You are currently viewing Collector’s Corner – The Rolex Explorer II Polar Dial Ref. 16570

Collector’s Corner – The Rolex Explorer II Polar Dial Ref. 16570

Soar in for a brand new instalment of The Collector’s Nook. On this column, we discuss youngtimer watches, fashions produced throughout the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties, which mix cool design, trendy options, cheap proportions and, for many of them, a comparatively accessible value. We’ve already talked about numerous fashions, from a perpetual calendar to a high-end chronograph and a pair of strong, instrumental IWC watches. However we’ve by no means targeted on Rolex. The Eighties and Nineteen Nineties have been a time of modifications for the Crown, shifting from instrument/skilled fashions to luxurious sports activities watches. However Rolex didn’t transfer from matte dials and aluminium bezels to shiny dials and ceramic bezels in a single step. In between the now-unattainable classic watches and the unavailable trendy fashions are a few of the greatest watches on supply, mixing toolish components with trendy options. And one of many biggest examples is the Rolex Explorer II reference 16570. 

Such watches are sometimes called transitional fashions or watches that mark the evolution from basic classic fashions with skilled orientation to the present line-up with a robust deal with luxurious. We’re speaking about watches produced by Rolex over the last twenty years of the twentieth century, watches which can be typically undervalued and considerably missed by a big section of the accumulating group. But, these watches supply nice horological content material, superior reliability and resistance with a design and proportions that aren’t that distant from probably the most fascinating classic fashions. The transition from the basic classic fashions with artificial crystal, painted matte dials, aluminium bezels and folded bracelets to in the present day’s watches with bigger instances, shiny black dials, gold utilized markers, sapphire crystal, ceramic bezels and overly engineered bracelets and clasps has been gradual. And that is the place the fantastic thing about youngtimer watches may be skilled.

This can be a matter we’ve already touched on previously after we regarded on the Rolex Explorer 14270. We’ll now take a look at a watch from the very same period, with the identical total spirit, from the identical assortment… And that’s the Rolex Explorer II 16570, and particularly the Polar model that I consider is probably the most fascinating of all of them.

Temporary historical past of the Explorer II

Like a lot of the names Rolex selects for its watches, the Explorer really speaks for itself. First seen in 1953, the watch was, like all different members of the skilled assortment, a purpose-built timepiece created for explorers, mountaineers, alpinists and pioneers of all kinds. In brief, a sturdy, no-nonsense watch with wonderful legibility.

Rolex Explorer II 1655 1971 orange handFirst-generation (circa-1971) Rolex Explorer II 1655 – picture by Rolex

In 1971, Rolex launched one other Explorer watch, the Explorer II, a watch that didn’t change the preliminary mannequin however sat alongside it within the assortment. And if the primary one was already targeted, the Explorer II was one of the vital area of interest fashions of the Crown. With its bigger and much more strong case, and primarily the addition of a 24h bezel and hand, the Explorer II was destined for adventurers in situations the place discerning night time from day was inconceivable – take into consideration mine explorers or speleologists. Nevertheless, a very good level was that the watch seemed to be usable in numerous situations. 

Rolex Explorer II 1655 1971 orange handFirst-generation (circa-1971) Rolex Explorer II 1655 – picture by Rolex

The primary Rolex Explorer II watches have been launched in 1971, beneath the reference 1655. It was outfitted with a 40mm stainless-steel case and, its major characteristic, a hard and fast radial-brushed metal bezel engraved with a 24h scale; the truth that it was mounted differentiated it from the GMT-Grasp. Working along side the outsized central GMT hand, AM and PM instances could possibly be simply differentiated. Vital to notice, the Explorer II 1655 fashions aren’t dual-time watches for the reason that 24-hour hand is coupled to the standard hour hand. It’s solely a 24h indication. The primary iterations of the 1655 had an orange 24h hand; later fashions featured a crimson one. One other very distinctive characteristic of this primary technology was its dial with painted tritium markers, together with an outsized triangle at 12 o’clock – a structure that was distinctive to the 1655. Inside was the Rolex calibre 1575, the identical motion as up to date GMT-Grasp watches. With small variations through the years, this watch had an extended manufacturing run from 1971 to 1985.

