During the summer period I find myself wearing watches with white or light dials more often than in other seasons. Some time ago I bought a 1998 Rolex Explorer II with a white tritium dial. It was in ‘adequately used’ condition, so I decided to have it serviced at Rolex in Geneva first. Got it back in far better condition than I hoped for, and subsequently never took it out of the protective plastic to wear it.
Some history. The first Rolex Explorer II saw the light only in 1971 (here’s our in-depth review of one). It was an enhancement to the regular Explorer which was in Rolex’ collection already since 1953. Instead of the regular 12-hours the Rolex Explorer II featured a second hour hand rotating the dial in 24 hours. The 24-hour hand was prominently orange colored, important for cave explorers, for whom the watch had been aimed at.
The Rolex Caliber 1570 movement, and later caliber 1575, used in the reference 1655 Rolex Explorer IIs were the same as used in the Rolex GMT-Masters of that era. During many years this first Explorer II saw only minor changes in it’s design, at for instance the bracelet and second hand.
It was only in 1984 that Rolex revamped the Explorer II to such an extend that the reference number changed to 16550. Changes included a sapphire crystal, the use of a caliber 3085 movement – with a double bridge – and a white dial in addition to the black dial model. The shape of the hands changed drastically as well, especially the 24 hour indicator which changed from a small red-orange arrow shaped hand to a long and sleek designed red 24 hour hand with a white arrow at the end.
Then, in 1989, Rolex changed the Explorer II again, and it became the reference 16570. It featured a newer type movement (caliber 3185) and had – aside from the bracelet – only one major optical change from its predecessor. The use of black hour marker rings and hands on the white dial version. The model before had white gold hour markers and hands, just like the Submariner and GMT-Master for example. It is said that beneath the black paint, the hour markers and hands are still white gold.
In 2011, Rolex introduced the – to date – latest version of the Explorer II (reference 216570). However it’s the reference 16570 which I’m showing off here at this week’s 52Mondayz. And this week might be the right time for my white dialed Rolex Explorer II for me to wear for the first time. What do you think?
A Rolex Explorer II, with reference 16570 and a white tritium dial, can be obtained pre-owned for € 4.000,= and up nowadays. In good condition and as a complete set with box and papers. For information on the current Rolex Explorer II model please head over to www.rolex.com.
Gerard has been in the watch industry for over two decades now. He owned a watch shop in The Hague, The Netherlands, and besides that he has journalistic and photographic activities in the field of watches. Collecting watches since he... read more