Man of Many’s Take
Dressed in stainless steel with a white dial, the Rolex Explorer II is as clean and quintessential as a tool watch can get. In addition to luminova dial markers and conventional hands, it incorporates an arrow-shaped 24-hour hand onto the pristine white dial face. Signature features aside, we were hooked as soon as we saw the word “Rolex.”
1990s sport Rolex has gained a ton of momentum over the past few years. Dealers and collectors are now specializing in this “neo-vintage” space whereas, in the past, the generation was considered pre-owned more so than vintage. Rising to the forefront of this trend is the Explorer II ref. 16550 and 16570. Introduced in 1985 as a replacement to the “Steve McQueen,” the 16550—particularly those with ‘panna cotta’ aged dials—has boomed in popularity to become one of the most sought after Rolexes in the market with dealers constantly searching to purchase examples for resale. The 16550 only produced until 1989 as a transitional reference making way for the 16570. With more attention being called to the five-digit Rolex era, specifically thanks to post McQueen Explorer IIs with panna cotta dials, the rising tide has lifted the frankly common, produced for 22 years, reference 16570.
The 16570 is a modern and reliable tool watch that Rolex refuses to produce anymore. Just as with the version before it, the case is a comfortable 40mm, lacking unnecessary flash or bulk that the crown has added to their watches ever since this model left the catalog in 2011. The model was offered in both black dial and white dial (known as the “polar” dial) variants side by side for the entirety of its run. Beyond dial color, these Explorer IIs were produced with three luminous materials: tritium from 1989 to 1997 (denoted with “SWISS – T < 25” at 6), luminova in some of 1998 and 1999 (”SWISS” at 6), and super luminova thereafter (“SWISS MADE”). Of the variants within 16570s, nicely aged tritium examples garner most attention for a vintage feel and “swiss only” luminova watches thanks to relative rarity.
For auction is what we consider an excellent wearer Rolex. Below are all of the real gritty details for the example but generally, this is not a safe queen, not a perfect example but one to wear and enjoy. These last of their kind Explorer IIs lend themselves very well to this type of ownership as they blend utilitarian case sizing and design language with modern Rolex reliability and mettle. A set it and forget it type watch this example is as great an addition to an expansive collection as it is an option as the future owner’s first Rolex.
The Case and Bracelet
Case condition of this Explorer II is great although the lugs appear thinner than other examples and are believed to have been professionally recut. The geometry of the bezel and various finishes were well done in the refinishing. The Rolex signed crown is correct for the reference.
The caseback and bezel here are in matching condition to the rest of the case with light wear but little to no scratching. On the bezel, some black paint loss within the 20, 22, and, 24 numerals is seen. The crystal shows no flaws.
A 78360 Oyster bracelet accompanies the watch along with correct and well fitting 501B stamped endlinks. The bracelet’s date code is Z, dating it to circa 1997. Condition is commensurate with the watch and there are 12 total links.
The Dial and Hands
This 16570 wears a genuine Rolex service dial that arguably makes the watch a touch more interesting. While the case serial number dates this watch to the tritium lume era, a rarer swiss only luminova dial is fitted. Condition of the dial is great to excellent with no flaws to note.
The handset matches the dial well and is of the correct length although can be assumed to be a service replacement at the time the dial was done.
The Rolex 3186 is currently running at COSC spec, service history is unknown.
|Movement||Automatic, Rolex Cal. 3186|
|Band Material||Stainless Steel|
|Clasp Type||Rolex 78360 Oyster|