Rolex Explorer II 16570 vs 216570

rolex explorer ii

Rolex Explorer 16570 vs 216570: What’s the difference?

The Rolex Explorer II is one of the most versatile watches from Rolex. The original version was created for a very niched audience – cave explorers who spend a lot of time in the dark – but today, it’s considered by many as an excellent daily-wearer.

The Explorer II is currently being produced with the reference 216570, but many still find its predecessor, the 16570, to be a viable choice.

What sets the two references apart and which one is right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the two versions of the Rolex Explorer II:




Similar to Rolex’s most popular sport models – the Submariner, GMT-Master, and the Daytona – the Rolex Explorer was inspired by professionals with specific vocations. Divers have the Submariner, pilots have the GMT-Master, and racing drivers have the Daytona.

Rolex thought that speleologists, or those who explore cave systems, would benefit from a watch that can be used while spending long periods without sunlight. Enter the Rolex Explorer II.


The first Rolex Explorer II ref 1655
The first Rolex Explorer II ref 1655

Its inaugural model, the ref 1655 (also called the Freccione, Orange Hand or Steve McQueen) introduced an extra hour hand in bright orange and a fixed 24-hour bezel, which worked together to help distinguish between day and night.

We covered the evolution of the Rolex Explorer watches here.




The most recent iterations, the 16570 and 216570, kept these two elements. The 16570 was launched in 1989 and enjoyed a 20-year run, which validates its popularity and importance in the Rolex Explorer II’s history. Despite being discontinued, it’s still sought after by many Rolex fans.


Rolex Explorer II ref 216570
Rolex Explorer II ref 216570
By 2011, Rolex launched the 216570, a bigger and bolder update, which is their answer to the market’s move towards larger timepieces. Let’s look at the minute details that make them different:



The 16570 has a 40mm case. With the 216570, Rolex employed the same change they made in the GMT-Master and Submariner’s recent iterations: the Maxi Case.

The case stayed at 40mm, but they beefed up the bezel, lugs and crown guards. Later editions of the 216570 were then increased to a 42mm case.


Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570
CASE DIFFERENCES. left to right: Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570

With more space to occupy, this made many of the watch’s elements larger: the crown and crown guards, the numbers on the bezel, the luminous hour markers on the dial, the hands, and even the index markers.

Many would point out however, that the 16570’s details, despite their smaller size, were more elaborate and proportioned.



The 216570 was launched on the 40th anniversary of the Rolex Explorer II. As a tribute to the inaugural ref 1655, they took its most distinguishing element – the orange 24-hour hand – and applied it to the 216570.


Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570
DIAL AND HANDS. left to right: Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570

This is one of the easiest ways to tell the latest versions apart, as the 16570 has a narrow, red 24-hour hand with an arrow at the tip, similar to the ones found on GMT-Master watches.

The Explorer II text on the dial also appears in black in the 16570 (or white on the black dial version). While in the 216570, it’s in a similar shade of orange as the 24-hour hand.



Both 16570 and 216570 are fitted with 904L steel Oyster bracelets.


Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570
BRACELETS. left to right: Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570

To be in proportion with the expended lugs, the 216570 has slightly wider bracelets. Apart from the size, the new version was also the first to be equipped with Rolex’s Easylink Comfort Extension.

The link extends the bracelet by up to 5mm. This comes in handy for when the wrist contrasts or expands due to humidity and temperature. As an adventure watch, the Explorer II is well-suited for climactic changes with this feature.



The 16570 runs on the Caliber 3185 and later updated to the Caliber 3186. The Caliber 3185 is the first in-house Rolex mechanism to make the 24-hour hand independently adjustable from the hour, minute, and seconds hands.


Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570
MOVEMENTS. left to right: Rolex Explorer II ref 16570 and 216570

The Caliber 3186, meanwhile, is updated with the Parachrom Bleu hairspring and Paraflex shock absorbers. Aside from being completely resistant to the effects of magnetism, it also gives the movement ten times more shock protection.

The 216570, on the other hand, is powered by the Caliber 3187. It’s a slightly enlarged version of the Caliber 3186, since the new Explorer II now comes in a larger 42mm case.





Both considered classics in the Rolex line-up, choosing between the 16570 and 216570 boils down to two aspects: fit and aesthetic.

If a 40mm watch suits you better and you prefer a more subdued design of neutral colors, then the 16570 is your best bet. If you prefer a larger watch and one that has bolder details, then the 216570 might be the one for you.




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