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Talking Hands: The Rolex Explorer II

By on 21 May 2012 in Watches

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If ever there was a reason to wonder what the plural of Rolex was, then our latest Talking Hands is it. Roli? Rolexi? Rolexes? We’d like to think it was Rollers.

Not only have we had the brand new Explorer II under close observation here at Prodigal Towers for the last week or so but we’ve put it up against the previous generation too. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we thought it interesting to line these two siblings up in front of the rest of the family: the Rolex sports model range in its entirety. So, we have an Explorer, a GMT-Master II, a Daytona and a no-date Submariner – just to put the Explorer II in context you understand.

Why all the trouble? Because this is a watch that matters to us a great deal. Its predecessor is in our view the pinnacle of Rolex sports watch design. We’d been left feeling teased and frustrated when we clapped eyes on its successor at Baselworld 2011. So, when we finally got to spend a week or so with it, we wanted to be sure that our assessment was thorough and honest.

The result is the longest Talking Hands we’ve ever recorded – but we think the piece deserves that level of attention. Our verdict? You’ll have to watch to find out.

Pour yourself a drink, hit play and join us for Talking Hands.

Thank you to our friends at The Watch Gallery (TIME2) for the loan of the Explorer II. If you’re in London, we highly recommend a visit to Rolex, One Hyde Park, 100 Knishtbridge, London SW1X 7LJ, Tel: +44 20 7292 0345.  It’s the largest selection of Rolex watches available within Europe. Michael and his team have great knowledge of Rolex’s iconic collections and will be pleased to help you navigate your way through their phenomenal selection.


Talking Hands: The Rolex Explorer II

Not only do we have the brand new Explorer II under close observation here at Prodigal Towers but we’ve put it up against the previous generation too. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we thought it interesting to line these two brothers up in front of the rest of the family: the Rolex sports model range in its entirety.

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Our editor-in-chief, the self-proclaimed "greatest wit, raconteur and bon vivant of our age", borders on delusional. Over the years, the fool has squandered more money on fast cars, Swiss watches and electronic gadgetry of all kinds than he – or Mrs Fool – cares to remember. Come nightfall, he can invariably be found stumbling out of Dukes mumbling “just one more Martini; I could have handled just one mmmmm… [thud!]”

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  • Nalk7

    I know it’s wishful thinking, but I really hope Rolex steps back to their original watch sizes in the future. The new bloated, super cased, monsters don’t really do it for me :(

    • Man size Rolex

      I love the new size for the Explorer. I am a pilot (just exotic) and have always owned the previous (mid-sized) white explorer II. The new watch is better in every way for a pilot. Bigger dial and hands and far more readable lume in the dim light of a cockpit. Remember this is a functional tool not a yuppy toy. Rolex have done the right thing with the right watch. They have listened to to true users and made a good watch perfect

  • Dom

    Nice feature gents – I completely concur regarding the super-sized serving although there is a lot to like with the 42mm and I do agree that case and bracelet are better integrated than on the old one. Think the purchase of the old was a canny investment.

  • Stuart

    Great stuff. I think I like it, but just to look at for a bit, not to own. It’s the fanta shade of the GMT hand that kills it.

    For arguments sake my keeper is the non-date sub, but I’m bias; I have one. I’m obviously trying to keep the values up, so my tiny two-piece collection can one day fund a prodigal lifestyle.

    And I won’t hear a word said against Timex. It was my first and I was just six. It had a racing leather strap – think cut outs – making me a mini Steve McQueen.

  • Pascal

    Great review, and I am quite surprised you picked up the white one.

    Comparing the old and the new white face I have to agree with your verdict. But what if you would have picked the black faces?

    I believe that the new black face is still large, and might be too large for some wrists, but much more balanced. The orange hand is much better integrated in the overall design and is reminiscent of the original Steve McQueen.

    Plus, the hour and minutes hands, as well as the indexes, look more “normal” as the outer colour of the hands and indexes (black on the white face) offer much more contrast on the white dial.

    Overall build quality, bracelet, victim of a large wrist, I vote for the new black face!
    And of course the no-date sub is a must..

  • Chris I

    Gents, another home run – that is “American” for good job. Thanks for the wrist shot…but this time you forgot to mention the booze. I enjoyed a Long Trail IPA from Vermont.

    I did not want to agree with y’all…but I must. The new Explorer II is a cartoon. However, I find the old one much too small. It’s proportions are amazing but the design wears too small. I wanted to like it – I tried it on a couple times and settled on the 14060M as my first Rolex.

    The net net is that this watch is a terrible joke. It looks like a Swatch. I would like to see some more exploration of the Explorer I though.

