The Rolex Explorer II is a favorite among its owners and is often overshadowed by flashier looking models such as the newer Submariner or Daytona. The steel fixed bezel provides a sober look and exudes a true tool watch look. In fact, we enjoy both the black dial and white dial Explorer II watches on a black Everest rubber strap to break up the all-steel look.
So 2021 is the 50th anniversary of the watch and as many Rolex aficionados know, this has significance. Our favorite 50th anniversary of a Rolex remains the Submariner 16610LV, which not only gave us the green bezel insert, but also the Maxi Dial. The “Kermit” delivered a true new take on the world’s most recognizable pricey watch.
But for the 50th birthday of the Explorer II we will predict that it will get a ceramic bezel, similar to the latest incarnation of the Daytona, a move that propelled that model into a new stratosphere of prestige. Ceramic/Cerachrom appears to be a logical move for Rolex. The material offers instant visual interest and an ability to raise prices due to the scratch-proof nature of ceramic.
Die-hard Explorer II fans are known to appreciate the relatively low-key look of the watch and embrace the scratches that the current steel bezel gains after a few years of regular wear. In 2021 Rolex isn’t really making any moves based on, well, anyone else’s opinions. An Explorer II with a contrasting black bezel will certainly increase its attraction to the masses.
The image at the beginning of this article is from Monochrome, a fellow watch blog. Their prediction is that Rolex will do a throwback to the original reference 1655 Explorer II. The bezel typeface and hash marking in this rendering is reminiscent of the 1655. With Rolex's design team at times digging into its archives with thinner lugs on recent releases and candy color dials similar to the Stella dials, it is possible they take inspiration from the 1655 model. Die hard fans might really appreciate this throwback, if it is indeed what Rolex plans to release.
We have come to expect movement upgrades with new Rolex introductions and the Explorer II would benefit from an upgrade to the latest 3200 series with a 70-hour power reserve. We feel a movement upgrade is absolutely a given.
What most of us here at Everest don’t expect is a case size shift from its current 42mm size, which was already on the big side of the equation for the core sport watch lineup. Rolex has steadily increased its case sizes, most notably getting rid of the Oyster Perpetual 39 and adding a 41mm version of that model. Demand of the five-digit 40mm Explorer II has increased amongst collectors, but, again, we don’t expect Rolex to cater to hobbyists’ tastes.
However, some of us here have a hot take (or maybe a wish) that perhaps the Explorer II will be released with a white dial in a smaller size like 39mm, after Rolex chose to hastily discontinue one of the most successful and classic watches, the Oyster Perpetual 39 with white dial.
Some predictors have gone out on a limb as guessed that a green GMT hand might emerge. While that may be a bold move, we don’t believe Rolex will stray from its current orange hand, which works very well on both black and white dials. However, this prediction is based on studying past 50th anniversary Rolex releases--which were often accompanied with a color change, so we shall see. Rolex has thrown us a few curveballs recently, so anything is possible.
Since its debut in 1971 with the 1655, the Explorer II has remained an oddball within the Rolex sport watch lineup due to its purpose-driven look. We hope that Rolex doesn’t radically change this line as they did with the Air-King. We will be watching and waiting with the rest of the watch enthusiast community. What are your thoughts on what might be in store for the new Rolex Explorer 2?
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