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Old 16 November 2010, 09:03 AM   #1
JasoninDenver
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The Explorer II (16570) - In Depth Review

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to add one of my grail watches to my collection – the Rolex Explorer II 16570 with a white dial (well known as the “Polar Explorer”) and the new 3186 movement.



I. Background

Ironically, the Explorer II had not been on my radar screen for nearly as long as some of my other grails such as the Sub Date and the Omega Speedmaster. A close friend of mine had one a few years back and I was initially attracted to the color of the dial and look of the watch overall; but I was deep in the clutches of a serious dive watch phase. I always thought that the Rolex Sub Date (16610) would be my first new Rolex purchase. However, when I had the means, for some reason I could never pull the trigger on the Sub Date. Honestly, I could not justify the additional price of the Rolex Submariner at the time and ended up with an Omega Seamaster Pro titanium as my first expensive watch.

A couple of years later, I had acquired my late father’s 30 year-old Rolex Datejust after it had sat in my brother’s safe for the past 15 years. After a visit to my watchmaker for a service and case polish, I started wearing this regularly as well. It was every bit as accurate as my brand new Omega despite having had a rough life over the past 30 years. My eyes began to see the inherent value in the Rolex quality. Also, as I have become more and more of a WIS over the past few years, I began craving a watch with an in-house movement.

After researching the Explorer II, I heard the rumors of the upcoming redesign of this watch anticipated for Basel 2011. I saw the leaked pictures and was initially attracted to the new dial and orange 24-hour hand; however, I simply could not stand the thought of a redesigned case on this model. In short, I could not think of anything that I would want changed on the current Explorer II so I decided that newer would not be better for me in this case and pulled the trigger on a new, V-series white faced Explorer II.

II. Initial Impressions


My watch was purchased from a trusted seller on the Rolex Forums Sales Forums and arrived from FedEx the very next day after placing my order. I would have been happy to deal with a local AD, but was unimpressed with the knowledge of the sales staff at two local dealers. One major chain had an older Explorer II, without the rehaut engraving, in the cabinet and the salesperson assured me it was the latest iteration and that they must have dropped the engraving. Needless to say, I did not waste my time there when I could get such a tremendous deal through the forums.

I can understand that many people complain about the lack of a fancy presentation box with a $5,000 to $6,000 watch. This is not so much of an issue with me as the box will stay on the shelf in my closet and never be touched again until I move or need to send the watch into the service center. I am buying a watch - not a box. Maybe with a $20,000.00 watch, I would feel differently, but I doubt it. I remember a dealer in Hawaii telling me that many of his Rolex customers even leave the box in the store because they don’t even want to bother carrying it back home. I would not go to this extreme.

Once I had the watch out, I have to admit that I was shaking with excitement. I guess this is the feeling that us collectors view as our “high”. Funny, I did not have any second thoughts about having spent so much on a watch from that point forward. It just seemed right.

I tried sizing the bracelet myself with my set of jeweler’s screwdrivers but could not get the screw pins to budge. Apparently, the head of the Rolex screw was wider than the tip of my screwdriver and I decided to make a quick trip to my watchmaker to have him size it for me rather than risk scratching up a brand new bracelet. An hour later, it was sized and on my wrist.

III. Features


Now, after three weeks of constant wear, I would like to point out the pros and cons of this classic watch, which is suspected to soon go the way of Rolex’s other classic tool watches like the 16610 and Seadweller:
1. The Case – 10/10: I really like the 39mm size of the current Explorer II. It seems perfectly fitted for my 6.5” wrist. The case back sits fairly flush to the back of the case body and this makes the watch lay nicely on the wrist. As compared to the 16610 Sub, for which a higher case back profile is necessary for a higher depth rating, the Explorer II sits flush on my wrist and does not want to flop around even when sized a little loose.

http://gallery.me.com/jasonindenver#...&bgcolor=black

2. The Bracelet – 6/10: I know many will balk with my giving this bracelet a rating even this high - It has hollow middle links after all. However, this construction allows for a much lighter bracelet with only a small trade-off in durability. Yes, even the bracelet on my Marcello C is solid and may look better after 30 years, but I have no doubt that the Explorer II bracelet will last that long, albeit with a little more stretch.

Otherwise, the Rolex bracelet is tried and true. It is supremely comfortable with only a minimal amount of “digging in” from the links. People who prefer to wear their bracelets snug would not even notice this.