  • Derek Lorimer

    Thanks for the great video. I have the Rolex Explorer 1 114270 and I agree about the bracelet quality on the older Rolex models. The main problem I have with the new Explorer II is the price. I can’t afford it :)

  • Trevor

    I tried on a bunch of Rolexs… overall the best one was the 216570. I liked it for all the reasons that the two gentlemen railed against. Proportion be damned, you can actually SEE the 216570!
    Unfortunately I’ve gotten to the age where my eyes don’t focus in like they used to. I like to canoe and camp and hike and bike, etc. and I need an easy to read and robust watch. Almost any Rolex is robust enough but the only one I could VERY easily read was the white-faced 216570. Although I thought that the black-faced 216570 looked better, it was no where near as legible as the white-faced. The black-faced took too many compromises in legibility in order to make the hands ‘float’ (which, admittedly, does look cool) and I thought the black-face had too many internal reflections.
    I LOVE the bracelet on the 216570.
    I’m a small man (5 foot 5, so I’m not a Sumo wrestler) and the 216570 does NOT look too small on my wrist.
    The most comfortable watch, of any watch I’ve ever tried on in my life, was the Explorer I. And easily fit under clothes and gloves, etc. Living in Canada that’s important as sweaters, jackets, parkas, gloves, and mitts are just a fact of life and the Explorer I easily slid under the clothes.
    I wonder if Rolex could marry the case for the Explorer I with the hands of the white-faced 216570 and the bracelet of the 216570? Now THAT would be a great watch.
    And an interesting menage-a-trois…

    • El”Monte Slim

      Brilliant …thats exactly what i think. I just sold my 2007 white faced Explorer and purchased the new white faced 216570 Explorer. Since wearing my Panerai my Rolex’s (including my SS Daytona look small).
      I love everything about my new white Explorer II. It’s a man sized watch and all the slim wristed boys are just going to have to “man-up” :-)

  • El Guapo

    The hands, the hands, the hands…I don’t mind the orange one, but the hour and minute ones are just too fat. (And while I’m at it, I find the hands on the new Explorer 1 just a bit too short.)

  • Andrew

    I own the white-dial 16570 Explorer II and absolutely love it. I checked out the new model and it just didn’t compute with me. To chunky, hands too fat, etc. For the record, I think the new Explorer I is also a step backward, as I found the proportions of the previous 36mm mode to be perfect. The bracelet on the new models may be more substantial and “exude more quality,” so to speak, but the old models have a symmetry and balance of design that’s tough to beat.

    • Straight-Six


      You rightfully spoke of symmetry and balance. Let me be clear on this: if a watch fails to succeed in those two crucial areas, I am singularly disinterested in anything else on offer. Including fantastic bracelets, exuding “quality”, blah, blah.

      Most of us pore over our watches every single day, and any imbalance or lack of harmony can only jar more over time. This is why I, and the Fool, ultimately settled on the 16570…

      • El”Monte Slim

        Sorry Six…I disagree. I love my new White 216570. I sold my old 2007 white explorer II to buy it and I have no regrets…except that my Daytona feels small now. It’s easy to read and actually feels like it is worth the money I paid for it..

        • Straight-Six


          Different strokes for different folks, right? Glad you’re actually able to read the time on your watch now, and we do agree the latest Explorer II feels like a significant improvement in terms of build.

          But it’s taken a testosterone injection we think will lead to flabby pecs and abs in the long-run…

          Wear yours in good health!

  • Jason

    Great review. I agree that the 40mm is just so much more aesthetically pleasing, although both 40 and 42mm looked their best in white in my opinion. I am sure that the newer bracelet is an improvement, but I must be honest and say that the older model works just fine and last well (even if it doesn’t feel so solid).

    Interesting that you also highlighted the 14060M as a favorite from the current sports range. I was looking for a new sports Rolex last year, and that is exactly the watch I picked after trying on the maxi-cased Subs. The is something about those proportions and the balance of the design that is just so much cleaner and classic looking.

    Great to see some more Talking Hands videos coming on-line.



  • Matthew L (@365daytonafan)

    Great video, think I’ll be sticking with my 16570 black face explorer II thanks.

  • Chris II

    A bit late to the game, but you guys hit it dead on with your review. The new Exp II proportions just don’t work. It’s like they took the classic looks and lines of the former gen Exp II and made it “Fast and Furious.”

  • Sandman

    Today it is sunny in Abu Dhabi!

    Well I might be swimming against the tide on here but I for one love the new Explorer II but then again I am writing this reply while my beloved Rolex Deep Sea is smiling up at me from my left wrist.

