In discussing Rolex watches, a few words have lost all meaning.” ‘Underrated’, ‘sleeper’ and ‘undervalued’ may not be completely meaningless at this point, but we are moving fast. Social media and frankly, articles like this one don’t do the audiophile out there any favors, but you’d be surprised how many people I’ve met who are fairly ignorant about the Explorer II. In this article, I’ll take a look at the Explorer II Ref. 16570, a 40mm version that was produced for 22 years from 1989 to 2011. With its understated design, dual time zone functionality, near invulnerability, and doggedly unluxurious attitude, the replica ROLEX Explorer II watches 16570 watches is probably the most affordable modern Rolex sports watch on the market today.
Of course, I’m a little partial to the Explorer II. It has always been my favorite Rolex sporty watch. In fact, the first Rolex I bought was a 216570 with a black dial (I’ve compared it to a Submariner here). While the Submariner, GMT-Master II and Daytona get all the attention, the Explorer II has been a low-key Rolex tool watch and a true travel watch for decades. A dark horse in the Rolex sports watch family, the Explorer II is the Prince Harry of Prince William of GMT-Master II (which is funny because I think Harry is wearing the Explorer II with the Polar dial).
As a watch for explorers, the Explorer II is designed to be more functional than formal. The darkness in some caves makes it hard to tell if it’s day or night, which is why the 24-hour hands and fixed bezel are so important. While the original Explorer II Ref. 1655 was not intended to be a travel watch at all, the 16570 introduced a separate hour hand, making this a dual time zone travel watch in terms of functionality.
And the fully revamped Rolex Explorer II Ref. 16550 was produced between 1985 and 1989 and is considered a “transitional” model between the original 1655 and the 16570 in this article. These watches are harder to find and much more expensive than the 16570. For better or worse, the 16550 brings the Explorer II into the Rolex family of sports watches. The sapphire crystal, the new Mercedes-Benz hands, the hour markers and the 24-hour hands are all reminiscent of the GMT Master Series watches produced that year. It is also equipped with the Caliber 3085 movement, which adds the previously mentioned independent hour hand function.
The 16550 also came with two dial options, still available today in black or white (aka Polar). The polar dial model has a paint flaw that causes the dial to slowly turn a milky white and is therefore sought after by collectors. 1655 aka “Steve McQueen”. I was shocked when I saw the cream-colored dials sell higher at 16550 than 1655, but that’s not uncommon.
Fast forward to 1989, when Rolex released the Explorer II Ref. 16570, a watch that had an impressive run of nearly 22 years before the 216570 was released in 2011.The 16570 has been upgraded from the 16550 with a new caliber 3185 and small, refined changes to the polar dial model. By replacing the silver contoured hands and hour markers with black, the white dial is really accentuated and the legibility is greatly enhanced. Also, between 16550 and 16570, the font on the bezel’s numeric hour markers has changed, which is a matter of personal taste.
The Explorer II 16570 is waterproof to 100M, 40mm wide, 12.2mm thick and 47mm in diameter, making it a fairly ideal size for small or large wrists. Wearing it on my 7.5 inch wrist, I have no complaints and find the size just right. Personally, I’m more partial to larger, so I prefer my 216570, which is 42mm wide, 12.5mm thick and 50.1mm stud to stud. The advantage of the Explorer II over the Diver or GMT-Master is that the 24-hour bezel tilts downward, giving the case a slimmer look.
The 16570 houses the caliber 3185 (a slightly newer caliber 3186 for the post-2006 model), which was introduced in 1988 for the Explorer II and GMT-Master II. The caliber was the first Rolex movement to have an independent hour hand, as well as a hacked seconds hand. the 3185 has 31 jewels and runs at 28,800vph with a power reserve of 50 hours. Of course, considering how many Explorer II watches with this movement have been produced over the course of 22 years, whether or not they need to be repaired depends on the circumstances.
Although they are almost identical watches, the serial numbers of the Explorer II 16570 have varied over the years, mostly with subtle differences. The polar dial model you see in this article is the Y series, while the black dial is the F series. While both models have solid tail links, the polar dialed Y series has drilled lugs for easy strap or strap changes, while the black dialed F series does not. I think a lot of people would choose.