Rolex Explorer II 16550Second-generation (1985-1989) Rolex Explorer II 16550, right here with the well-known cream-discoloured dial – picture by Christie’s

The primary evolution of the Rolex Explorer II got here in 1985, with the reference 16550, marking probably the most vital replace of this mannequin. Variations have been each technical and design-related. The motion, for example, was now the calibre 3085, which allowed the 24h hand to be set independently. This meant that the Explorer II turned a twin time zone watch – whereas the GMT-Grasp turned a triple time zone watch. The case remained at 40mm, with a sapphire crystal, however the bezel, nonetheless mounted and radially brushed, was revamped with inverted triangular markers and bolder numerals. Lastly, the dial, which was out there in black and white, turned extra typical, consistent with different Rolex sports activities watches – which means Mercedes arms, a smaller 24h hand and triangular, spherical, and rectangular tritium-filled hour markers. And so the watch turned extra of a sturdy globetrotter’s watch, much less targeted on speleology and cave exploring. The Rolex Explorer II 16550 was discontinued in 1989.

Rolex Explorer II 16550Third-generation (1989-2011) Rolex Explorer II 16570 Black dial – picture by Christie’s

The subsequent mannequin is called the Explorer II 16570 and was launched in 1989. Evolutions have been delicate, with a lot of the options discovered on the 16550 retained. It first appeared with a brand new motion, the Calibre 3185, after which with its evolution, the calibre 3186. The white “polar” dial was outfitted with black-outlined arms and markers (not silver colored). Aside from the evolution of the motion, the addition of the Rolex-engraved réhaut and a change from tritium to LumiNova after which SLN, the 16570 remained the identical for 22 years – out there with a black or white dial.

Rolex Explorer II 16550Fourth-generation (2011-2021) Rolex Explorer II 216570 white dial – picture by Rolex

The subsequent large replace on the Rolex Explorer II occurred in 2011 with the reference 216570. Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of this assortment, the watch paid a discreet tribute to the earliest technology with an outsized orange 24h hand. The case turned bigger, at 42mm, the radial-brushed bezel remained mounted however with even bolder markings. Mechanically talking, this 216570 was fitted with calibre 3187, once more with an impartial twin time hand. Following the evolution of the case, the dial turned ‘Maxi’ with outsized luminous markers and arms – like, actually outsized. The white mannequin retained the black-outlined markers whereas the black featured white gold markers. And like all its predecessors, it was water resistant to 100 metres. 

Rolex Explorer II 226570 - 2021 Fifth-generation (2021…) Rolex Explorer II 226570 white dial – picture by Rolex

The newest replace to the Rolex Explorer II occurred final 12 months and was a extremely conservative evolution of the mannequin. Nonetheless, a lot of the components on this Explorer II 226570 are new, regardless of the sturdy resemblance to the earlier technology. The case, nonetheless measuring 42mm in diameter, has been reworked with slimmer lugs, a bigger bracelet and barely redesigned crown guards. The radially brushed metal bezel with a 24h scale stays untouched. The dials, both white or black, present some mild evolutions too. The black dial solely differs with its totally polished arms (no extra “floating” partially black arms). The white dial now advantages from white gold markers and arms coated with matte black PVD (not shiny), all with an optimised Chromalight show. Essentially the most noticeable replace is the Calibre 3285, shared with the present GMT-Grasp II assortment. It has the Chronergy escapement and 70h of energy reserve. The bracelet, bigger than earlier than, nonetheless options the Oysterlock folding security clasp and the Easylink consolation extension hyperlink.

