back to top

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

It was back in mid-November 2016 when, for no reason at all of course, I decided that I needed some retail therapy to help me get out of the inexplicably dark mood I was in. So, what does a watch lover do when they need retail therapy? Go Rolex shopping, of course. After consulting with all my aBlogtoWatch and fellow enthusiast buddies, I was down to two options: a Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570 black dial or the ubiquitous Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060 no date (if I could get an Explorer II with no date, I’d likely have opted for that).

I’m not going to keep the mystery going here, but after I made my decision I talked to one of the consummate watch professionals whom I entrust for purchases, George Mayer over at Govberg Jewelers. Shortly after that I had my Explorer II on the wrist and I couldn’t be happier. However, the decision was tougher than I had imagined and, in an ideal world, I would have gotten both the Explorer II and the Submariner. Here, I’m going to attempt to objectively compare the two watches to help make this decision a little easier for anyone out there struggling with the same choice.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

It’s no secret that steel sports watches are the “it” pieces at the moment (writing this in early 2018, for posterity) with ceramic  Daytonas and Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711s trading at thousands of dollars above their asking prices. This is a topic of justified frustration from a lot of watch enthusiasts who simply want to pay a fair price for a watch they want but unfortunately market trends and inventory can make getting some models nearly impossible, and the recently introduced steel Pepsi GMT is going to be another impossible to find model trading at way above retail.

Fortunately, the Submariner and Explorer II are solid offerings that retain value but are reasonably easy to acquire. However, Rolex is constricting inventory more and more and an inevitable price increase down the road makes this a good time to pull the trigger on one of these pieces if you’ve seriously been considering it. (If you want to learn more about the inventory crunch, aBlogtoWatch had a fascinating and illuminating conversation with George Mayer from Govberg about this topic that you can check out here.)

Some time ago, our David Bredan did a head-to-head of the Submariner 114060 and the Tudor Heritage Black Bay. This is a little different as there isn’t one solid value proposition, but I will cite David’s piece throughout this article when it comes to the Submariner. So, without further ado let’s take a look at the Rolex Submariner 114060 vs. the Rolex Explorer II 216570.


Rolex Submariner History & Background

The first Submariner ref. 6204 watch arrived in 1953 and has gone on to become the most iconic dive watch in modern history, and one of the most iconic and ubiquitous luxury sports watches out there, period. Originally measuring 37mm wide, the Submariner was waterproof to 100 meters due to its Oyster case though in subsequent years this was improved to 200 meters (1,000 feet) of water resistance. Of course, when Sean Connery wore the Submariner as James Bond in 1962’s Dr. No, the watch was chiseled into the imagination of nearly every young man (and woman) who saw a 007 film through the years.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

Fast forward to 1967, and we see the release of the Rolex Submariner ref. 1680 which was the first Submariner that had a date, as well as the single line of red text which was given a tribute in the form of 2017’s Sea-Dweller which isn’t a faithful recreation, mind you.

The Submariner has been an icon for decades, and the two most common models we see are the reference 16610 with aluminum bezel which was introduced back in 1989 and was in production until 2010. In 2010 we saw the introduction of the Submariner we are discussing here in the ref. 114060 as well as the date model ref. 116610. Updates that were made to the newer versions were: the most obvious inclusion of the Cerachrom (that’s ceramic) bezel; superior Chromalight lume; the addition of four click-springs used in the bezel (the previous 16610 used one click-spring) which allows for a smoother and more accurate setting on the bezel; the upgraded caliber 3135 which uses the Parachrom hairspring; and finally the newer models have larger crown guards and lugs.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

Famous for his GMT, Fidel Castro also wore his Submariner. Here, he famously is wearing both a Day-Date and a Submariner on a visit to the then-USSR.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

The Submariner was the “real” Steve McQueen watch.

In short, the Submariner is a modern legend. A quick glance at the second-hand or watch trade forums show how strong this watch and its reputation are. If you want a piece of history that can be traded anywhere on the planet in a split second, it’s hard to do better than the Submariner. Of course this universal appeal and reputation means that this watch is not going to make one feel “unique” in a crowd and it’s pretty tough to express your taste or style with a watch like this.

Rolex Explorer II History & Background

The Explorer II was introduced in 1971 as a sportier follow up to the Explorer. Never quite living up to the popularity of models like the Submariner or GMT Master II, I think the Explorer II has marched to the beat of its own drum since it was introduced and really has stood alone in the brand family. Much like the Milgauss, it’s a relatively quirky offering that has added so much character to the brand’s lineup. And it’s impossible to discuss neither the first Explorer II or the most recent model that I’m discussing here without pointing out that impossible-to-miss orange 24-hour hand.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

The history of the Explorer II spans across three references, beginning with the 1655. Unveiled in 1971, the 40mm wide Explorer II was designed for spelunkers who would use the bright orange 24-hour hand to determine whether it is AM or PM when they are in the pitch dark of the caverns they would be excavating. This model has gained a vintage following, acquiring the “Freccione” moniker (“freccia” meaning “arrow” in Italian) as well as the inaccurate “Steve McQueen” nickname that isn’t based in any real history of the man wearing an Explorer II (in fact, he wore the Submariner most often).

