Rolex Just Updated The Explorer II for 2021

In time for its 50th birthday, of course.

rolex explorer ii watches and wonders 2021

This year, the Watches & Wonders Geneva trade show is once again an online event — only this time, it includes brands such as Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe and more. Check back here often for our coverage of this horological mega-show to see all the latest watches.

And there you have it. First launched in 1971, the Rolex Explorer II, which has adorned the wrists of spelunkers, climbers and adventurers, is being given a new lease on life. Meet the ref. 226570 the latest take on the famous 4-hander from the world's most important watchmaker.

This is about what we expected, and thankfully, there aren't too many surprises as regards the design. (God forbid the brand should mess too much with a good thing — there would be torches and pitchforks converging on Geneva.) So let's see what's new:

The movement has been updated to the cal. 3285, which also powers the GMT Master II

explorer ii 226750 dial

First of all, the movement has been updated to the cal. 3285, which was first released in 2018 and has since powered the latest-generation GMT Master II. This automatic caliber features Rolex's Chronoergy escapement and Parachrom hairspring, making it highly resistant to magnetism, as well as an impressive 70-hour power reserve. This update means that both Rolex's GMT-equipped watches are now powered by this futuristic new movement.

It has an updated Chromalight dial

rolex explorer ii 226750

If you're, you know, actually exploring caves with your Explorer II (the model's original purpose), you'll be pleased to hear that the new reference benefits from longer-lasting Chromalight, Rolex's proprietary luminescent material. This material powers the blue glow of the hands and hour markers, which appear white during the day. Of course, desk divers will also appreciate the revamped dial, as they like to argue to no end about whose watch glows the longest (and how bright the glow is) once the lights are turned off. (You might also notice that the Rolex crown logo now features between the words "Swiss Made" above 6 o'clock.)

You're getting the latest Oyster bracelet

rolex explorer ii ref 226750

The Oyster on the ref. 226750 features the Oysterlock folding clasp, which is designed to prevent accidental opening, as well as Rolex's Easylink extension system, allowing the user to adjust the bracelet's size by up to 5mm. (Not to be confused with the Glidelock system on the Submariner bracelet, which allows for adjustments in 2mm increments up to 20mm total, in order to fit over a wetsuit.)

The case is still 42mm

Unfortunately, the case hasn't been downsized back down to 40mm, which no doubt would've caused the heavens to part and angels to sing and immediate world peace. Instead, we still have the extra-beefy 42mm steel case with awkwardly large "Maxi"-style indices and hands. But hey — Rolex actually downsized the Explorer I back to 36mm, so maybe there's hope for 2031! (Don't bet on it, but you never know.) It does look, however, like the case features slightly thinner lugs — much like those of 2020's Submariner.

It still comes in white and black

rolex explorer ii black

As has been the case for several generations of Exp II, the watch is available in white — on whose lacquer dial the hours makers feature a black PVD coating — and black. Both feature the same case size (42mm) and are made from Oystersteel.

You probably won't be able to buy one — in either color

rolex exp ii 226750 black dial

As is generally the case with Rolex sport watches, the likelihood that you'll be able to walk into an authorized dealer and actually buy a new Explorer II — in either color — is close to zero. Of course, you could always buy one up on the secondhand market for an immediate markup.


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