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Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Rolex Explorer II, reference 216570, along with the Submariner, GMT Master, and the Datejust, constitute Rolex’s most popular watches. While the Explorer model, like the others, is a child of the late 1950s; unlike the others, it has two current models, both popular, but also quite different. The first model, the Rolex Explorer, is 39mm and is closest to the original version, while the Explorer II is 42mm and more adapted to modern tastes. In this post, I review the latter model. And while any of the Rolex Explorer models make for a solid tool watch, in this review, I am not taking it to some mountain trekking odyssey, but instead I am doing modern day exploration. My account is based on taking it for a month long journey to Asia, exploring a distant land, an ancient people, and a fascinating culture: China.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

First off, the Rolex Explorer was one of the first wristwatches to be designed for exploration, in particular, exploring new lands and varied terrains. While today, a Casio ProTrek or similar solar-powered multifunction watch will serve you well on a distant trek, in the 1950s and early 1960s when real exploration of the poles and the high peaks of the world was taking place, no quartz watch existed. And even today, if you were to attempt to explore the earth’s pole or climb Mt. Everest, the Rolex Explorer might still be a better choice than a quartz device, since these suffer when exposed to high and low temperatures and depend on an external source of power. However, the Rolex Explorer II is guaranteed to work as well as it does day to day even under extreme temperature gradients and with no source of power, except wearing it daily and moving a bit (or winding the crown).

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

So while in my own “expedition” with the Rolex Explorer II, I was not taking it to extreme conditions, I did take it to what is a somewhat typical modern day traveling journey, including airports, business meetings, business outings, the gym, and also visiting the outdoors in a distant land. In all cases, what was great was the Rolex Explorer II never felt out of place.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

At the airport, the first step was to set the local and home time to PDT. As the plane took off and we got an indication of the time in Beijing, using the quick set feature on the hour hand, I simply pulled the crown and moved it forward about 8 timezones for the time in China. Interestingly, unlike many large countries, China has one timezone! It does not matter if you are in the east or western part of China, there is just one. Makes it easy for doing business, I suppose, though I imagine Chinese get a very different experience of time over the year depending on what side of the country they live on.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

A great thing about Rolex sports watches, especially modern versions, is that they tend to be multipurpose. That is, they fit well into both business and casual situations as well as the more sporty settings for which they were specifically designed. So during my month long visit, and with various meetings at all levels of the organization, I never had to use any other watch, really. The Rolex Explorer II fit in great.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Its imposing 42mm all-brushed stainless steel case (water resistant to 100 meters) could be a minor issue if you needed to button up for a formal event, as it sits 12mm high on the wrist. However, that was never the case for me, and it fit great under all of my shirts, even when wearing a sports jacket in the cold grey late winter evenings of Beijing.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Besides casual usages while visiting the vast city of Beijing, the occasion I had which most suited the Rolex Explorer II’s origin was when I took a half day trip to the Great Wall of China. First off, the Great Wall is nothing short of extraordinary, spanning miles and miles. The people of this great land constructed a 20-foot wide wall that serpentines the high mountains of northern China, helping separate it from centuries of Mongol invasions. It is commonly considered as one of the seven wonders of the world and for long the only man-made structure visible from outer space.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Getting to the section of the Great Wall our visit meant taking a roller coaster-like small car that took us hundreds of feet into the mountain and into the Wall proper. Of course, once there, comes the fun part. Depending on your fitness level and the time before dawn, you can easily walk and climb this amazing structure for miles and miles. I challenged myself to at least get to four towers, which round trip would be about a hilly 10k. Heck, I had just completed a full Ironman less than a year ago, how bad could this be?