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

Jake’s Rolex World, the wonderful resource for all things Green Crown, looks at this historical mistake and explains that it was Olympic skier Jean-Claude Killy who wore the ref. 1655 Explorer II and was featured in several ads for the watch in the early 1970s.

In 1989 they updated the Explorer II with the Ref. 16570 that came in both a black and white dial, which are colorways that carry into present day. This version of the Explorer II was outfitted with the then-newer Caliber 3185 (and later caliber 3186) and was quite a different beast in terms of aesthetics as well with new hands, circular hour markers, triangles rather than lines used to separate the hour markers on the bezel, and most notably the replacement of the orange 24-hour hand with the standard red hand seen on the GMT Master. It did keep the 40mm case, however.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

This Explorer II ad from the mid 1990s stood out as there is something incredibly secure and confident about having an ad for this watch featuring a woman.

This generation of the Explorer II reference 16570 is likely my least favorite as it seems to be a half-measure, or the answer to a question nobody really asked. Perhaps it all comes down to that iconic, in-your-face orange 24-hour hand that I see as being so cool and unique amongst their collection. Although, I know a lot of people prefer the smaller 40mm size and if you’re looking for a Rolex sports watch but don’t want to pay the $7,500+ for a contemporary Submariner or Explorer II, then these previous generation models present a compelling value proposition. There are plenty of great options for one of these ref. 16570 watches out there that are safely in the low $5,000 mark.

Which Rolex To Buy? The Submariner Vs. Explorer II Watch Comparison Review Featured Articles Mens Watches

Fortunately, for the 40th anniversary of the Explorer II, they introduced the Ref. 216570 in 2011. Available in a black or white “polar” dial, this most recent Explorer II is the crown’s sports watch that won me over. With the contemporary 42mm case, return of the orange 24-hour hand, large hands, and no-fuss steel bezel in a world of ceramic, I am a huge fan of this Explorer II. It’s not for everyone, but in a world where every other person has a Submariner, Daytona, or Royal Oak on their wrist, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.



Disqus Debug thread_id: 6591557816

  • ProJ

    Although we don’t have sales numbers, I think it’s safe to say the Sub-C is way more common than the Explorer-II. In my opinion, the advantage that the Sub has is essentially the ceramic bezel. It gives the watch a better and sportier look. So I think If Rolex puts ceramic bezel on the Explorer II, I bet most buyers will like it more. Why? Because 42mm (the new 40) and thinner = more balanced looks overall. Add to this an interesting complication, and you have a winner (who needs 300m WR anyway?).

    • R Khalifa

      Have yet to see a rendering of an Explorer II with ceramic bezel that doesn’t make it look like a Tissot

      • ProJ
        • John___B

          ProJ – that’s an Explorer II I’d get. Love the black bezel on it.

          • JosephWelke

            Let Bamford or Kravitz Design know! They’ll set you up!

          • Chaz

            Sorry…Bumfart has a cease & desist order from Rolex and is contractually obligated to LVMH as well as being Biver’s personal little Gimp.

        • R Khalifa

          that’s exactly the one I was talking about. I know some folks like it but to me it looks kind of cheap for some reason. that being said – knowing Rolex, I’m sure I’d feel differently if holding the actual thing in person, I’m just having a tough time imagining it. Wish they would slim the handset down just a hair as well without shortening it, too.

        • Joe

          I get this strange feeling that Rolex might use a metallic-grey ceramic to mimic the current steel bezel.
          I think that would give the ExpII a unique look, different to the existing sports models.
          They seem to like experimenting with different ceramic colours…

        • Joe

          I don’t have Photoshop so a crappy phone edit, but something like this?

        • spiceballs

          Great article Bilal. One of the reasons I bought my 2011 Explorer (I) was for the steel bezel which I see as ultimately being more “robust” than ceramic, and I use it for recreational diving, no problems.

        • Bilal Khan

          I’d like to see that ceramic bezel on the Polar dial, actually…

  • Justino Valverde

    Great article, it’s the answer to the question NOBODY asked…..

    • ProJ

      Huh? It’s a question I asked myself several times at least. Unless of course I AM NOBODY.

      • Justino Valverde

        About the article, try to think with some objectivity: what is the point of this “article”? It compares two different watches, intended for very different purposes. It just doesn’t make any sense to compare them. AT ALL. It’d be like comparing a Patek against a Casio.

        Abaut you, of course you are somebody. The typical ABTW fanboy….

        • Bilal Khan

          As I write in the first paragraph “After consulting with all my aBlogtoWatch and fellow enthusiast buddies, I was down to two options: a Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570 black dial or the ubiquitous Rolex Submariner Ref. 114060 no date (if I could get an Explorer II with no date, I’d likely have opted for that).”

