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3 Icy Cool Examples of the Rolex Explorer II Polar

July 29, 2016

BY Paul Altieri


Three ways to wear white this summer

Both vintage and contemporary versions of the Explorer II with white dials are often referred to as the Rolex Polar. Rolex introduced the Explorer II in 1971 with the ref. 1655, however, it was only available with a black dial. The Explorer II references — 16550, 16570, and 216570 — that came after the original ref. 1655 were made with a white dial option. Here we take a look at the history and evolution of the Rolex Explorer II Polar watches.

Explorer Polar

Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570 has a white dial and thus nicknamed the polar.

Rolex Explorer II ref. 16550

A transitional reference between the ref. 1655 and the ref. 16570, the Explorer II ref. 16550 was only produced from 1985 – 1989, making it an uncommon vintage Rolex to find. Aside from its rarity, this particular Rolex ref. 16550 has several other details that would interest vintage Rolex collectors. First, its original white dial within its 40mm stainless steel case has actually turned into a creamy ivory shade due to a paint flaw, which Rolex eventually fixed. However, what started out as a flaw is now a scare aesthetic detail that is prized by collectors. Second, this dial is an example of a “rail” dial since the two “Cs” in “Chronometer” and “Certified” line up perfectly. And lastly, this specific Explorer II ref. 16550 is equipped with the original hard-to-find “fat font” bezel where the numerals are thicker than future bezels.

Explorer Polar

Rolex Explorer II ref. 16550 has actually turned into a creamy ivory shade due to a paint flaw.

Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570

In 2011, Rolex ushered in a new generation Explorer II with the ref. 216570 and with it came quite a few significant changes. The 40mm size was boosted to 42mm and the movement was replaced with the new Rolex Caliber 3187. Also, the 24-hour hand of the ref. 16550 and the ref. 16570 was crafted in red, while the ref. 216570 returned to the original orange color that was on the first Explorer II, the ref. 1655. The ref. 216570 is the contemporary model of the Explorer II but others still love the Explorer I.

Explorer II Polar

Rolex ushered in a new generation Explorer II with the ref. 216570 and with it came quite a few significant changes.

Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570

Rolex followed up the Explorer II ref. 16550 with the ref. 16570 in 1989. It kept its 40mm size and stainless steel Oyster case and Oyster bracelet construction. However, new to the dial was the black outlines of the hour markers and against the cool white dial, the luminescent indexes really pop. Also new to the Explorer II ref. 16570 was the movement. Early models of the 16570 are equipped with the Rolex Caliber 3185 automatic mechanical movement, while later versions are powered by the Rolex Caliber 3186. Also found on the later versions of the ref. 16570 is the “ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX” engraving on the rehaut as an anti-counterfeit measure. This particular ref. 16550 dates back to 1997/1999 so it’s powered by the Caliber 3185 and does not included the rehaut engraving.

Explorer Polar

Rolex followed up the Explorer II ref. 16550 with the ref. 16570 in 1989.

Whether opting for a vintage or modern version of the Explorer II Polar, these Rolex sport watches are a real take two. Robust stainless steel coupled with a cool white dial and a bright 24-hour hand makes for a timeless luxury sports watch that brings out one’s adventurous side. Both exceedingly practical thanks to its time, date, and GMT-hand functions, and impeccably designed, the Explorer II Polar is a Rolex not to be missed.




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