The Explorer II is one of Rolex's most durable and practical sports watches, first developed in 1971 as a tool for spelunkers to read night/day hours in the dark but eventually becoming a fully-fledged GMT watch. The Rolex 16570 is the third generation of the Explorer II line and was produced for well over two decades.
Read on as we cover the history and evolution of the 16570, as well as review the design and value of this tough Rolex tool watch.
In 1989, Rolex introduced the Explorer II 16570, which replaced the preceding 16550 reference.
Rolex produced the Explorer II 16570 for over 20 years, and during that time, the model benefited from a handful of updates. Due to these upgrades, there are some variances between early Rolex 16570 watches produced in the 80s/90s and those produced in the 2000s.
For example, Rolex updated the type of luminous material, caliber, bracelet, and clasp of the 16570 throughout the reference's history. What's more, more modern variants made in the mid-2000s include the rehauts engraved with ROLEX ROLEX ROLEX.
Rolex discontinued the 16570 in 2011 to make way for the 40th Anniversary Explorer II 216570, which ushered in the change to the larger 42mm size.
Unlike most of Rolex's other sports watch collections, the Explorer II has always been exclusively made in stainless steel. That material option paired with the bold dial and bezel design makes the Explorer II one of the sportiest Rolex models you can buy.
However, it's important to point out that the 16570 is the last Explorer II to have the more compact 40mm case size. From 2011 onwards, all Explorer II watches have been furnished with beefier 42mm cases and bigger details on the dial. So for fans of the classic Explorer II proportions and style, the 16570 can't be beat.
Case: 40mm Stainless Steel Cases with Twinlock Screw-Down Winding Crowns
Bezel: Fixed Steel Bezel, 24-Hour Scale
Dial: White or Black; Orange Arrow-Tipped 24-Hour Hand, 12-Hour Hand, Minute Hand, Seconds Hand, Date Window
Crystal: Sapphire Crystal with Cyclops Magnification Lens
Bracelet: Stainless Steel Oyster Bracelet
Clasp: Oysterclasp (Earlier Models) or Oysterlock (Later Models)
Caliber: 3185 (Earlier Models) or 3186 (Later Models)
Water Resistance: 100 Meters (330 Feet)
The Explorer II 16570 is a steel GMT watch with a fixed 24-hour steel bezel. The dial design, whether in black or white, follows many of Rolex's other sports models, which is to say it has Mercedes-style hands, lume-filled hour makers (a mix of round, rectangular, and triangular ones), and a date window at 3 o'clock. The 24-hour hand on the 16570 is red and features an arrow-shaped tip for easier reading of the hour off the bezel.
What's more, Rolex made the black surrounds around the hour markers and black hands standard on the white dial (a.k.a Polar) 16570. The previous reference typically has white gold hands and surrounds, but there have been a few examples with black ones.
Similar to all Explorer II watches, the 16570 is exclusively paired with an Oyster bracelet, further emphasizing the sporty style of this particular Rolex model. Depending on the production year of the 16570, the watch can have an Oysterclasp or the heftier Oysterlock clasp.
The Explorer II 16570 is a versatile watch in that it can be easily worn as an everyday watch if your style is more casual or sporty. However, thanks to its practical GMT display with two time zones, the Rolex 16570 makes for a great adventuring and traveling watch too.
While all 16570 watches have stainless steel cases and bracelets, there is a choice between a sleek black dial or a fresh Polar white dial. Plus, since the reference 16570 was in production for quite a long time, you can choose between earlier models with tritium lume and lugs holes that look more vintage or later models with Super-LumiNova and engraved rehauts for a more modern look.
Similar to most Rolex sports watches, the value of the discontinued Explorer II 16570 has skyrocketed in recent years. Once a somewhat overlooked Rolex model that could be picked up for less than $4,000 for pre-owned examples, today, the value of a pre-owned 16570 starts at more than double that price.
Generally, older 16570 with tritium dials are more valuable than newer 16570 examples with Super-LumiNova. Also, 16570 with white dials typically command higher premiums than those with black dials.
The last published retail price of the Explorer II 16570 was $6,300. However, this was back in 2011 before it was discontinued in favor of the 216570.
The starting price for a pre-owned Explorer II 16570 is around $8,500 for a black dial variant and about $9,500 for a white dial version. Of course, prices go up from there depending on the specific model's design variations and conditions.
When Rolex celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Explorer II in 2011, the company unveiled the new Explorer II ref. 216570 to replace the 16570. So what are the differences between 16570 vs. 216570?
The most obvious difference is the size of the case: the Rolex 16570 has a 40mm case while the Rolex 216570 has a 42mm case. With that increase in size, there are also differences in the bezel and dial design. The Explorer II 216570 has larger numbers engraved on the 24-hour bezel as well as larger lume plots and hands on the dial. Furthermore, while the dial of the ref. 16570 has a thin red GMT hand, the dial of the ref. 216570 includes a fatter orange GMT hand.
Moreover, the Explorer II 216570 includes an updated bracelet with solid center links and an Oysterlock safety clasp with an Easylink 5mm comfort extension system. Another major difference between the 16570 and the 216570 is the movement inside the watch; the former will have either Caliber 3185 or 3186 while the latter will have Caliber 3187.