The fundamentals concerning the Explorer II Polar 16570

The reference 16570 sits proper between the classic and trendy fashions, taking a few of the components of each generations to supply a incredible cocktail. On one aspect, you could possibly go for a first-generation 1655, realizing that it received’t be the best to put on each day. The watch is provided with a plexiglass crystal, the water-resistance of classic watches is tougher to ensure, the bracelet may be fragile and tends to have some stretch, and also you’ll be carrying a watch that can value a small fortune (a minimum of 24-26k euros for a pleasant watch). On the opposite aspect of the spectrum, you could possibly go for one of many two trendy references, the 216570 or the 226570. Right here, you’ll must take care of a fairly huge watch, with all the luxurious of recent Rolexes and, in fact, with an evident lack of availability.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

Proper within the center are two references, the 16550 and the 16570. The primary had a brief manufacturing run and isn’t probably the most accessible available on the market, nor probably the most out there. Plus, and that’s private in fact, I’m not a fan of the 24h scale on the bezel, which I’ve at all times discovered just a little bit too aggressive in design. This leaves us with the 16570… and don’t suppose I’m providing you with this selection as a second-tier alternative. The truth is, I consider that the Explorer II 16570 may properly be the very best choice relating to this assortment.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

What’s the Explorer II 16570 all about? Effectively, easy as it’s, it’s a Rolex Explorer from head to toe. In brief, it’s a watch made for journey that’s resilient sufficient to resist virtually any setting. It has a hard and fast 24-hour bezel, a metal case, a form that makes it unmistakably a part of the Rolex skilled line-up, an ultra-clean dial – out there in white “polar” or basic black – and is provided with a further 24-hour hand that was initially made to tell apart day from night time, however that will also be set independently, for use as a twin time watch. It additionally has most of the options of recent Rolex watches however nonetheless has an plain retro type and a few options that wouldn’t be acceptable anymore in trendy watchmaking, giving this watch a sure appeal.

Let’s begin with the case, which is a basic Oyster form fabricated from stainless-steel with basic options of the skilled line, such because the screw-down crown (Twinlock), crown guards, a screwed, plain metal caseback, 100m water-resistance and, within the first concession to modernity in comparison with classic watches, a sapphire crystal (no AR coating) with a magnifier over the date. What makes you instantly really feel that this watch is someway “outdated” is the best way the case is completed and formed. To begin with, you’ll discover the angled brushing on the lugs, mixed with a skinny polished bevel (which was later faraway from this reference) and lug holes (additionally eliminated later from the 16570).

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

In the identical vein, it’s not a very skinny watch (about 12mm), however the case is formed the outdated manner, with a skinny central container and a lot of the thickness absorbed by the domed again. Lastly, it nonetheless has this total slenderness that had characterised Rolex watches from the Nineteen Sixties to the mid-2000s when the so-called “tremendous instances” arrived on the Submariner and GMT-Grasp II… to not point out the outsized case of the post-2011 Explorer II.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

One of many key traits of the Explorer II, and probably the most interesting component of its design, is the bezel. Whereas {many professional} Rolex fashions have a contrasting rotating bezel or a easy metal bezel, the Explorer II 16570 (and the mannequin on the whole) has a hard and fast but textured and graduated bezel. The mixture of a radial brushed floor, which performs lots with the ambient mild, and a skinny polished bevel on its periphery is especially interesting – but additionally extraordinarily fragile in the true world (homeowners of an Explorer II will know what I imply). The 16570 benefitted from a redesigned 24-hour scale too, with a thinner and extra rounded font than what was used on the 16550. The next 42mm references returned to a far bolder font.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

One other distinctive side of the Rolex Explorer II, a minimum of since its second technology (ref. 16550), is its availability of two dial colors, together with a basic black model and the (private opinion) way more enticing white “Polar” mannequin. Most of the conventional metal skilled Rolex watches have black or darkish dials. The Polar 16570 comes with a pure white dial, lacquered and with a shiny floor, making it considerably distinctive throughout the assortment. This vivid, extraordinarily luminous dial is paired with utilized markers that characteristic a skinny black contrasting rim, later stuffed with both tritium (for the primary years of manufacturing from about 1989 to 1996-97) and later Luminova (Swiss solely dials) or Tremendous-LumiNova (Swiss Made dials, till the substitute of this reference).

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

All inscriptions on the dial are additionally compact and skinny and executed solely in black. Once more, this reminds you that this current watch isn’t that new anymore and is a part of an older assortment. The one contact of color on this watch is the red-lacquered GMT hand, however as you’ll be able to see, the color is fairly darkish and discreet. That being stated, legibility is completely excellent in all situations, besides at nighttime for the reason that tritium on the current watch has lengthy misplaced its luminescence. Extra trendy variations with SLN will present very respectable distinction in low mild situations with a reasonably large quantity of luminescent materials on arms and markers.

