We're Definitely Getting a New Rolex Explorer II This Year

And the brand isn't exactly being shy about letting us know.

rolex explorer ii teaser spotting

Well, this sort of confirms our suspicions — go take a look at Rolex's website. Go ahead, we'll wait.

See the teaser up there? The spelunking imagery? The darkened, familiar dial? It's hard to tell unless you lighten the image, but there's a fourth hand on that watch — a GMT hand. We're almost certainly looking at the next-generation Explorer II, just in time for the watch's 50th anniversary.

Launched in 1971 as the ref. 1655, the Explorer II was originally meant as a spelunker's watch: in the darkness of the cave, you could use the fourth hand and fixed, 24-hour bezel to tell AM from PM. Originally, that hand was slaved to the main time, so you couldn't use it as a travel watch/traditional GMT. However, over time, Rolex changed this — these days, you can use your EXP II this way, as it's got an individually adjustable 24-hour hand.

What we can't tell yet are things like size (the watches were upgraded to 42mm in 2011), available dial colors (will we be getting both white and black variants, as usual?) and other bits, but we can tell that we're getting a new version of the watch on a steel Oyster bracelet.

exp ii wristy
Millenary Watches

It's worth noting that the current-gen ref. 216570 does not use the same movement as the current-gen GMT Master II ref. 126710 (and variants), which features the cal. 3285. Will the caliber 3187 get changed out in favor of a different engine? Almost certainly. And what about pricing? The current gen. retails for $8,350, and 5-digit "neo-vintage" models are beginning to approach that number in value. What will retail on the new model look like, and will these 5-digits hit $10k soon given the news? Just two years ago you could buy one with a tritium dial on its original Oyster bracelet for about $5k. Those days are long gone.

Keep checking back with us for more info on all the latest from Rolex as begin our coverage of Watches & Wonders 2021 next week!


Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Automatic Watches