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Of course, the Rolex Explorer II was never the issue during my Wall trek, but rather my knees and my feet walking and climbing this amazing structure. Of course, I was also carrying my DSLR camera and made sure to stop, take a breathe, and take some pictures of the vast landscape. The weather was clear, so the view went on for miles. The white face of the Rolex Explorer II was never out of place. And I was very happy to use the 5mm easy link extension to relieve my wrist after a hard day hiking under the sun.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Like many of the modern Rolex sports watches, the Rolex Explorer II comes with the modern Oyster bracelet fully brushed (just like the Submariner), and it is just plain comfortable and screams high quality. The Rolex bracelets are, just like any genuinely well engineered bracelet, adjustable with screws where one can remove full links or half links. Also, the bracelet tapers from 21mm at the lugs to 17mm at the oyster clasp, thereby resulting in a highly wearable 42mm watch. The clasp includes the protective Rolex Oyster lock, but unlike the Submariner, there are no quick adjustments except for the 5mm oyster link which I mentioned makes it easy to extend or reduce the bracelet by 5mm during the day as your wrist expands and contracts.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Rolex Explorer II comes fitted with the Rolex 3187 caliber which I found to be super accurate (as it is COSC chronometer certified, like all Rolex calibers) and easy to use. It also contains Rolex’s Paraflex system which helps improve the watch’s resistance to shocks, as well as the brand’s Parachrom anti-magnetic hairspring so as to render the movement more resistant to magnetic fields. The quick hour adjust works like a charm, and the date can be advanced forward using this feature. The large orange GMT hand is easily visible and points brilliantly to the black 24-hour markers on the bezel.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Rolex “Mercedes” hour hand (originally designed to appear totally different to the minute hand for easy legibility) and the minutes hand are larger, bolder than their counterparts on the Submariner or GMT Master II. Also, here they are outlined in black paint and filled with blue Chromalight, whereas on other Rolex models, they tend to be done in 18k white gold. The look is pretty unique to the Rolex Explorer II in Rolex’s line up and has acquired the moniker of “maxi-hands” from collectors. The rest of the dial is in the iconic white “polar” color with cardinal markers and hour markers (round), also with a black painted outline, completing the unique – and uniquely legible – maxi-dial.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While clearly remaining a Rolex with the classic oyster case, the cyclops on the crystal, and the famous Rolex dial, this model is less common than the Submariner and GMT Master II, easily making it the more interesting Rolex if you want a solid sports watch from the famous brand – and hence it is one that you will more rarely see anyone else wearing during the day. As a matter of fact, during my entire time traveling to China, I only spotted one other person wearing a Rolex Explorer II (black dial), though I spotted countless other Rolex sports watches.

Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews Rolex Explorer II 216570 Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

So while the Rolex Explorer II 216570 is not necessarily my absolute favorite Rolex stainless steel sports watch, its imposing size, easy wearability, and lack of popularity make it one that I often go to when I need a modern multi-purpose watch that I can wear for business, casual, or for sporty occasions – and yet that is not a common one. For this exact reason, the Rolex Explorer II was a great companion for my travels, exploring the great land of China and earned a special place in my permanent collection. Price for the Rolex Explorer II 216570 is $8,

Necessary Data
>Brand: Rolex
>Model: Explorer II reference 216570
>Price: $8,100
>Size: 42mm wide (45mm with crown) and 12.5mm high and 49mm lug to lug
>Weight: 150g with a few links removed to fit my 6.25-inch wrist
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Anyone who is looking to buy his first Rolex but hates the fact that the brand is so popular and commonly seen.
>Worst characteristic of watch: There is really not much wrong with this watch. If I had to nit pick, I’d say that the maxi-hands can appear to be too large, however, it grew on me quickly and is now one of my favorite characteristics of the watch.
>Best characteristic of watch: The dial: iconic, legible, and visible from far.



Disqus Debug thread_id: 3991173743

  • Probably my favorite Rolex together with the blue/black GMT II.

    Also looks fantastic with a rubber-b orange strap!

  • X_chinese

    Isn’t this a bit overpriced, even for Rolex? I know it’s a Rolex, but for someone who love watches, and not only a brandname, this is too expensive for what it is.

  • iamcalledryan

    A real beauty of a tool traveler. People who know nothing will think this is very well worth it. People who know only a little bit will think this is overpriced. People who know what differentiates Rolex from other producers will appreciate that this is bang on the money.

  • tenrokan

    Pure mythology that the Great Wall of China can be seen from outerspace. Yes its magnificent but no wider than any other highway on earth. Interesting post.

  • Twinbarrel

    Nicely written article. Also good to see a lume shot. Many watches look magnificent in the dark but it’s seldom shown as a feature.

  • Not for me, but that was a great article: sounds like a heck of a vacation!

  • Definitely one of my favorites from Rolex!

  • Not a vacation, but work. Serious work actually with some weekend fun visiting.
    Anyhow, thanks for reading and commenting. Cheers.

