Here we are in the second part of our in-depth analysis related to the Rolex Explorer, one of the best tool watches ever produced. After taking you to discover the references and history of the first born of the Explorer family, today we tell you about the Explorer II and its evolution about 50 years after its introduction.

EXPLORER II ref. 1655 (1971-1985)

The first Explorer II was presented in 1971 with the reference 1655. Compared to its explorer brother, this model has been designed for professional use aimed not only at climbers, mountaineers, but also for those who venture into the darkest corners of the globe, caves or polar regions: speleologists, volcanologists or explorers on dry land. In addition to the larger case compared to the Explorer 1016, this model features a fixed bezel graduated at 24 hours and a lorange hand of the 24 hours. Questi due elementi consentono di leggere l’ora in formato 24 ore, specie in situazioni di oscurità totale.

The reference 1655, called 'Freccione' by collectors or 'Steve McQueen' (although he never wore one), was equipped with automatic calibers 1570 and 1575 and the hand was not independent but connected to that of the hours. The 4omm case was waterproof up to 100 meters deep and mounted an exhaled glass. For collectors, the dials produced by Rolex have been catalogued in 5 different Marks, while the bezel features 4 Marks that differ from the font adopted for production. The planned bracelets were Oyster with the following references. In chronological order: 7206 with riveted meshes, the 7836 with folded meshes and the 78360 with full meshes.

The Rolex Explorer II reference 1655 has often been photographed on the wrists of true explorers and mountaineers. Among them are the legendary Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, the first ever to reach the top of Mount Everest without oxygen and climb all fourteen peaks in the world above 8,000 meters, and the exhibitor French Jean-François Pernette.

Oliver Shepard's 1655

And it is thanks to the professional use of the Explorer II that this model is reviewed in aesthetic and functional terms. In fact, the Rolex Explorer II that we have known since 1983 derives in design from a special order commissioned in 1979 by theBritish explorer Oliver Shepard, on the occasion of the Transglobe Expedition that is, the first longitudinal circumnavigation of the Earth using only surface transport. Despite being in production the Explorer 1655, Shepard had a set of dials and hands of the GMT-Master mounted on the 1655 due to its ease of reading, compared to the dial and 'freccione' spheres.

Oliver Shepard with Bothie and Charlie Burton in the base camp hut in Ryvingen, Antarctica

This very rare and unpublished watch was sold by Antiquorum in 2005 for CHF 43,500.


EXPLORER II ref. 16550 (1985-1989)

Dal 1983 fino al 1990 circa, viene introdotto il primo vero upgrade per il’Rolex Explorer II con la referenza 16550. Se la cassa mantiene la stessa dimensione di 40mm, il quadrante viene ‘ripulito’ rendendolo molto più intuitivo e viene adottata una finitura lucida nei colori previsti: bianco e nero. Anche le lancette vengono ripensate: sostituite da quelle ‘Mercedes’ già adottate sull’Explorer I e sui modelli sportivi di casa Rolex. La lancetta delle 24 ore perde la forma a ‘freccione’ per ritrovare quella già utilizzata per il GMT Master. Inoltre la lunetta fissa graduata utilizza un font decisamente più marcato e con numeri squadrato, che circonda il nuovo vetro in zaffiro.

Il calibro utilizzato è il movimento automatico 3085, che introduce una grande novità: la possibilità di settare in maniera indipendente la lancetta delle 24 ore / GMT e utilizzare l’orologio non solo come indicazione giorno/notte ma anche come secondo fuso orario.

For a probable manufacturing defect, the firstbatchof white dials undergoes a characteristic chromatic tinge, which makes it take on a pleasant ivory hue. This peculiarity makes them highly sought after by Rolex collectors, who commonly call them Explorer II 16550 "cream".


EXPLORER II ref. 16750 (1989 – 2011)

In 1989 Rolex presented theExplorer II Ref. 16570 it inherits many of the changes already made on the reference 16550 and is equipped with the caliber 3185. The dial could be black or white. In the case of the white dial, the indices and hands were no longer silver as for the reference 16550, but black. Thus increasing contrast and improving visibility.

As evidence of the great versatility of this model and its robustness, the reference 16570 was in production until 2011. Over 20 years of service in which only small technical improvements and aesthetic details have been made. First, tritium luminescent material, which has been replaced by Super Luminova because of the small radioactivity in that material. We will then have the passage of the inscription at 6 o'a.m. from SWISS – T < 25 a SWISS (transizionale) fino al SWISS MADE post 1998 – 1999.

Anche la cassa subisce un piccolo restyling in linea con tutti gli orologi di casa Rolex. Infatti, coi seriali Y e F del 2003 spariscono i fori in corrispondenza delle anse, mentre dal 2008 il rehaut viene inciso a laser per tutta la sua circonferenza “Rolex Rolex Rolex”. A partire dal 2006 viene introdotto il nuovo calibro 3186 con spirale in Parachrom. I bracciali previsti per questa referenza sono il 78360, il 78790 dal 1997 e il 78790A con SEL (Solid End Links) dotati di chiusura con leva di sicurezza.


EXPLORER II ref. 216570 (2011 – 2021)

In 2011, after twenty years of honorable service, Rolex dismisses the reference 16570 with the new one Explorer II 216570. It is a much more massive version in all respects: the case is increased to 42 mm, becoming one of the most important sportsmen in the Rolex house in terms of size, the 24-hour hand in the shape of an orange "Freccione" is also introduced in homage to the reference 1655.

The hour and minute hands also have a more generous size like the indices on the black or white lacquer dial. The luminescent material is chromalight with long-lasting blue luminescent material.

From a technical point of view, the movement is replaced with the Rolex 3187 caliber, also larger in size to fit the new 42mm case. The new movement uses a Breguet-type blue Parachrom spiral, a large variable inertia barbell with Paraflex anti-shock. The 24-hour hand is independently adjustable and the power reserve is 48 hours. In addition to being COSC certified, the caliber 3187 meets the new Rolex precision parameters that provide a daily recessed motion deviation of -2/+2 seconds.

The fully satin Oystersteel bracelet (ref. 77210) is new generation with a new Oysterclasp equipped with "Easylink" for micro-adjustments, which allows you to adjust the bracelet by about 5mm.


EXPLORER II ref. 226570, The new generation

10 years after 216570, at Watches & Wonder 2021, Rolex unveils the new Explorer II reference 226570. What has changed since the previous model? In fact little, displacing those who – like us – would have expected a return to the case of more traditional size, 40 mm, but also Rolex style have been made small but significant improvements. The news concerns the introduction of the new caliber 3285, with Chronergy escapement, which carries the power reserve from 40 to 70 hours. The case was slightly redesigned with thinner lanx and less thick carts. The bezel has a finer satin finish and the graduated scale has a much more marked and visible font.

It remains the choice between black or white dial with indexes coated using the PVD technique. The choice not to opt for a ceramic bezel is consistent with the explorer II's watch-instrument vocation. Would you ever climb a rock face with a ceramic bezel? In the version with a black dial, the 24-hour hand is entirely orange and more visible than the previous version which was half black and half orange.

The Explorer II 226570 is also equipped with oyster bracelet with Oysterlock safety clasp with folding closure, designed and patented by Rolex, which prevents any inadvertent opening. The sale price of the new models is € 8,150.