Rolex Introduces the Explorer II Ref. 226570

Gently facelifted, but a latest-generation movement.

Twenty-twenty one sees Rolex revamp both its Explorer references, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the model. The new Explorer II ref. 226570 gets a new movement, while preserving the familiar style of previous model, the ref. 216570 that was launched exactly a decade ago. That means a second time zone hand in orange; fixed, brushed steel bezel; a largish, 42 mm case; and a white or black dial.

While the new Explorer II is similar to its predecessor in terms of aesthetics – though the case is slimmed slightly and bracelet widened – it is powered by the cal. 3285, one of the latest-generation Rolex movement.

Initial thoughts

The new Explorer II is a major technical update thanks to the new movement, but in terms of look and feel, it is likely indistinguishable from its predecessor. Anyone who was a fan of the preceding model – this is a superior version of the same because the new movement is substantially better. But for those who thought the 42 mm case was too wide, it’s still 42 mm, albeit with redesigned lugs to make it slightly narrower.

I find the 42 mm case a bit too big, but the version with the “polar” white dial has long been a favourite, and the new movement makes it more appealing, notwithstanding the case. For what it costs at retail the Explorer II is an excellent buy – as most Rolex watches are – though it’ll probably be tough to land one for now.

Nips and tucks

The Explorer II has a 42 mm case made of Oystersteel, which Rolex’s own term for 904L, a type of stainless steel that’s more resistant to corrosion than the 316L stainless steel commonly used in watches. As with other newer Rolex models, the case of the new Explorer II is likely finished with an improved polishing technique that creates more refined mirror polished surfaces.

It’s fitted to an Oyster bracelet that incorporates an EasyLink extension, which allows for up to 5 mm of adjustment without tools.

But the key upgrade is the cal. 3285. Like the other latest-generation Rolex movements, the cal. 3285 has a 70-hour power reserve and Chronergy escapement that was designed for optimum efficiency. And the pallet lever and escape wheel are also made of a nickel-phosphorus alloy, giving them improved magnetism resistance. The movement is rated to keep time to within two seconds a day, fast or slow, as all current Rolex movements are.

The new model also have slightly longer Super-Luminova fill on both the hands

The new Explorer II is available in the traditional dial colours. Both have white gold hands and hour markers, but on the white-dial version they have been coated black.

Key facts and price

Rolex Explorer II
Ref. 226570-0001 (white)
Ref. 226570-0002 (black)

Diameter: 42 mm
Height: Unavailable
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: Cal. 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and second time zone
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 vibrations per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Steel bracelet with EasyLink extension

Availability: From May 2021
Price: US$8,550; or 11,440 Singapore dollars

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