          To be fair, I take your point that these are two different watches with different purposes (though I wouldn’t go as far as the Patek V. Casio) but for the consumer who is weighing a sub-$10,000 Rolex sports watch that matches their taste and style, I think it’s a very common question.

        • ProJ

          Go open and see 3 articles on their website right now, one is comparing an Audi A4 against Honda Accord, the second is comparing Mazda CX-5 against Lexus NX200, and the third is comparing Cadillac ATS-V with a Ford Mustang.

          See the point? Comparing 2 products within the same general classification (cars, watches etc.) and within the same price range is acceptable.

          Why? Because people do cross shop those things. If someone is in the watch store looking for a steel Rolex with $8k on their pocket I can’t see why they wouldn’t compare these 2 watches.

          Not everyone is in the market with a predetermined watch. Many just want a Rolex within a specific budget, exactly like what Bilal was describing.

          • JosephWelke

            Dunno if I would’ve compared a Mustang to an ATS-V. The former is a pony car, the latter is an entry-level luxury sports sedan.

        • Gokart Mozart

          Two different watches intended for different purposes. Aside from the GMT hand they are basically the same watch. Almost identical case, strap, indices, hands and movement. Only the bezel is different.

  • JosephWelke

    You used both 24-hour hand and GMT function to describe the Explorer II, so which is it please? Is the hand a slave to the hour hand, or can it be independently set? And if it can be, then can the hour hand be independently set in one-hour increments? Thanks!

    • ProJ

      1- The 24- and 12-hour hands can be adjusted independently of each other.

      2- Each of them is set in one-hour increments or decrements.

      • JosephWelke

        Thank you! Does that also go for vintage pieces or just the more modern ones?

        • ProJ

          Welcome! The first Exp-II with independent hour hand was the 16550 which was introduced in 1984 with caliber 3085.

  • SuperStrapper

    I don’t remember the last time I was downtown and didn’t see a sub. I’ve only seen explorers in the wild a few times.

    On the day the stars align and the tectonic plates shift in harmony Rolex will release a sub with a coloured dial, and I’ll likely find it to be the best one yet.

    • Chaz

      They have. They’re solid gold though…

  • Neither. Get a white-dialed 16570.

  • Jerry Davis

    Probably half the time I look at my watch it’s to check the date, so the answer for me is obvious.

  • Mikita

    Non of them. There are better ways to spend $8,000.

    • You must be real fun at parties.

      • Lindsay

        $8k worth of vice certainly does make for a good party.

    • ProJ

      Of course. Like tuition fees for son’s college?

      • Mikita

        I meant other watches. We are at the ABTWatch after all.

      • Tea Hound

        Far better financial return on the watch.

  • David Williams

    Having wrestled with this same question – and reached the same conclusion – I agree that there’s something very pleasing about the wider and slightly flatter proportions of the Explorer II. The spacious dial is highly legible and, for me, the steel bezel is visually harmonious. I suggest that a contrasting ceramic bezel, as suggested below, would look too busy – in this case, less is more.

  • Playboy Johnny

    Great job on the article Bilal, this was a good read.


    A difficult choice for sure but no date is a no go for me. That is what I always struggle to remember so the exp II would be my pick. I did end up w the polar version but was always drawn to the black version as well. The gmt complication I use constantly since I travel quite a bit and is in my opinion one of the most useful complication out there.
    Thanks for a good article

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Submariner for me please. I’ve always hated that stupid looking cyclops eye date thing.

  • Marius

    Interestingly enough, a few years ago I was also facing a similar conundrum (of course, at a slightly higher, Monegasque level), namely I was debating between between the Patek Philippe 3940 Perpetual Calendar and its cushion-shaped brother, the 5940 Perpetual Calendar. VS.

    The Patek Philippe 3940 is of course an iconic watch — in my view, it’s Patek`s most important perpetual calendar ever made. For starters, the 3940 was the first highly complicated serially-produced timepiece in Patek`s history. What’s even more important is the year of its release, namely 1985. You have to keep in mind that at this time, the Quartz Crisis was in “full swing” and the Swiss watch industry was badly hurt. In fact, the number of people employed by the Swiss watchmaking industry diminished from around 95,000 to just 28,000. So, the fact that Patek released a highly complicated watch in this timeframe was very daunting considering that most prestigious brands avoided investing in such complicated timepieces.

    Furthermore, the technical specifications of this wristwatch were also very interesting. Using the spectacular 240 QP movement — in my view, one of the last truly great Patek calibers — the 3940 had a thickness of just 9mm which is quite impressive for a perpetual calendar/moon phase watch equipped with a micro-rotor movement. Also, from an aesthetic perspective the 3940 really shines. In my opinion, this watch has perfect proportions as well as an elegant and easily-readable dial. In fact, Philippe Stern, the former CEO of Patek would wear this watch for the most part of his life, so one can have an idea about how important this timepiece was. On the pre-owned market, a 3940 in very good condition can be found at the €30,000 – €35,000 price range.

