The History of the Rolex Explorer

Like many Rolex watches, certain models are inextricably linked with adventures and personal stories.  The Explorer and Explorer II are no different. Rolex Explorer facts reveal an interesting beginning when two climbers, Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach the summit of Everest on May 29, 1953, of course, wearing a Rolex Explorer.

According to the facts, Rolex first introduced the Rolex Explorer in 1953.  It had one look throughout its life; a black dial with luminescent Arabic numbers at 3′, 6′ and 9′, no date, smooth bezel, and triangular marker at 12 o’clock. Also, included were an Oyster bracelet and a stainless steel 36mm case. Except for the updates that all Rolex watches have received, it remained essentially the same watch.

Rolex introduced the Explorer II model in early 1971.  However, they never distributed the watches until 1991. Also, its popularity didn’t develop until then. They produced the original model until the next generation model, released in 1985. The engraved steel bezel was stationary and designed for speleologists (cave explorers) who had a hard time determining if it is am or pm.

The movement inside the Explorer II was identical to the movement used in the GMT-Master models.  This also featured a 24-hour hand. Rolex used Caliber 1570 and 1575 movements for the entire line-up of 1655 Explorer II watches.

The Explorer II reference 16570 featured a newer type of movement, the caliber 3185 and later the 3186. It also only had one obvious visual change from its predecessor, the use of black hour marker rings and hands on the white dial version. The cream-dial model had white gold hour markers and hands, just like the Submariner and GMT-Master for example. Our Rolex Explorer facts note that the hour markers and hands are still white gold beneath the black paint.

Rolex replaced the Explorer 40mm (16570), with a new 42mm version with an orange hour hand (216570).  They introduced this new version at Basel World in March 2011 and released it to the public later that fall. This time, Rolex equipped it with the new 3187 calibre.  You can browse a great collection of used Rolex Explorer II timepieces here at BeckerTime.