Contained in the case of the Rolex Explorer II 16570 is a well known pair of actions. The primary fashions have been outfitted with the Calibre 3185, later changed by the Calibre 3186 – which turned the norm circa 2005. This motion is similar because the one used on the up to date GMT-Grasp II, and as such, it options an impartial 24h hand and a neighborhood hour hand that may be adjusted in one-hour increments. Which means you need to use your Explorer II in a standard adventurer manner, with the crimson hand as a day-and-night indicator, or you need to use your watch as a correct traveller’s instrument, displaying a further time zone.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

The Calibre 3185 is an in-house automated motion with a 50h energy reserve and a 4Hz frequency. It was chronometer-certified by COSC and featured 31 jewels. The date jumps instantaneously at midnight and is linked to the native time. The Calibre 3186 is mainly the identical total motion with some minor evolutions relating to the date mechanism.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

As with most Rolex skilled fashions, the Explorer II 16570 is worn on an Oyster bracelet in stainless-steel. All variations characteristic strong hyperlinks, but some variations may be seen throughout the manufacturing of this watch. For example, early variations characteristic easy, folded end-links, whereas later fashions have been upgraded with strong end-links. One other reminder that you just’re carrying an older Rolex is that the clasp is (objectively) fairly fundamental in design and end, and the micro-adjustment system is the best you’ll be able to think about. Nevertheless, this clasp is compact and cozy.

Why do you have to take into account a Rolex Explorer II 16570?

There are a lot of the explanation why the 16570 is such a cool watch and as many causes for getting certainly one of them in your assortment.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

Though the Explorer II may not be as iconic and recognisable as a Submariner or a GMT-Grasp II, it however stays an emblematic mannequin from the Rolex line-up. Its “area of interest” standing (a minimum of, at Rolex’s scale) makes the Explorer II way more authentic and fewer consensual. The identical may be stated about many design components, together with the white dial (a rarity within the model’s assortment), the mounted bezel and its capability to be a correct all-rounder, a do-it-all watch that may reside with you all day, every single day, in just about any scenario. The presence of a further time zone is, each day, a remarkably handy characteristic.

Now for the target causes. Even from the top of the previous century, a Rolex is a Rolex and is constructed to final. The general high quality of the watch is obvious – though in comparison with a contemporary mannequin you’ll be able to see how a lot the watch trade has advanced through the years. Nonetheless, all the pieces is clear, neatly aligned, strong and dependable. And even whether it is now greater than 30 years outdated, it’s nonetheless a watch you’ll be able to put on, with out concern, each day or throughout a weekend journey journey. If the watch has been correctly maintained and serviced, it would retain its COSC precision and water-resistance.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

And that is the place youngtimers turn into actually nice choices. In the event you take a look at the 16570, you’ll nonetheless discover a few of the basic options of classic Rolex fashions, equivalent to respectable proportions, a tritium dial, bevelled sides, skinny profile and lugs, comparatively discreet fonts on the dial, properly brushed instances and no overload of shiny surfaces. This watch actually has an instrumental, tool-ish spirit that the fashionable variations can’t supply anymore. And on the similar time, it options a lot of the mandatory securities of a contemporary watch. To me, this represents one of the best of each worlds, and the 5-digit Rolexes are, in my books, nonetheless a few of the greatest watches made to be worn, used and abused.

Rolex Explorer II polar dial 16570 youngtimer

The final purpose to contemplate the Rolex Explorer II 16570 is monetary. I received’t educate you something by saying that costs of all Rolex fashions have skyrocketed not too long ago, reaching extremely excessive factors for some references manner above the EUR 20,000 mark. The 16570 remains to be one of many few skilled fashions you will get for lower than EUR 10,000. I do know, half a decade in the past, you could possibly have gotten the identical look ahead to a fraction of that value. However in case you take into account the truth that the Explorer II has been produced in comparatively low numbers in comparison with a Submariner, and that it has true originality, it may even turn into fairly a very good funding (despite the fact that I hate to speak about such matters relating to watches…).