    On the other hand, the 5940 is another splendid iteration of the perpetual calendar series. Its cushion-shaped case is extremely attractive as well as slightly quirky. What I like most about the 5940 is its very unusual case design that immediately sets this watch apart from the rest. Granted, a 5940 is not as refined and discreet as a 3940, but it’s a very “aristocratic” watch nonetheless. In fact, the 5940 is slightly thinner than the 3940, measuring a 8,6mm case thickness. The Breguet numerals round off this very attractive Patek, which, interestingly enough, uses the very same 240 QP caliber. What’s important to point out is that on the pre-owned market, the price of a 5940 is higher than that of a 3940, ranging from €43,000 to around €49,000 for an example in very good condition. In my view, this is a bit strange as the 5940 is neither as historically-important nor as refined and well-proportioned as a 3940.

    Of course, the Rolex Explorer II vs. Rolex Submariner is also a good comparison, albeit one for poorer individuals occupying the lower socio-economic classes.

    • BNABOD

      that last picture is just amazing

      • Simonh

        Almost as though it is a professional photograph from stock rather than an actual personal picture!

    • Stewart Novinger

      Your final comment comes off as snot nosed and elitist. Poorer lower socioeconomic classes. People who buy Rolex are not exactly poor but may choose to have one instead of a Patek. I happen to own a couple of Pateks and feel fortunate to do so. Try not sounding like a rich asshole in the future.

      • palettj

        Common, read his previous posts. His whole shtick is trying to portray his character as an elitist oligarch type. Take it with a grain of salt.

        • Stewart Novinger

          I’ll leave it alone in the future. It just burns me when I hear garbage like that. Watch collecting is for everybody and all types, not just people buying 5&6 figure watches.

          • mbk

            Dude, it’s tounge-in-cheek. A joke.

      • Joe

        I say we’re all lucky to have these first world problems.
        If you look at it from the point of view of someone struggling to stay afloat (and I have known some) then likely anyone even harbouring the thought of buying a traditional watch is snot-nosed and elitist.

        So from their point of view, we’re all “rich assholes”. I frequently feel bad for being one myself, when I pass homeless people and those in need, but during my own “daily struggle for survival” it gives me light at the end of the tunnel – something to enjoy and look forward to. This light is different for everyone, that’s all.

    • AGrogToSnatch

      I too had the pleasure of deciding between a few watches. Granted, I would never wear cheap mainstream crap like a padek philipp, so I had to choose between watches that are appropriate for my socio-economic class.

      First, there is the beautiful Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon Technique:
      Just superb, especially compared to the low priced padeks. Nevertheless, I find the design a bit strange.

      Another option would be the Antoine Preziuso Tourbillon of Tourbillons. Sure, with a price tag of around 350k CHF this is indeed a bit cheap for my taste, but hey, it´s the Tourbillon of Tourbillons, and it´s nicely executed.

      Lastly, I would be really interested to buy the absolutely stunning and beautiful Breguet Marie Antoinette (the original of course), which is currently for display at the museum of islamic art in Jerusalem (what´s it doing there anyway?):

      In conclusion, I think I will pick the Breguet; it´s just the only watch that really fits my socio-economic class, since it´s a unique piece, built by Abraham-Louis Breguet himself. Admittedly, with a price tag of around € 35 million, it´s still not the most exclusive piece, but it´s still one of the few timepieces that meet my requirements in terms of history and craftsmanship.

      • Louis Winthorpe III

        No Nubeo?

      • Gokart Mozart

        The Antoine Preziuso is very cool. Three tourbillons spinning and the whole watch movement rotating.

        The reason I didn’t buy it was when I tried it on it was too big for my wrist. Need to make it a 40mm size.

    • Bilal Khan

      Where’s the Neptune, though?

    • Gokart Mozart

      Life is tough. The decisions that need to be made. 5940 for definite. every prince vlad, Abdul and harry will have the 3940. Plus the 5940 looks cooler.

      Phillips Stern did not really have a choice. Can you imagine him coming to work with something else.

      “Hey gentlemen, come and look at this watch I just bought. A little German brand name of Lange and son. It makes our watch look mass market. Come check how cool it looks”


      “Remember, we had a guy used to work for us when he was not racing cars, his name was Laurent, well check out his new watch. Someone see if he wants to come back and work for us”

  • Very nice work on this Bilal! Exp II for me please.

  • funkright

    Loved the article, but my mind was made up long before I read it, Explorer II hands down. It does so much more. Iconic, as the Submariner may be, doesn’t mean it’s utility is greater.

  • Stewart Novinger

    I am interested to hear what you or others think about the new air king. I have a white gold Daytona made in 2010 and the air king would be my next Rolex if I was buying right now. I believe it is also hard to get and have been seeing it for more than retail on the secondary market. Love to hear thoughts. [email protected]

    • Chaz

      Trust me…it is NOT hard to get and you can get LNIB versions for LESS than retail.

