Back in April 2021, aBlogtoWatch debuted the newest-generation Rolex Explorer II with the new reference 226570 watches here. Today, I go hands-on with both the black and white dial reference Rolex 226570 Explorer II models, which refine but don’t revolutionize the classic sports watch formula. Rolex entirely updated the dial, case, movement, and bracelet in a watch that nevertheless fits more or less the same profile as the outgoing 216570 Explorer II models. Does the watch feel different on the wrist?
In short, while it is clear that the latest generation Explorer II 22657o watch is fresh and generally an improvement on the outgoing model, many eyeballs will barely notice the differences between the two. This is probably good news for current owners of the 42mm-wide Explorer II who may feel emotionally compelled to upgrade. These folks might get the latest and greatest by swapping out their own models for the new ones, but they won’t get a materially different wearing experience. Having said that, if you’ve been holding out on getting an Explorer II watch (for reasons other than sheer unavailability) Rolex may have refined out some of the quibbles that a few people had about the previous generation 216570 Explorer II models.
I, for instance, am very happy that Rolex decided to replace the slightly glossy black hands and hour markers of the white-dialed 216570 with matte-finished hands and hour markers on the white-dialed 226570 model. This brings the look of the Explorer II back to the earlier 40mm-wide 16570 Explorer II that remains very popular with enthusiasts even today. That earlier Explorer II model’s focus on utility and legibility seems to be what Rolex was inspired by when making refinements to the first generation 42mm wide Explorer watch.
While the reference 226570 watch is also 42mm-wide, Rolex changed the geometry of the case in a number of small ways that make its largest GMT watch fit more comfortably and with more proportionality. Not everyone will like the larger wearing dimensions, but the market has been clear that there is a growing demand for larger Rolex watches out there (even if the 36mm-wide men’s watches are still popular with a lot of enthusiasts and wearers). I felt an immediate difference on my wrist when wearing the 226570 watches versus the 216570 models, even though they are, on paper, the same size watch. The Oyster-style bracelet, in particular, is very nicely rendered with a new clasp that closes a bit more securely and is also thinner on the wrist. One of the biggest improvements in the Rolex watches of today versus even those from just 10 or 15 years ago is certainly in the quality of the bracelets and deployant clasp mechanisms. The Explorer II has a safety locking clasp, and inside is a small “comfort extension” that opens up the bracelet a small amount but it doesn’t have the more sophisticated micro-adjust system of the Rolex Submariner and other diving watches.
At 42mm-wide in mostly brushed steel, the Rolex Explorer II case is water-resistant to 100 meters and has a sapphire crystal over the dial. Rolex is historically timid about using anti-reflective coating, and the latest generation Submariner is actually the first one that has a more modern anti-reflective coating application. I’m not sure if that has translated into the Explorer II models, but I will say that the lower level of glossy elements on the dials certainly does help with reading the dial more easily.
As I said above, Rolex uses entirely new dials and hands for this latest generation Explorer II watch… even if most eyes will not notice. Small differences in the dials exist but aren’t really worth mentioning beyond the no-longer-glossy hands and hour markers on the white-dial version. The black dial version of the 226570 has steel-toned hands and hour markers that are otherwise painted with Rolex’s Chromalight luminant material.
To remind people who don’t know, the Explorer II is all about being a watch that allows you to know the time of day if you can’t see the sun (it was developed for cave explorers). The GMT hand can be used to indicate a second time zone, though Rolex intends for the GMT-Master II or the Sky-Dweller to be their more traveler-oriented watches. The fixed bezel of the Explorer II has 24-hour markers on it, and when the GMT hand is synchronized with the local time, it acts as an AM/PM indicator. The 226570 models retail the classic-style orange-colored GMT hands which Rolex had returned in the previous generation 216570 models.
In any event, the Rolex Explorer II 226570 models have the same GMT movements as the GMT-Master II watches which is the in-house made Rolex caliber 3285 automatic which operates at 4Hz with three days of power reserve. These “Superlative Chronometer” watches are rated to have an impressive accuracy of just plus or minus two seconds per day. The movements include the time with an independently adjustable GMT (24-hour hand), as well as a date window which is easier to read thanks to the Rolex “cyclops” magnifier lens on the crystal.
As someone who really wanted to like the previous generation Rolex Explorer II more, the 226570 fixes most of the issues I had with the previous generation, and I can easily say that I’d wear the white-dial version now (always had a thing for white-dial sports watches). The black version has more subtle changes, but both of the new 226570 generation Rolex Explorer II watches are an impressive refinement and an even better wearing experience than the previous models. Price for the Rolex Explorer II 226570 watch is $8,550 USD. Learn more at the Rolex website here.