 in 2011 to celebrate Rolex Explorer II’s 40th anniversary. It is the latest model of Rolex Explorer II to date and features a revamped and more modern appearance than the vintage references. The case size is enlarged to 42mm which contributes to its robust look. In parallel, the watch hands as well as the lume plots are also enlarged for balance and improved legibility. To pay tribute to the original 1655 reference, 216570 is fitted with the orange arrow tipped 24-hour hand like the iconic old model. It comes with either the black or white polar dial, and the white version earned the unique nickname of Rolex Polar because of its all-white look. The watch features a date window at 3 o’clock, a practical add-on not only for adventurers, but also for travelers. 216570 runs on the Caliber 3187 movement. It is an ideal watch for use in the dark with the chroma light display.

Buy Rolex Explorer II Watches Now

The journey through the history of the Rolex Explorer II is a simple yet captivating one. As one of the most popular adventure watch models of the entire Rolex family, the Rolex Explorer II is favored for both its vintage and modern looks. In all earnestness, any serious watch collection cannot do without at least one Rolex Explorer II.

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