  • Boris N. Natasha

    Great article. Thanks for sharing your purchase process — please enjoy your Explorer! ???????, ??? ????

  • Jon Heinz

    Expy, but having owned two Rolexes in the past–and I do love them–I’d take the same money and get something I haven’t owned yet.

  • Beefalope

    Depends on whether you’re a car salesman who works in one timezone or two.

    • palettj

      The explorer is one of the most low key models of the Rolex lineup. A car salesman would want something more status quote.

  • Stewart Novinger

    What do you think about it, this is my Daytona. Sorry about the poor photo. So

  • This is an obvious one: the Submariner has 7 lines of text on the dial, the Explorer II only 6, so obviously is more Rolex than the Explorer II.

  • Chaz

    As the owner of a 216570 (“Polar”) I’d have to say it’s one of the most solid, distinctive watches in my rotation. I don’t coddle it, use it as a “beater” and it’s held up admirably. I do travel semi frequently so the date is definitely a must for me.

    As far as a Sub or Sea Dweller dive style watch is concerned, I went the way of Tudor and got the Pelagos LHD. No regrets there either. (Oh…the POOR MAN’S ROLEX)

    • Tea Hound

      I think Tudor can mostly stand on their own – so if you wanted validation of your choice (and I suspect you don’t!) then consider this reply the Tea Hound seal of approval. I’ve got the Black Bay Bronze and love it, even after that moron lisping man-child Beckham got involved.

      • Chaz

        Watch Ali G interview Beckham and Posh 😉

      • egznyc

        I’ve tried the BBB on and if I weren’t so parsimonious I’d be wearing one now. Although it’s 43mm, it doesn’t seem like a large watch, but mostly I loved the look and feel. The “chocolate” dial looked great with the maroon bezel and bronze case, and the hands are distinctive in a way that I like vs. the Rolex Mercedes hands.

    • Josh

      Tudor LHD rocks…

  • Steve

    Interesting article. Am curious as to your take on the Explorer II vs GMT Master.

    • Playboy Johnny

      I also thought about that comparison.

    • commentator bob

      The GMT Master II is a better watch in every way, but does cost more.

      However, I would put it this way. If you want a proper rotating bezel GMT watch you need to go with the GMT Master II. The Omega and Grand Seiko rotating bezel GMT watches are too large and gaudy, and lack the GMT Master’s history as the first watch of its kind.

      On the other hand, if you are going to settle on a GMT watch without a rotating bezel the Omega and Grand Seiko versions are better looking than the Explorer II.

  • Tea Hound

    What a lovely conundrum to have… Not that anyone asked, but out of these two, I’d go for the sub – it’s had the recent movement and bezel love after all, where as the Explorer II = whilst nice – has been left alone for a bit too long. But if I wanted the GMT-esque functionality, I’d go for the new root beer GMT, or even better, a Sky Dweller (which I already own) – blow the budget, that’s what Amex is for.

    • palettj

      The Explorer has a much advanced movement than the Sub.

      • mbk

        Both incorrect. Current Sub and ExpII are 31XX movements not the new 32XX movements. The 3187 of the ExpII is not more advanced, it just has the GMT complication and paraflex shock absorption.

        The new Seadwellers and the GMTs released at Basel have the new generation movements.

        • Tea Hound

          You are correct; my mistake. I’d still go for the sub though. I’ve owned an Exp II and the bezel is a scratch magnet.

        • Josh

          The parallax shock absorption is an advancement …

  • Joe

    I do like Rolex but just sold my 114060 Sub-C.
    It’s not that I don’t appreciate it but it seems to attract a lot of attention (for what it is horologically).
    I’m currently looking at a Blancpain (or a JLC) to take its place.

    • commentator bob

      Get an Omega. For all the attention the unsightly new Seamaster 300M is getting, Omega has incredibly classy watches like the Seamaster 300, Railmaster and Speedmaster 2998.

      A lot of people are having the same issue with the attention a Rolex draws. Archie Luxury had to sell his solid gold blue dial Sub, and switch to a Patek worldtimer, because he could not handle all the pussy he was getting.

      • Joe

        If you mean the old style “Omega Seamaster 300 master co-axial” then I agree, I really like them. I also don’t like the “Bond Seamaster” (eg Brosnan era) or the Planet Oceans. The Railmaster is also really cool.

        One thing I don’t seem to get the hang of are the names of these Omega watches. How to distinguish (without writing a paragraph about the George Daniels co-axial escapement) between the Seamaster I like vs the Seamaster I don’t is still a mystery to me.

        • commentator bob

          I mean this Seamaster. The distinction is that this one is a Seamaster 300 (no “M”), while the other has an M. The distinction is stupid, and the fact that Omega insists on making an attractive 300 meter dive watch and an ugly 300 meter dive watch is stupid.


