First launched in 1971 as a watch designed specifically for cave explorers, the Rolex Explorer II was created to be a supplementary addition to the existing Explorer collection, rather than a direct replacement for the time-only model that had existed since 1953. Adding both a date display and an additional 24-hour hand, the Explorer II was created to provide a clear reference of day and night hours – even while operating in total darkness, deep below the Earth’s surface.
Produced between 2011 and 2021, the Rolex Explorer II reference 216570 is a 42mm stainless steel sports watch that features both a date display and GMT functionality. Although it closely resembles the current-production version of Rolex’s iconic speleologist’s watch, the ref. 216570 represented a major turning point for the collection when it first made an appearance at Baselworld 2011 and it now occupies an important position in the model’s history. If you’ve been thinking about adding one of these Rolex sports watches to your collection, here is everything you need to know about the reference 216570 Explorer II.
Rolex Explorer II Reference 216570
Explorer II 216570 Key Features:
– Reference Number: 216570
– Production Years: 2011 – 2021
– Case Size: 42mm
– Materials: Oystersteel (904L Stainless Steel)
– Functions: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT-Functionality
– Dial: Black or White (“Polar”) w/ Luminous Hour Markers (Chromalight)
– Bezel: Fixed. Stainless Steel w/ 24-Hour Scale
– Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)
– Movement: Rolex Caliber 3187
– Water Resistance: 100 Meters / 330 Feet
– Strap/Bracelet: Oyster Bracelet
Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Explorer II.
Rolex Explorer II Ref. 216570 History
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Explorer II collection in 2011, Rolex released an updated version of its purpose-built outdoor adventurer’s watch. Known as the reference 216570, the new model featured a larger 42mm case – which was an unexpected first for the collection, as the model had maintained its 40mm case diameter since the second generation the watch had appeared in the mid-1980s.
While the new Explorer II 216570 represented a major turning point for the model and brought with it a list of updates and refinements, the reference 216570 retained many of the core elements that had defined the collection for more than a quarter of a century. Just as before the Explorer II ref. 216570 was exclusively offered in stainless steel and available with the option of either a black or a white dial. Additionally, just like its 40mm predecessors, the 12-hour hand was independently adjustable from the 24-hour hand, allowing the reference 216570 to simultaneously display two different time zones and function as a GMT watch.
Production of the Rolex Explorer II reference 216570 lasted a full ten years until it was discontinued in 2021, which marked the collection’s 50th anniversary. Replacing the ref. 216570 was the updated reference 226570, which featured a new movement but largely resembled its direct predecessor. The popularity of the reference 216570 increased throughout its production run, and while it was readily available at a retail level upon its initial release, it became entirely unavailable during the last several years that it remained part of the brand’s catalog. Like all stainless steel Rolex sports watches, demand for the Explorer II ref. 216570 far exceeded supply, and waitlists for the model topped out at several years in length before the model was discontinued.
A Closer Look at the Rolex Explorer II 216570
It is often said that Rolex’s approach to watch design and development is one that could be considered evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Incremental improvements in the pursuit of perfection is the Rolex way, but this often means that a lot of visual similarities exist between different generations of Rolex models and a close examination is often required in order to fully appreciate the various nuances of a given reference. Below is a breakdown of the defining features of the Rolex Explorer II 216570.
Explorer II 216570 Case
Although the very first Rolex Explorer II (the reference 1655) had a 39mm case, every subsequent model prior to the reference 216570 had featured a 40mm case diameter. Signaling a major turning point for the collection, the then-new ref. 216570 was larger than any other Explorer II watch at 42mm in diameter. Additionally, while the lug width on all previous Explorer II watches was 20mm, the updated ref. 216570 featured slightly larger 21mm lugs to better match its larger case. While the larger Oyster case still offered users 100 meters (330 feet) of water resistance, its increased size resulted in a significantly larger overall presence on the wrist, immediately separating it from the numerous other Rolex models with 40mm cases and placing it among the absolute largest models in the brand’s collection.
Explorer II 216570 Bezel
Probably the single most defining element of the Rolex Explorer II is its brushed stainless steel bezel that is engraved with a black 24-hour scale. Unlike the 24-hour bezel on the GMT-Master series which rotates bi-directionally, the bezel on all Rolex Explorer II watches is fixed. However, with the exception of the very first Explorer II reference, the independently adjustable hour hands on the watch can be used in conjunction with its 24-hour bezel to simultaneously display two different time zones.
Explorer II 216570 Dial
Although the inaugural Explorer II was exclusively fitted with a black dial, every subsequent iteration of it has been available with either a black dial or a white “Polar” dial – a trend that continues to this day. The “Polar” moniker is an entirely informal one, but you will frequently see the term “Polar Explorer” connected to the white dial examples, particularly in collecting circles. On both white and black dials of the reference 216570, the “Explorer II” name appears in bright orange letters to match the 24-hour hand and the hour markers are filled with Chromalight – Rolex’s proprietary blue-glowing luminous material. However, one difference between the black and white Explorer II 216570 dials is that the applied marker surrounds are finished black on the white dials, while the markers on the black ones are left in their natural state of high-polished 18k white gold.