  • Michael Angelo Vivas Villaluz

    Glorious timepiece ! The white face gives it the pop U0001f449U0001f44c

  • Yaax Arr

    Great looking but overpriced!

  • lmmo

    Nice write up and great watch (although I still prefer my 114060 Submariner).

  • Agreed, same here

  • dimatha

    what accuracy did it had that whole month?

  • funkright

    I so wish Rolex would make the GMT IIc in a 42mm. Then they’d have me as a customer. Pretty please U0001f44d this looks great but I want a ceramic bezel U0001f609

  • Excellent. I never had to adjust it. Id guess 20 seconds or so by end of month.

  • Sure it’s expensive. Pretty much like most mechanical watches by a known brand. However, once you get pass the fact that these things are overpriced then you realize that this one and pretty much all Rolex steel sports watches are actually good value: quality, design, resale value, experience, brand recognition, etc. Hence why the Rolexes are benchmarks for mechanical watches… And judging at their popularity I am not the only one.
    Thanks for your comment, cheers,

  • DanW94

    I prefer the more refined look of the Explorer at 39mm with the black dial.  The components on this model (hands, hour markers, cyclops window, GMT hand) are a bit large and look a tad disproportionate to the dial.  Great watch,but not my style.

  • thornwood36

    Nice clear looking face, build quality is 1st class………..but. unfortunately this brand is a little fuddy duddy for me. I also HATE the date window ( which am sure they do now ). Its a bit much for me for a watch with a battery.

  • iamcalledryan

    thornwood36 Battery?!

  • X_chinese

    It sure looks pretty. But 8000 dollar for a watch without chronograph is a bit steep. But you are right, if you like the design, the price doesn’t really matter.

  • bichondaddy

    Very well written article Maximilien!!  Thanks for the nice pictures of the Great Wall.  Although I am not a Rolex fan….it’s a long story and I have told it way too many times…..I know many other people love the brand.  Personally…for that kind of coin, there are a few Breitlings I would rather own….but that’s just me.  

    Oh…I guess it all depends on one’s perspective…..but I don’t see a 42 mm watch that sits 12 mm high on the wrist as being imposing….but that’s just me and my 23 cm wrist!!!  LOL

  • dimatha

    Maximilien Great, that is less than a sec/day, I wonder how much better would perform a 32XX series.

  • nickyb66

    There ain’t no battery old chap

  • thornwood36

    Soz , your right I skimmed the article before leaving comment…….me bad

  • spiceballs

    Nice article, thx Max.  Have an older (2006) 39mm EII polar 3186.  Hummed & hawed between this and the newer 42mm, but simply preferred the comfort (and price) of the (slightly) smaller (used) version..

  • AK74

    Pricey, but it doesn’t feel terribly overpriced like most recent reviewed items.

  • sak335

    Thanks for the write-up.  I like this watch quite a bit and have no issues with the dimensions.  I was recently searching for a GMT watch, and this was in my final two, but it lost out to an Omega Speedmaster GMT since I already have a Submariner.  For those that think this is too much money, you can find them new for under $6k if you look hard enough.  There is nothing like Rolex quality and reliability, and the bracelet is second to none.  I can carry my kids all day wearing my Rolex and never feel a thing, whereas after five minutes with other watches and the band is digging into my wrist.

  • X_chinese

    I am looking for a Rolex for some time now. But I always bought a Omega instead. There is no doubt that the quality of Rolex watches are excellent. But I think the Omega are better value. I also like the saphireback on the Omega’s more. I bought a DSOTM and recently an Aqua Terra 150M. But I hope to own a Rolex in the future.
    Since you have both watches, can you please tell me about the buildquality of Rolex compared to Omega? And how is it like to wear it every day? I know it’s difficult to explain, but do you feel that Rolex is superior to Omega?

  • Chronic

    Good personal review,  I was particularly gratified that you included the complete watch specifications (measurements) and also your wrist size, as this helps us interpret the photographs.

  • Shilpa Dhamija

    forbidden city, for sure.

  • The DoStM is a fantastic watch, very different than any Rolex as its ceramic. It would be closer to a Daytona but not the Explorer.
    W.r.t. Rolex vs Omega I think they are close in quality but Rolex edge Omega in bracelet and more classic designs. Omega is better at variety and innovation. Their new antimagnetic movement is second to none right now.
    At the end of the day I’d say (in time) buy one from each brand and make up your mind or like me don’t 🙂 I like both brands.

