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The Rolex Explorer II is a genre unto itself. Originally designed for a specific target demographic, it has earned its place as one of Rolex’s cornerstone models. With its robust steel case, 24-hour bezel and bright orange 24-hour hand, the Explorer II has become one of Rolex’s most easily recognised timepieces. Almost fifty years later and the modern Explorer II still manages to capture the spirit of the original concept. Put one on your wrist and adventure is sure to follow.
The original Explorer
The Explorer family is one of the oldest lines in the Rolex catalogue. It was among the first series to evolve out of the base Oyster Perpetual Chronometer. The latter was modified and developed through prototypes that accompanied pioneering Himalayan expeditions from the 1930s onwards. Several of these included key attempts on Mt Everest. When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first to successfully reach the 8,848m summit on 29 May 1953, Norgay had an Oyster Perpetual strapped to his wrist. This epic feat was so emblematic of the qualities of precision and reliability associated with the Oyster watch that the brand marked the occasion in 1953 with the launch of a dedicated model: the Rolex Explorer.
The Rolex Explorer benefited from all the technical know-how gained over the past decades of expeditions. It was one of the most rugged of all Oysters, defined by a highly legible dial and a strengthened case. Special lubricants were used that could function between -20 and 40 degrees Celsius. It came on an all-steel bracelet and had a new Twinlock winding crown with a two-seal waterproofness system. Linked to the Everest expeditions, the Explorer soon became an iconic timepiece. More importantly, the technical advancements made with that watch led to the development of other Rolex tool watches. Such as the Submariner and GMT-Master. And, of course, the Explorer II.
“Freccione” (the “Arrow”)
In 1971, Rolex expanded the Explorer family by introducing the Mark II. A larger format with a 24-hour bezel and second time zone hand. The new professional expedition tool piece came with a character all of its own. More robust and highly refined, it was designed specifically for professional cave exploring. The fixed 24-hour bezel and large, arrow-shaped, 24-hour hand finished in bright orange or red were to serve as a highly prominent AM/ PM indicator. The Explorer II became the wristwatch of choice for speleologists, volcanologists and polar and jungle explorers. The 24-hour hand earned the nickname “Freccione” (“Arrow”) among Italian dealers and collectors.
In 2011, the Freccione marked its 40th anniversary with an extensive technical and atheistic makeover. The 904L stainless steel case was increased from 40mm to 42mm, opening up the dial for better legibility. The hands were also enlarged. But the signature of the new version was the return of the bright orange 24-hour hand. (It had been absent in previous updates.) On the modern take, the orange arrow stands as a (welcome) homage to the defining characteristics of the 1970s original. The latest version comes with a black or white dial and is worn on an Oyster, flat three-piece links bracelet. (With Oysterlock safety clasp and Easylink 5mm comfort extension link.) It still employs the (protected) Twinlock winding crown, guaranteeing waterproofness to 100m (10 bar/ 330ft).
The Explorer II is fitted with an additional 24-hour display (marked by graduations on a fixed bezel). The orange ‘freccione’ circles the dial on a 24-hour basis (as opposed to the usual 12). This function enables the wearer to keep track of day hours from night hours. An essential feature for those who venture where darkness reigns supreme - such as deep caverns beneath the earth’s surface. Or where the sun never sets - such as the summer period of polar regions. The independent 12-hour hand provides a second time zone function. The clear dial is punctuated by high-contrast Chromalight, giving an illuminating blue glow to the hour markers and hands in the dark (for up to eight hours). Everything is designed to make the Explorer II readable in the most challenging conditions.
In addition to the conventional time and date function the Manufacture calibre 3187 provides the 24-hour hand display. The mechanical movement is (bidirectionally) self-winding via a Perpetual rotor. The movement is entirely developed and manufactured by Rolex. It is of course COSC-certified as a Superlative Chronometer. Calibre 3187 is equipped with a Parachrom hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers. Offering added protection against shocks (especially drops) and extreme conditions. The power reserve is approximately 48 hours.
For the adventurist
The Explorer II was designed with professional explorers in mind. It’s become associated with those brave enough to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. The popular Rolex tool watch is advocated by several high-profile people. (Prince Harry among them.) To get in touch with your inner-adventurist, come into our Norwich boutique to try a Rolex Explorer II on the wrist. And then get out there and start exploring!