Explorer II 216570 Hands
Beyond the larger case size, the most discussed aspect of the reference 216570 was the return of the model’s large, bright-orange, arrow-shaped 24-hour hand. Rolex famously never makes vintage-inspired or heritage pieces, although the brand does occasionally acknowledge various design elements from its past. While the hour, minute, and seconds hands are essentially larger versions of the style found on most Rolex sports watches, the 24-hour hand on the ref. 216570 is a recreation of the version found on the very first Explorer II watch from the 1970s.
Additionally, one other point worth mentioning is that the hands found on the white “Polar” dial examples are finished black (with the exception of the orange 24-hour hand) to match their black-finished hour markers, while the hands fitted to the black dial examples are polished white gold and only feature black finished bases, which gives them a “floating” appearance. Similarly, the bright orange 24-hour hands are not exactly the same on the black and white dial versions of the reference 216570, and the ones fitted to the black dial models also feature black-finished base sections to match the similarly-styled hour and minute hands.
Explorer II 216570 Movement
The Rolex Explorer II 216570 is powered by the brand’s in-house Caliber 3187 movement, which is only found inside reference 216570 watches. An evolution of the Caliber 3186 that powers its predecessor, the Rolex Cal. 3187 is a certified Swiss chronometer and it benefits from modern proprietary Rolex technologies such as a blue Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers for greater resistance to shocks and temperature fluctuations. The Rolex Caliber 3187 offers users a 50-hour power reserve and like all modern Rolex movements that feature the brand’s ‘Superlative Chronometer’ status, the Cal. 3187 promises timekeeping accuracy within -2/+2 seconds per day.
Explorer II 216570 Bracelet
Like many of Rolex’s other sport and tool watches, the Oyster bracelet was the only official option for the Explorer II reference 216570. With that in mind, the bracelet found on the ref. 216570 represents a dramatic improvement over the Oyster-style bracelet fitted to its predecessor. Unlike the previous style of bracelet, the stainless steel Oyster bracelet on the ref. 216570 features completely solid links (including solid end-links) and a redesigned Oysterlock safety clasp that includes the brand’s Easylink extension system, which enables users to either expand or contract the bracelet by 5mm, completely on the fly and without the use of any tools.
Buying a Rolex Explorer II Reference 216570
Since being officially discontinued in 2021, the Rolex Explorer II reference 216750 is no longer in production and it is entirely unavailable at a retail level. This means that the pre-owned market is now the only place where you can find one for sale. With that in mind, given that the Rolex Explorer II 216750 was in production for a full decade, both black and white “Polar” dials versions are still readily available on the secondary market.
Rolex Explorer II 216570 Price
The price of a Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570 watch can vary depending on its age, dial color, overall condition, and whether or not the watch still has its original box and papers. As of June 2021, prices for reference 216750 watches can range anywhere between $10,000 to $14,000, which is significantly more than the original retail price of the reference 216570, yet still on the lower side relative to the current prices for modern stainless steel Rolex sports watches.
It is also worth noting that although retail prices were identical for the black and white dial examples of the Explorer II 216750, open-market prices for the “Polar” models are noticeably higher, with some collectors willing to pay up to a few thousand dollars more for an otherwise identical watch that has a white “Polar” dial. Additionally, this trend is not exclusive to just the reference 216570, and nearly all “Polar” Explorer II watches, regardless of reference, are worth more than their classic black dial counterparts.
What to Look for When Buying a Rolex Explorer II 216570
As far as what to look for when buying a Rolex Explorer II, all of the usual rules when shopping for a pre-owned Rolex still apply. Rolex is the most famous luxury brand in the world and it is a popular target for counterfeiters. It is estimated that there are now more fake Rolex watches in existence than the real thing, and this means that it is now more important than ever before to only buy from a trusted and reputable source. The old saying, “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” always applies, and if you ever see an Explorer II for sale at a price that is thousands of dollars less than the other ones you see listed, there is a very good chance that the watch is not authentic.
Additionally, one thing you can look for when trying to spot a fake is the independently adjustable hour hands. On all Rolex Explorer II reference 216570 watches, the 12-hour hand is independently adjustable from the 24-hour hand, and rather than jumping the date forward like on most watches, turning the winding crown while it is in the second position will jump the 12-hour hand forwards or backward in one-hour increments. This feature is difficult and expensive to manufacture, and the vast majority of fake Explorer II watches do not offer this functionality.
For much of its history, the Rolex Explorer II has been one of the most underrated and overlooked watches from the brand’s entire catalog. However, that has entirely changed within the last several years. As Rolex’s other sports watches like the Submariner, Daytona, and GMT-Master II continue to become entirely unattainable at a retail level, buyers have been turning to other collections and the global popularity of the reference 216570 Explorer II has sky-rocketed. Today, prices for Rolex Explorer II watches are right up there with the rest of the brand’s sports models, and since the ref. 216570 offers a very similar overall appearance as the current-production model, it is highly likely that demand (and therefore prices) will continue to stay strong, and it will only become more difficult and expensive to add one of these adventure-ready watches to your collection.