Except it isn’t. There is another and what a surprise that it turns out to be its younger brother: the Explorer II.
There’s never been a better pair of siblings in the history of watches, we believe. While one carries the great heritage and history of having scaled the highest peaks, the other can lay claim to being the best-looking 40mm sports piece Rolex still makes. And much of that is down to that fantastic stainless bezel and its pairing with the GMT function/dial. And the choice of black or white dials…
You see, the black bezels of the Submariner and Sea Dweller are ubiquitous. You’d recognise them from a mile away as you sought a more interesting place to rest your eyes. Now, the Coke/Pepsi-coloured bezels of the former GMT Master II were playful, noticeable and equally anchored in history. More discerning enthusiasts would give a wink and a nod and you would then decide if they were hitting on you, or admiring your timepiece.
But the Explorer II dropped all that colour nonsense and simply said: stainless does it better. And by God do we agree. The contrast of the dark numerals against the brushed elegant bezel has us quivering while the single splash of red courtesy of the 24-hour hand provides all the contrast we could ever ask for. Once again, it’s all about these subtle tensions that the club-wielding Rolex designers of today just don’t get. Less is more.
The icing on the cake is the choice of a broody, evening black dial, or the bright effervescence of a do-it-all white dial. True, the cream-dialed Explorer IIs are the one to really go for (and I intend to have mine before the year is out), but we’ve rarely seen a white-faced sports watch burn so brightly, and so rightly.
Some of you may be aware that a Rolex publicity film was recently seen on the Internet (just before Basel) featuring a glimpse of the “new” Rolex Explorer II with orange hands, in a nod to the Steve McQueen 1655 model of the past. We understand this was eventually pulled, leaving us guessing that the current Explorer II is about to be bastardized like every model in the line-up in order to celebrate the 40 anniversary of the Explorer II in 2011. Observing the Maxi hands and dial and the rather silly looking 24-hour hand we already shed a tear for the current model.
Buy the Explorer and Explorer II while you can, folks. It’s impossible to tell when such a tremendous, classic pairing of watches will ever appear on the market again.
23 September 2011 – UPDATE – Turns out someone has delivered the new Explorer II we always wanted: HTE. Find out more here.
30 March 2010 – UPDATE – So, as we expected, Rolex released the new Explorer II at Baselworld 2011. What do we make of it? Head on over here to find out.
Why the only other current Rolex worth buying is the mighty Explorer II
We recently wrote that the Rolex Explorer is the only model in the entire current Rolex line-up we’d slap our hard earned cash for. Except it isn’t. There is another and what a surprise that it turns out to be its younger brother: the Explorer II. There’s never been a better pair of siblings in the history of watches, we believe.
Eric (AKA Straight-Six) had a proper job as a journalist for Dow Jones before lowering himself gently into the warm, forgiving waters of The Guide. He’s our resident fanatic: he relished detailing his BMW M3 for two full days at a time before crashing it at Eau Rouge in the wet; he spends insane amounts on his home-cinema system and has thrown tens of thousands of euros at vintage Rolex sports watches. The little fool simply does not understand the concept of restraint or the meaning of excess. He also – following a legendary "heavy" lunch – once nibbled (yes, like little dogs do) a dear lady friend of ours.
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