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How to Use The Explorer II & GMT-Master 24 Hour Bezel

April 5, 2018

BY Paul Altieri


Since the 1950’s, timing bezels have been a fixture on almost every Rolex sports watch, with each model offering a different professional application. The first Rolex to feature a rotating bezel was the Datejust Thunderbird in the early 1950’s, which may come as a surprise to some as the Datejust is traditionally a dress watch but was fitted with a timing bezel to function as a tool-watch for pilots. This model laid the foundation for the two sports watches that we will be discussing today: the Explorer and GMT Master.

24-Hour Bezel Explorer GMT

Learn to use the Explorer’s 24-hour bezel.

The Explorer II Bezel

The Rolex Explorer collection made its debut in 1953 and boasted a tough exterior that could withstand almost any terrain on the planet.  This model was accompanied by a smooth bezel. A few decades later in 1971, Rolex introduced the Explorer II, which was noticeably different thanks to the addition of a fixed 24-hour bezel.  This addition transformed the Explorer from a tough mountaineer’s watch to an invaluable timekeeping tool that excels in dark environments, such as caves, volcanoes, or Polar Regions.

24-Hour Bezel Explorer GMT

Take the Explorer II with you where ever you go and you’ll be able to track the time.

The bezel plays a key part in the Explorer II’s ability to keep perfect time. A separate hand circles the dial once every 24 hours and was developed by Rolex to be read against the fixed bezel.  This feature allows the wearer to distinguish between day and night hours as well as track a second time zone. To set, pull the crown to the third position and adjust the dedicated 24-hour hand to military time via the graduations on the bezel.  You might also want to update the local time and date, which can be done by pulling the crown to the second position and turning it until the hour hand and date display read the correct local time. While you’re there, you can also wind your timepiece to be sure that your watch is ready for your next adventure. Once set, screw the crown down. Newer Explorer II’s also boast an independent 12-hour hand, that can then be set to read a second time zone on the dial.

24-Hour Bezel Explorer GMT

The Vintage GMT-Master bezels are highly valuable for their uncommon material, bakelite.

The GMT Master & GMT Master II Bezel

The GMT Master is similar to the Explorer II in that it offers the ability to read multiple time zones at once and is waterproof up to 100 meters. The GMT Master was developed in 1954 and offers a fourth hand on the dial that can be read against the 24-hour rotating bezel. The original purpose of this function was to allow pilots to sync to a common time from anywhere in the world, a feature that was developed in collaboration with the Pan American Company.

24-Hour Bezel Explorer GMT

Use the GMT-Master’s rotatable bezel to your advantage to track multiple time zones.

One way to use the bezel is to adjust the bezel’s 24-hour markers to align with the local time via the GMT hand on the dial.  “Home time” remains the same, allowing the wearer to read both time zones at once. Another option is to set the bezel to read “home time”. This can be done by adjusting the hour hand on the dial to reflect the local time and using the bezel and GMT hand to read “home time”. In the 1980’s, Rolex debuted the GMT Master II, which boasted a new movement with an independent 24-hour hand. This upgrade allows the wearer to read two time zones via the dial as well as set the bezel to a third time zone. Similar to the Explorer II, set the crown to the third position to adjust the GMT hand. From there, you can push the crown into the second position to change the local time and date.  You can then rotate the bezel to read a third time zone. This is the ideal watch for the businessmen who travel to multiple time zones and are constantly on the move.

Whether you’re spelunking, exploring the Arctic Circle during the Summertime, or jet-setting around the globe, there is a Rolex sports watch to help you keep perfect time.

How to Set the Rolex Explorer II to Display Two Time Zones

Note that there are four positions of the winding crown:

  • Position 0: Screwed-down position
  • Position 1: Manual winding position; crown is unscrewed from case
  • Position 2: Local hour hand and date setting; crown is pulled out one notch, seconds hand is still running
  • Position 3: Reference hour hand and minute hand setting; crown is pulled out all the way to the second notch, seconds hand stops running

Step 1: Unscrew the winding crown and turn the crown clockwise approximately 30-40 times to wind it

Step 2: Pull out the crown two notches to Position 3 to set the reference time.

Step 3: Turn the crown in either direction to set the reference time. Align the arrow-tipped hand against to the correct hour on the bezel and the minute hand to the correct minute on the dial. (During this step, all hands move together, therefore the reference time has to be set first).

Step 4: Push the crown one notch to Position 2 to set the local date and time.

Step 5: Turn the crown in either direction to move the local hour hand (which jumps in one-hour increments) past midnight to set the correct date and then correct local hour. (Make sure you consider A.M. and P.M. when adjusting local time so that the date will correctly change at midnight).

Step 6: Push in and then screw down the winding crown to ensure water resistance.

Stainless Steel Rolex Explorer II 216570 as GMT watch Black Dial dual time watch

Now your Rolex Explorer II displays both reference time and local time. If you travel, simply adjust the local time by unscrewing the crown and pulling it out to Position 2. Then turn the crown in either direction to jump the 12-hour hand to the correct local hour. Once set, push the winding crown back and screw it into the case.

So, if you’re in the market for a Rolex GMT watch, remember that the Explorer II (except for the ref. 1655) is another option to consider. Sporty in design, fashioned from stainless steel, equipped with dual time functionality, and less expensive than GMT-Master models, the Explorer II is a Rolex GMT watch with plenty to offer.

Stainless Steel Rolex Explorer II 216570 Polar Dial Use as GMT watch



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