When Rolex retired the iconic Explorer Reference 1016, a new era for the Explorer collection began with the Explorer II. The brand first released the model in 1971. It has a sportier and more rugged look and feel than the original. Some of the trademark features of the Explorer II are its bold, orange fourth hand and 24-hour bezel. Overall, this version of the brand’s classic Explorer is larger and more modern. Buying a Rolex Explorer II watch is ideal for everyday wear and as a tool watch. Browse our incredible array of exceptional used Rolex Explorer II watches for sale.
One of the most iconic Explorer models is the Reference 1016, which was in production for an impressive 26 years. As the long-reign of the Ref. 1016 came to an end, a new era for the Explorer series began with the introduction of the Explorer II.
The Explorer II debuted in 1971 with the Reference 1655. This initial model was specifically designed with speleologists, volcanologists, and polar and jungle explorers in mind. It's often difficult to distinguish between day and night in these places. As a result, Rolex equipped the Explorer II with some specially designed features. These include a fourth hand and 24-hour bezel. This additional hand is typically orange and has become a trademark of the Explorer II.
Rolex introduced the second variation of the Explorer II in 1985 with the Reference 16550. However, many consider this to be a transitional model. The brand added a new edition just four years later: the Reference 16570.
It took time for the Explorer II to catch on among a wider scope of people. The model did maintain a number of the features of the original Explorer. For instance, the Explorer II was self-winding, water resistant up to 330 feet, and exclusively offered in stainless steel. However, many Rolex enthusiasts missed some of the qualities of the original Explorer models. The Explorer II surprised them because it was a relatively extreme departure from the original. It has a sportier look and feel with a newly designed dial, sapphire crystal, and caliber 3000 movement. Everything about the Explorer II is bigger and bolder, from the larger case to the lugs and dial markers.
The Explorer II didn’t gain widespread popularity until the early 1990s. This was shortly after Rolex officially discontinued the production of the beloved Explorer Ref. 1016. The Explorer II gained attention after it was rumored to be worn by legendary actor and racer Steve McQueen. Since then, fans have nicknamed the model the Steve McQueen Explorer.
In more recent years, Rolex has continued to evolve the Explorer II collection. One of the latest editions came in 2016. It debuted an all-new Chromalight display. The exclusive material provides a blue glow, further increasing the legibility of the model in dark conditions. For this model, Rolex has applied Chromalight to the hour markers and hands for optimal visibility under any circumstances. In addition, the model gets an updated movement with Superlative Chronometer Certification.
The Explorer II is the ideal watch for the avid cave dweller. However, you don’t have to be a passionate adventurer to appreciate it. The more rugged design and appearance of the Explorer II makes it a durable and practical watch for everyday wear.
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