Over the next couple of weeks on the Fourtané blog we’ll be focusing on exploration watches. Although Rolex does not have an official “exploration” line of watches, the construction, waterproof rating to a minimum of 100 meters / 300 feet, and the use of the highest quality sapphire crystal in the watch industry, makes practically any watch in the Rolex line suitable for adventure.
The first watch we’ll examine, fittingly, is the Rolex Explorer II. The Rolex Explorer II is not the first adventure watch Rolex produced, but over the last 40+ years this watch has a provenance and pedigree that few other watches in the industry possess. As the Roman numeral designation represents, the Explorer II grew from the Explorer I initially released in 1953 for exploration in high mountains that required special lubricants that would not coagulate in cold temperatures, which nowadays is not necessary with Rolex’s utilization of synthetic temperature resistant lubricants.
The release of the Explorer II in 1971 brought new features and functionality to the tried-and-true three-handed Explorer I. Utilizing the same movement as the Rolex GMT, the Rolex Explorer II introduced its’ trademark orange colored fourth hand used for reading time on a 24-hour scale rather than on a 12 hour scale. In addition to the 24-hour hand is a fixed bezel with the 24-hour scale with recessed numbers. The Explorer II’s trademark fourth-hand and fixed bezel creates three functions essential for explorers and cave spelunkers:
24 hour time to easily discern AM and PM with a large orange hand easy for cave spelunkers to read when there is no sunlight.
The fixed bezel has intentionally recessed numbers so the wearer can feel the numbers with fingertips -especially handy when there is no ambient light to read the bezel.
When the 24 hour hand is set to local time, will point North when the 12-hour hand is pointed to the sun (in the Northern Hemisphere).
These functions along with the incorporation of Rolex’s date feature and cyclops makes this a great all-around wristwatch. Later in the Explorer II’s evolution was the introduction of a white face and is still the only Rolex sport watch with an option of either a black or white watch face.
Since the Rolex Explorer II’s 1971 debut, the Explorer II has changed over the years and the latest version possesses the same trademark capabilities as the first one. Updated in 2011, the Explorer II model 216570 grew from 40mm to 42mm, grew larger Chromalight filled hands, a larger Twinloc winding crown taken from the updated Rolex Milgauss, and the return of the orange colored 24-hour hand in a stylistic nod to the original Explorer II.
The new Explorer II is one of the most comfortable Rolex sports watches to wear. The Explorer II is only 12mm high so it has a low center of gravity and thus less “watchflop,” on the wrist, is slightly raised from the wrist such that the crown clears the back of the wearer’s hand, and the larger matte black watch face make this watch every easy to read. Unlike other watches where the manufacturer enlarges the case but not the movement, Rolex redesigned the 3186 movement found in its predecessor and scaled it larger, including the date wheel. This larger Rolex movement is now known as the 3187 and it is the second Rolex wristwatch to use Rolex redesigned and improved Paraflex balance wheel shock system, increasing shock absorption by 50% over the older KIF system.
The redesigned Explorer II has great wrist presence, is very easy to read, and is made for exploring. Strapping on this wristwatch will make you want to explore something, -anything as this watch breaths adventure.