A striking watch with a highly legible dial that is built from 904L stainless steel to be resilient to even the harshest of elements, the Rolex Explorer II reference 216570 is one of the brand’s most inspired inventions. This sharp and sophisticated spelunker’s tool watch makes a bold statement with its big face, chunky 42mm case, and durable solid-link stainless steel Oyster bracelet.
It was originally developed for speleologists and other dark environment adventurers. So, why does it deserve a spot in your watch box? Find out why in this Rolex ref. 216570 review.
Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Explorer II.
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About the Rolex Explorer II 216570
The Rolex Explorer II collection was manufactured using some of the finest technology borrowed from the aerospace and chemical engineering industries. The brand’s superalloy material, “Oystersteel,” is exceptionally resistant to corrosion from environmental factors such as saltwater and chlorine. While most of Rolex’s competitors are still using 316L stainless steel, Rolex’s patented Oystersteel is a proprietary variety of 904L-grade steel. The Explorer II’s toughness doesn’t stop there either. It also features a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, a Twinlock screw-down winding crown with two waterproof zones, Paraflex shock absorbers on the movement, and a screw-down caseback for 100 meters of water resistance.
The black dial is certainly the definition of high-contrast legibility, but it’s easy to assume that a watch featuring lume set against a white dial might be hard to read. However, that is hardly the case with the Polar dial Rolex Explorer II. The watch is very legible in light and dark environments because the hour markers and hands are trimmed in contrasting black surrounds. This dial design also happens to be why so many Rolex enthusiasts have taken to calling the white dial ref. 216570 the “Polar Rolex,” while the classic black dial maintains the brand’s original vision for the watch.
Continuous Improvements and Upgrades
Rolex started using Chromalight in 2008, just a few years before ref. 216570 made its debut during the Explorer II’s 40th anniversary in 2011. The material is exclusive to Rolex and, according to the brand, will glow for eight continuous hours. Even better, it glows blue in the dark (rather than green) and manages to remain crisp white during the day. While the Rolex Explorer II collection was originally designed for cave explorers, it has since become a top favorite among a wide variety of different individuals who live active lifestyles.
The reference 216570 remained in production until 2021 when Rolex welcomed the new ref. 226570 for the collection’s 50th anniversary. It still includes the option of either a black or a white “Polar” dial, only now, the watch is powered by the latest and greatest Explorer II movement, the cal. 3285 with a 70-hour power reserve. Since the ref. 216570 was recently discontinued, we think it has some serious potential to become a highly desired collector’s item in the coming years, as it marks the first time the Rolex Explorer II was ever produced with a 42mm case diameter.
The Spelunker’s Tool Watch
The original Rolex Explorer was introduced to the market in the 1950s and was developed for mountaineering, featuring a simple, time-only dial, plain bezel, and durable case. The Explorer II arrived in 1971 and was destined for other adventures that might find the wearer spending long periods of time in dark environments. That’s why Rolex equipped it with a fixed 24-hour bezel and a dedicated hand on the dial to serve as a prominent day/night indicator.
By reading the arrow hand against the bezel graduations, the wearer can keep track of day and night hours. The arrow hand on early examples of the collection did not operate independently of the other centrally-mounted hands, meaning that it served only as an AM/PM indicator. However, the ref. 216570 is a newer-model Rolex Explorer II, and the two hour hands on this model is independently adjustable, allowing the reference 216570 to simultaneously display two different time zones.
Explorer II Fashion: From the Boardroom to the World’s Darkest Caves
Paying tribute to the spirit of cave exploration, this watch boasts all the features of a luxury Rolex sports watch with an athletic mindset, including bold luminous hour markers, Rolex’s signature Mercedes hands, a stainless steel bezel with an engraved 24-hour scale, a date display, and a power reserve of approximately 48 to 50 hours. The Rolex Explorer II 216570 is not only a watch that can be worn while looking amazing, but it is also a highly durable and functional tool watch.
Perfect for the businessman with a penchant for adventure, this brilliant timepiece adds a cool guy twist to any basic boardroom look. What’s the ideal ensemble to accentuate this statement-making wristwatch? A herringbone sport coat in navy or brown, a crisp white button-down, and tan classic flat-front khakis, of course.
This watch also works for formal affairs and can be worn with more elegant attire like a business suit or an evening tuxedo. Adding a satin brushed stainless steel accent to a nighttime look will infuse a bit of fashion flair into an outfit without being too ostentatious.
Really, the Rolex Explorer II reference 216570 with either a classic black or versatile white dial is the perfect go anywhere, do anything watch, and it can be yours today for under $15k.