When Rolex announced the 50th anniversary edition of the Explorer II at Watches and Wonders last week, it felt like there was a collective reaction from the watch community of initial disappointment of the lack of dramatic esthetic change. I’ll assume that many of us gathered our wits and realized that this may not be a bad thing at all given that the Explorer II has always been a model that has been an outsider in terms of recognizability. If Rolex had chosen to add a black shiny ceramic bezel, like many forecasters had predicted, the Explorer II would become a flashier piece, a trait that many die-hard fans of the model were trying to avoid in the first place.
Photo by Rolex: The 226570 has slimmer lugs and an upgraded movement
So this brings us to the question of what Rolex Explorer II makes sense to buy right now. The new 226570 retails for $8,550, which we all know will be nearly impossible to get straight away from an Authorized Dealer in 2021. That means for those of us who don’t have a high ranking on the jeweler’s priority list would need to purchase this model through a grey market dealer at a significant markup. Steel sport Rolex releases have been listed for sale by non-authorized sources for almost double the retail price. Paying double for anything just doesn’t make that much sense.
Photo by Fratello Watches
Now, as in right now in April of 2021 is a good time to purchase a five-digit Explorer II as secondhand prices from the 1990s-early 2000s remain under $10K. The pre-Maxi dial look will always look good and these Explorer II models have classic proportions. Although the new movement is very nice, Rolex movements in general are built to last and easily serviced. Your daily experience with the older movements won’t be that different from the new movement. Yes, a longer power reserve is nice to have but isn’t necessary.
I have been on the record for praising the looks of five-digit Rolex sport watches. The bracelets feel flimsy off the wrist, but on-the-wrist they are some of the most comfortable bracelets ever made. The Explorer II happens to be a watch that looks even better with wear. The steel bezel will scratch, truly adding more character to the look. Pierced lugs are also a key feature that the newest Rolex models don’t possess. This example listed on HQ Milton is a black dial version that looks to be in excellent condition for $8,350. For reference, most of the popular Rolex sport models are now selling for closer to the $15K mark and over. Even the most-sought after basic Oyster Perpetual models are selling for over $8K on the secondhand market. That’s my rationale for expressing that it may be a good time to grab a five-digit Explorer II.
Get a rubber strap for your five-digit Explorer II here.