The Art of Craft: Rolex Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Its Famous Explorer II Watch With a 21st-Century Update
The watch is a cousin to the timepiece worn by Sir Edmund Hillary.
Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex has debuted a new iteration of one of its most famous timepieces: the Explorer II, which was first introduced in 1971 as a special object designed for explorers traveling the far reaches of the globe, often finding themselves in extreme weather conditions.
The design is a cousin to Rolex’s famous sports watch, the Explorer I, which debuted in 1953 following the successful ascent up Mount Everest by Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, who wore a similar model on his wrist.
The Explorer II is also a favorite amongst the watch-loving celebrity set, including John Mayer, who once waxed poetic about the watch in a 2012 interview with the New York Times. (“You’re my one and only watch, you’re my Rolex,” he said.)
It is also beloved for its design-forward but hardy features, which make keeping time easy regardless of where you are in the world.
These features include an easy-to-read 24-hour dial and bright orange bezel that helped travelers keep track night and day; a display that enables the watch to act as a compass when needed; and the option to plug in a second time zone, too.
Over the years, the watch’s essential features have remained, though it’s received a few subtle design updates, the latest debuting just this year in celebration of the Explorer II’s 50th anniversary.
The Oyster Perpetual Explorer II was crafted from the brand’s signature Oystersteel—a tough-as-nails material that’s especially resistant to corrosion, much like precious metals such as gold and platinum—and features a redesigned case and three-piece link bracelet.
On the white lacquer dial, the hour markers, and hour, minute, and second hands, there are noticeably striking updates, though the 24-hour hand retains its signature orange color.
The watch also features a new Chromalight display that prolongs the glow of its hour markers and hands in the dark, so that travelers can have optimum access to the display irrespective of the time of night. And in the daylight, these elements are also more legible, set in a brighter white hue than iterations past.
The latest Explorer II also comes with an innovative calibre 3285 movement that is self-winding and extends to approximately 70 hours.
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