    I am 53 years old and still enjoy 20/20 vision so I can still shoot tight groups with a 9mm Caracal at 25 meters but my short range vision just isn’t holding up the same way.

    For a while I have wanted a white face Rolex to supplement my black faced Deep Sea but found the Daytona etc too small for my eyes and wrist. Also being a big fan of desert driving out here in the sandbox (Liwa Oasis) I wanted watch with a non-rotating bezel that wouldn’t pick up dirt and sand while driving off road and camping in the desert.

    So Rolex came to the rescue with their updated Explorer II and I simply love it.

    So now it is the Deep Sea for diving off Kor Fakkan and the Explorer II 216570 while dune bashing in the Empty Quarter and which watch wins each day as the daily wearer just depends on my mood.

    So its cocktails all around!

    And if Rolex ever bumps up the GMT to 42 mm and brings back the pepsi bezel I will also be adding that watch to the rotation.

    Thanks the gods we don’t all love the same watch or the same woman or the fist fights would never stop.

    Cheers from the sandbox, Sandman

    • The Prodigal Fool

      Sandman, your comment brought a smile to my face.

      I disagree almost entirely with your watch choices but, boy oh boy, do I like your style!

      May we never fight over a watch – or a woman for that matter!

      And may you come back soon and often to TPG to share more comments.

      In the meantime, wear your over-sized Rolexes in excellent health! ;-)

  • Sandman

    Hi Prodigal Fool,

    I doubt if women would be a bone of contention unless you have a weakness for big hair Iranian wallet vampires trolling the Corniche for innocent Canadians stuck in a permanent mid life crisis. Or maybe your taste runs to tiny Issan gogo dancers shaking what Buddha gave them on Soi Cowboy.

    I guess it’s a sign of the time rolling on when your watches are getting bigger while your caliber of choice drops from 45 ACP man dropper to 9mm mouse stopper. I even had to take off one of the rubber slings from my Riffe because setting three slings every time took the fun out of blue water hunting so it is more close quarters reef stuff these days.

    Regarding watches if I was running Rolex I would be offering more choice in colour, size and everything in stainless steel.

    I have my two Rolexes but would happily pick up a couple more if Rolex would just offer so more watches that are all stainless steel sport watches (not a dress watch guy) but offer a different look depending one’s daily mood.

    I really would like a GMT II but unless I could get a pepsi/coke bezel the current black bezel/face just looks too much like my black Deep Sea.

    For my last purchase I really wanted something that contrasted with my black Deep Sea so was torn between the white Explorer II and the green Submariner HULK. Then my old eyes made that choice for me when the 42mm version of the Explorer II appeared at Baselworld.

    If fact after a buddy got me into mechanical watches and I first looked at Rolex I was torn between the classic Sea Dweller, which I have seen on dive boats for years and the striking Submariner TT bluesy. I really loved the blue bezel/ face but just couldn’t buy a watch with all that gold on it.

    I am not a Jewelry guy at all. For me gold is not for men to wear but instead gold jewelry is what you buy women to help convince them that you are a viable candidate when they feel the need to do rabbit impressions.

    So if Rolex would just offer a steel 42mm Submariner with both the blue bezel/face and green bezel/face as options and a pepsi/coke bezel GMT II then I know one customer that would be long four more watches.

    Until then I will just have to suffer along day to day with my current swag which really doesn’t give me anything to whine about.

    Anyway just ran across your site yesterday and I am enjoying having a look around so all the best.

    Fish fear me!

    Cheers, Sandman

  • steppxxxxz

    I so wanted to like the new explorer 2s. I so wanted to. But its just god awful ugly. Its bloated, its clunky, and the maxi hands are insanely over sized. Allow me a suggestion guys, do a piece on Sinn watches.

  • GTCA

    I think the concerns with proportions are mitigated by the even more inflated designs by other makers of late making the new Explorer II more reasonable at least within the context of broader design trends. That being said, I still agree a bit with your concerns regarding the proportions, and I agree with your solution, as I bought the Rolex Explorer II with the black fact for just North of $8,000 U.S. in May of 2014.

  • Guest

    i bought that exp2 white face. i was initially afraid it would be too big for my asian arms but when i tried it on, it looked fine, does not look silly big and no one has said that it looks big on me.

    the bigger face markers and details have to be that way otherwise it wouldv been a waste of space putting smallish details and markers on such ample area. they look proportioned to the increased size.

    i love the orange 24hour hand and the orange explorer name as they lend a slight playful touch to the oftentimes serious nature of the rolex brand. you can also opt for the black face exp2 if you still want to look business all the time.

    great watch.

  • beagood

    Guys – what’s your intro music? I love it (almost as much as the discussions!)