          • Joe

            Actually back when I bought the Sub I considered this watch but found it uncomfortable on the wrist. Unfortunately the shop where I tried it only had a version with a NATO and not one with the bracelet, although at the time I felt the discomfort wasn’t just to do with the NATO. Maybe I will try one again.

          • egznyc

            Yeah I’m with you. This one is really nice; same with both the Railmaster and Trainmaster. They all have that vintage vibe though so maybe that says more about my tastes than about the aesthetics of their watches.

      • egznyc

        LOL. If only a watch had that kind of power. Let’s just say more guys would be strapping on these babe magnets, damned the expense!

    • egznyc

      JLC certainly has some fine options. 😉

  • Johnny Tank (Forever Autumn)

    If the 216570 had the same design of bezel as the 1655, I would buy both a white and black dialed version.

    This is what I’m talking about – The unofficial Hillary Tenzing Edition:

  • Kuroji

    Orange you glad I didn’t say Explorer II?

  • commentator bob

    The black bezel GMT Master II combines the best features of both of these watches, and is readily available.

  • commentator bob

    Not sure what moron would be considering these instead of the new Hublot with Tag Connected guts.

    • Harrystc

      Why must there be name calling. If you do not agree with someone else’s taste, you do NOT have the right to call him a nasty name. Though the Internet is relatively anonymous, have some care as a human being.

      • JJ S

        Idiots do that – no need to worry.

  • Lindsay

    The Mark II model looks a lot more interesting.

  • Yanko

    I have had several Rolex watches in the past 15-16 years (GMT II, Submariner, DateJust – 16220 and AirKing). Each one of them, no exception, worked exceptionally for a maximum of 3 years and then the watches started running fast or slow and the GMT II stopped working. So here I went to Rolex service in Beverly Hills to have them serviced and/or repaired. After spending a few thousand dollars on service and repair I sold them all. I no longer drive to Rolex service and my coffee tastes better every morning.

  • IG

    What about neither?

  • MrJKLFoams

    I got 114060 and 116622 blue dial and I luv both and just added moonwatch. Bang bang!

    • ProJ

      Which of the three do you like more if I may ask

    • Carlton_Blues

      I got the BLNR and Hulk, looking for a daytona BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Carlton_Blues

        sold the boring sub c, every tom dick and harry have black subs BORING BORING BORING!!!!!!!

        • Gokart Mozart

          Every Tom, dick, & harry and his sister have every type of Oyster.

          It is the watch equivalent of the vw golf.

  • Harrystc

    This is called setting up the straw man since it gives a notion that there are only two choices. I wore Rolex for most of the past 50 years. Other than my 55 year old Oyster which was a graduation gift from my folks and is in the bank vault, I sold them all. If I want the look of a sub I wear a Steinhardt Ocean One which looks like the Sub Rolex made the Italian Navy in 1963. Mine has a grey dial and cream colored loom. It runs an ETA 2428-2 and is all Swiss made. My daily watch is an Omega reduced blue dial, blue bezel and I use a blue rubber band from Swiss Army Victorinox. Looks great and runs perfect.

    I got tired of seeing so many Rolex that I thought I had become a cliche. Since I feel I am very individualistic I went for the look of a great tool watch and a size 39mm. The best is that it goes unnoticed. I don;t have men showing me their Daytona and Date-Just. I am much happier having been a Rolex man and not being one anymore. Also my local Rolex AD had to terminate their Rolex repairman whom I lived. Rolex wants all the repair work sent to their new repair centers where they insist on putting new hands and bezels on my wonderfully lived in watch so that you owe $1,500.

    Check out Steinhardt. It is $550 delivered from Switzerland. It has been trouble free for 3 years and I know I can take it anywhere to get a repair on an ETA 2428-2 movement, the workhorse of the entire watch industry. My Omega is fanstacti and I can get it repaired anywhere too with its Valjoux movement.

    Thinking about a Tudor Black Bay in that new smaller size, the 58. Great price point and it will show I share taste with younger guys who are buying and wearing them. The Tudors are so popular Rolex is even getting their name nearby, like they did 50 years ago with Tudor.

    • Gokart Mozart

      You should be able to sue Rolex for making your watch less valuable by turning it into a frankenwatch.

    • JJ S

      So cheap and sad story about Steinhart (that’s correct name) .

  • Omegaboy

    Weird how things sometimes happen. I’m going to buy a watch this September (bonus time at work) and had things narrowed down to a blue dial Datejust 41 or a Turn-O-Graph. After reading this article, though, I think it’s going to be the Explorer ll. ?

  • rainmaker

    Bring back the Explorer Ref.1655 dial and 40mm case. The current Explorer 2 dial is too similar to GMT II & Submariner.

  • Markus Vlasits

    Many thanks to Bilal for this thorough and very well written article. Some years ago I found myself in similar position with a ‘Hulkmariner’ vs. Polar Explorer II being on the shortlist for my first Rolex. I ended up with the Hulkmariner and overall have not regretted it. It’s a great watch with terrific quality.