  • X_chinese

    Thanks for your reply. It will be very costly for me if I like both brands 🙂 I will just look at each model instead of the brands. You are very lucky to review so many different watches.

  • Ila Djr

    Luv mine!

  • Maximillian Ch

    Aditya explorer 2?? 😀

  • Aditya ‘Aditn’ Burhan

    Cool bro! But i have no money U0001f602

  • Fraser Petrick

    It’s that cyclops eye…

  • sak335

    X_chinese Both are top brands.  I think that Rolex is slightly better quality, though as you mention, due to the lack of exhibition case-backs, you don’t necessarily ‘see’ it.  To be honest, it’s hard to compare my watches; my Rolex is a 16610 that I bought more than 20 years ago and my Omega is a 2008 model (Speedmaster Broad Arrow GMT) and they are very different watches.  The Omega is certainly newer, flashier, and arguably, loaded with tech vs. the tool nature of the Rolex.  I love them both but I do think of Rolex still as a higher end brand and you can’t  argue about the tech in the newer models.  Save your money and buy one, you won’t be disappointed.

  • nosig

    Fraser Petrick  I never understood why Rolex does not offer their watches without the Cyclops. I bought an Omega Seamaster GMT just because it does not have the big eye.

  • Fraser Petrick

    nosig Fraser Petrick  I can still part with thousands of dollars for a Submariner (with no date). But , if I’m parting with big bucks for  a high quality product, surely a date indicator minus the ugly and distracting Cyclops magnifier is doable. Hundreds of other brands can do it; why not Rolex?
    I know the Cyclops thing is part of the, ahem, mystique; but then that only lends credence to the notion that Rolex purchasers are willing to make compromises in order to strap a status symbol to their  wrists, left suit sleeves slightly pulled up during shareholder meetings and save-the-rainforest  fund-raisers.
    Mind you, mind you, mind you, if I had to suffer through a cycloptic-eyed Rolex, having spent $10,000+ , I’d try to muddle through the compromise of my inverted snobbery.

  • X_chinese

    Thanks for your advice. I’ll will wait for a Rolex I really like. I will definitely  join the Rolex-club sooner or later 🙂

  • Fraser Petrick nosig Fraser, you sound like a Rolex DeapSea or SeaDweller kind of guy then (no cyclops on those beefier Sub clones).

  • nosig

    MarkCarson Fraser Petrick nosig  Wonder if Lasik is available in Switzerland?

  • korbindallis


  • nosig MarkCarson Fraser Petrick Lasik usually is performed to correct distance vision. However as we age, the ability to focus both near and far fades – presbyopia (no it’s not just for Presbyterians). And no Lasik, does not help with that. As an old guy who had Lasik done in 1999, I have great distance vision but need reading glasses for close in stuff.
    So are you suggesting Fraser or the Rolex’s crystal needs Lasik, ha ha?

  • egznyc

    Yeah, we all make mistakes ;-). But really, who’s going to spend eight big ones on a watch with a battery?

  • egznyc

    I suppose if you hadn’t had LASIK you’d now have bad distance vision but reasonably good reading vision. We cannot win.
    Your last remark was quite funny.

  • egznyc

    I didn’t catch whether the bezel rotates, which would allow one to keep track of a third time zone. It looks like brushed stainless steel; is it? Much nicer than the Rolex fluted bezels, I think. I’d lose the unnecessary and annoying cyclops over the date.
    Never really fell in love with the brand. But they get my respect. I’m not itching to own one but I certainly wouldn’t refuse one, either!

  • egznyc  The Rolex GMT has a rotating bezel while the Explorer II does not. And even if it did rotate, there are not 24 hour markings on the dial, so it would still be hard to easily use it for two 24 time displays.

    • Jim Coleman

      No 24 hour markers on the GMT Master’s dial either! So it can’t do three timezones. Which makes its rotating bezel kinda useless.

  • nosig

    MarkCarson nosig Fraser Petrick  Sorry for my poor attempt at humor, I will stick to my day job. Forget the Cyclops, now where did I leave my reading glasses?

  • Ca G

    Did the watch suffer any unfortunate scratches on its journey?