    However, I do have my gripes with the ceramic bezel. Sometimes I simply consider it to be too ‘blingy’. But there is another issue which to my knowledge has never been raised in a review. The ceramic bezel is extremely resistant and pretty much scratch proof – despite my best ‘efforts’ mine still is totally pristine. The rest of the watch, of course, is not. Bracelet and case pick up the usual scratches, nicks and dents, and over time this creates a weird visual imbalance, between a used watch and its totally pristine bezel and crystal. Of course, I could take mine to the AD and get it polished. But, firstly, I am too busy and too lazy to do that, and secondly, and more importantly, I actually ‘like’ scratches on tool watches. To my eyes a well patinated Rolex that shows its age looks really cool … Thus, the problem with the Hulkmariner and any other sports watch with a ceramic bezel is that it will NEVER develop PATINA – it will either look brand new, or weird (as mine currently does). Have a look at attached pics to see what I am talking about …

    The 216570 probably is the last remaining ‘tool watch’ among the current Rolex catalogue. That in itself is laudable. Plus, I fully subscribe to two points Bilal made in his article – it’s great to see a more ‘daring’ version of the Explorer II plus design and size of the hands make a big difference in any watch. The problem that I have with the 216570 is that in my humble opinion Rolex overdid it when trying to max its dial and hands. To my eyes, minute and hour hand, especially the latter, look like caricatures of Rolex tool-watch hands and give the entire watch a, may I say, bloated and clownish appearance. It seems that I’m belonging to a minority here and that a lot of people actually like the current iteration of the Explorer II – which is great, because from a technical standpoint it seems to be a terrific time piece …


  • Carlton_Blues

    My god! You paid full retail for the explore II?? Do you know how munch they tank in the used market?

    • Josh

      They don’t “tank” at all…

  • maxii123

    While history and background are nice you told us absolutely nothing about the watches – performance, accuracy, resistance, market value fluctuations etc etc. A pretty useless article all told.

    • Bilal Khan

      Here you go.

      Performance/ Accuracy:
      “In all honestly, both watches are basically equally matched when it comes to their respective movements. The caliber 3187 used in the Explorer II boasts paraflex shock absorbers that the Submariner’s caliber 3135 doesn’t, however, so it is more resistant to impact or shocks. Both the 3187 and the 3135 are Superlative Chronometer (Rolex’s proprietary movement testing) certified and accurate to -2/+2 seconds per day.

      Both these movements feature a paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and get the same middling 48 hour power reserve, running at 4Hz or 28,800bph. While the long-term reliability and stringent internal testing done by Rolex is noteworthy on its own merit, I really expect a better power reserve from watches priced around the $8,000 mark. Having to reset the watch after putting it down for not even a weekend can really get grating after a while. Neither movement is much to look at but considering this is Rolex, you’re getting a solid steel caseback anyway.”

      “One major difference you’ll find between the Submariner and Explorer II is the crown. On the Submariner you have the superior Triplock “triple water-proofness” crown whereas the Explorer II has the Twinlock “double water-proofness” crown. What this materially results in is a water resistance of 300 meters (1,000 feet) on the Submariner and 100 meters (300 feet) on the Explorer II.

      You can identify the Triplock through the three dots under the Rolex logo crown, while a Twinlock will have a straight line (or alternatively, two dots) under the Rolex logo crown. The Twinlock system has two rubber sealed zones, one inside the tube and one inside the crown. This is what you find in the “standard” Rolex Oyster case watches that have the 100m water resistance. The Triplock crown is Rolex’s waterproofing system used specifically on dive watches. It’s overall larger in size, has four rubber sealed zones, as well as 10 distinct components that work together to create a much more superior waterproof seal.

      So, the Submariner is leagues ahead in terms of water resistance. But then again, it’s a dive watch whereas the Explorer II simply isn’t. I have never gone diving with my Explorer II, and I probably never will, so this point becomes moot for me. On the other hand, if you’re into water sports and diving, give the Submariner an advantage here.”

      Market Value Fluctuations:
      “I’m going to take care here to note that I’m not a fan of commenting on speculative watch purchases for “investment” purposes but value retention and exemplary resale value is a huge reason why so many people turn to Rolex as their luxury watch of choice. That’s not my opinion as much as it is simply a fact. A quick look at Bob’s Watches, a large and established pre-owned Rolex dealer, shows a couple of pre-owned Submariner 114060 watches with box and papers asking $7,195 which is about 96% when compared to a new model. Just for reference sake, the ref. 116610 date Submariners are asking around $8,000 or about 94% of the cost of a new model. That may sound ridiculous on its face, but Rolex has been limiting inventory recently and this is especially true when it comes to steel sports watches. And take this with a Sea-Dweller Deep Sea sized grain of salt but chatter of an inevitable price increase is noisy at the moment.

      Looking at Chrono24’s data and availability (we covered their most researched watches of 2017 here) Rolex was overall the most popular brand searched on the site with 27% of all searches. The Daytona was the most popular model from the brand, followed by the Submariner Date in second, the GMT Master-II in third, Datejust at fourth, and the no-date Submariner in fifth. So, with the two Submariners in the top five and the Explorer II nowhere on the top five, we can even more safely deduce the disparity in popularity between the Submariner and Explorer II.

      Though Chrono24’s 2017 report was a little less in-depth than the 2016 report, the latter shows the Submariner (unspecified model, so I am assuming all Subs) as the second most researched watch overall with 4.61% of all searches on the site. Again, it was just behind the Rolex Daytona which led in overall searches with 4.81%. The Explorer II was not in the top 15 searched watches.

      Moving on from data and looking at pre-owned availability, there are currently 191 Submariner 114060 watches available with the cheapest model available priced at $6,995 (I’m not counting the few options that are on an aftermarket strap) and about 20 are available between that price and $7,500. Underscoring the bullishness of the Submariner, there are dozens and dozens that are asking above the retail price with many, ahem, ambitious (I can think of harsher words that I’ll refrain from using) sellers asking in excess of $8,500 and even over $9,000. For new/unworn Submariner 114060 watches, there are plenty available with 84 on the market right now but the cheapest here is asking a bit over $7,800 with most averaging around $8,500, which is about a $1,000 premium over retail price.

      Preowned Explorer II watches on Bob’s that I’ve seen recently are asking between $7,295 and $7,500 so just a little bit more than the no-date Submariner and a little less than the date Submariner. It is a little lower when compared to price for a new watch which retails at $8,100 at 90%, which is most likely due to the fact that it’s just a less in-demand and desired watch overall.

      There are about 100 Explorer II 216570 black dial watches available on Chrono24 (that number goes up to about 160 if you include the white “Polar” dial model, though pricing is generally the same for both dial colors) with the most affordable example with box and papers coming in at $6,500. The vast majority range between this price and $7,800 depending on the condition of the specific watch. There aren’t really any Explorer II watches that are selling at above retail price which, again, is a reflection on the fact that you can likely walk into any Rolex retailer right now and walk out with an Explorer II. This isn’t necessarily true year-round for the Submariner, with inventory crunches in late 2017 through early 2018 driving up demand.

      As for new/unworn Explorer II 216570 black dial watches, there are about 105 available right now. There are several of these watches (including from reputable retailers) in new/unworn condition at a little under retail, with several in the $7,500 range compared to the $8,100 retail price for a new one. It’s not a major discount and it’s also important to keep in mind that a lot of watches on the secondary market come from all over the world and one has to keep in mind all the potential headaches that can go along with that.

      Again, both of these steel Rolex sports watches benefit from the rock-solid resale value that is characteristic of the brand in general. Overall I would give the edge to the Submariner just because it’s a much easier watch to sell (or trade if you’ve gone down that watch-addict rabbit hole).”

  • Mike Mush

    Nice article! Nice to see one that comes down on the side of the Explorer II. I’ve had tons of different model Rolexes, but I’ve found the Explorer II to be the most comfortable, most legible and just the best every day watch. I love the Submariner, but man they are (relatively) common. The Explorer II is the best watch I’ve ever owned and it could easily be my one and only.

  • JJ S

    I would never ever choose Submariner over Explorer II unless it was Hulk.
    With this said I am happy owner of Polar version waiting for delivery of Pepsi in steel 🙂

    And hey, no date window no Rolex! 😉

  • SkillyDog

    Just picked up an Explorer II today and really like it. I was actually in the market for a Breitling, but wandered over to the Rolex display case and the Explorer II just really stood out as something unique to me. I see a lot of comments from people who know far more about the various models than I do, but overall I would agree that when looking at the sub and explorer side by side today, it was an easy decision for me.

  • Josh

    Explorer II 42mm black dial is a very beautiful and underrated watch….

  • Larry Cook

    Great article. I also chose 214270 in black over other models. Black dial over polar dial easy choice for me. Go anywhere tool watch. I’m probably not diving in ANY Rolex. Too much $$$. I’m just not subjecting a ~$10K watch to the perils of reef and wreck diving. I got Seikos or a dive computer for that duty. It’s also a more masculine watch than anything else Rolex is making IMO. It gets noticed on the wrist, but it’s not ‘blingy’ like some other Rolex models. It wears fine in a dressier setting. And WHO CARES if someone thinks your rolex is too sporty! Maybe William has to worry about that kind of thing but I don’t. I think it will be a niche collector piece the future much like the original Explorer ii. Definitely a bit of love/hate developing on this watch. The haters are the guys too small waisted to wear it 🙂

  • CL Hii

    My first Rolex was the polar, and no regret after that

  • northlander

    I just purchased a new in box Explorer 2 at a recognized grey market store in Toronto the watch has all plastic coverings still attached and with over three year warranty left , i chose it over the no date sub and dont regret it .

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: jpg, png.