The biggest negative to this bracelet for me, and the reason for being a 6 out of 10, is that it only allows you to remove two adjustable links from the 6 o-clock side of the bracelet, leaving five permanent links on this side. Newer bracelets such as that on the GMTIIC allow you to remove three links. While this is a non-issue for most people, this lack of three adjustable links on 6 o-clock side of the current Explorer II oyster bracelet means that people with wrist sizes 6.5 inches and smaller will have to either deal with an off-centered clasp or seriously modify the bracelet to get the clasp centered on the underside of their wrists.

http://gallery.me.com/jasonindenver#...&bgcolor=black

Most people prefer to wear the bracelet where the clasp is slightly shorter towards the 6 o’clock side of the watch on the theory that this helps keep the watch head properly oriented on the top of their wrist. Frankly, I have never had a problem with this. Some people, however, have remedied this issue either: (1) by removing one permanent link on the 6 o’clock side of the bracelet (note: this disrupts the gradual tapering of the link sizing from 20mm down to 18mm and may annoy some), or (2) flipping the bracelet on the watch so that the clasp opens in the other direction and the long side of the bracelet is now at the 12:00 o’clock position. I guess that this has not bothered me enough to force such a drastic remedy and, in fact, I do not even notice the clasp being off-centered anymore.

3. The Clasp – 7/10: For years I have balked about the stamped, fold-over flip-lock oyster clasp. Cheap, Cheap Cheap… My Omega clasp is a work of art compared to the Rolex clasp. Even my $750.00 Marcello C has a better-engineered clasp. Frankly, this is one of the reasons I have waited so long to buy a newer Rolex as I was intrigued by the new clasp designs slowly being integrated into the Rolex sport line. However, the old flip-lock clasp does offer some benefits that have now led me to wonder if more is not always better.

The Explorer II clasp is a tough performer offering a great deal of adjustability and very low weight. From a tool watch perspective, it is the perfect synthesis of form and function.

Frankly, the Omega Seamaster clasp is simply a pain in the butt. After buying two half-links ($45.00 each), I was finally able to get a comfortable fit. It is just right in the summer and a little loose in the winter. My Marcello C clasp offers great adjustability but more weight as well. The Explorer II clasp is just right.

Perhaps I could be swayed by the glidelock clasp that will probably appear on the 2011 updated model. Maybe the moderate increase in weight would be justified by the convenience. For me, I am now content with the clasp that I used to scoff at as “Cheap, Cheap, Cheap…”. Damn, I hate eating my words.

4. The Bezel – 8/10: The two biggest complaints about the bezel on this watch are the fact that it does not rotate and that it is scratch-prone. Personally, I do not need the ability to track three times zones, so the need for a rotatable GMT bezel is not an issue for me. The only function the bezel has for me in daily use is to be able to tell me what I would be doing if I were in Maui at any given point during the day. If I am putting the kids to bed in Denver, it is nice to know that it is happy hour in Lahaina. I do know that I will use the bezel more in my upcoming travels.

I can say that this bezel does show scratches. It is brushed radially away from the dial so any major scratches in the bezel brushing will be visible. I already have one scratch that is clearly visible but I view this as a tool watch to which scratches only add character. Plus, due to this being a non-rotatable bezel, I understand it is a very cheap and easy to pop on a new bezel in a few years. I can live with that.

5. The Crystal: The slightly raised, flat sapphire crystal is perfect for this watch. I am generally not a fan of Cyclops magnifiers on a crystal and this watch does nothing to change my opinion. While the magnification helps readability, the lack of any anti-reflective (AR) coating under the magnifier or crystal itself force you to search for the correct angle to view the date without the glare from ambient light.

When you get the angle right – it is great…



When you don’t – the Cyclops is not so effective…



Even my 43 year-old eyes can see the small date on my AR coated Seamaster better than the magnified date on the Explorer II. I have seen the new Sub C and have not seen the light (reflected in the Cyclops, that is). The lack of an AR coating on this model is a negative point.

6. The Dials and Hands – 6/10: One reason I was interested in the rumored new version expected in 2011 was the hope of having a maxi dial and hands. While the current dial and hands combination is well proportioned, the small amount of Superluminova material that can be applied to the small indices and hands definitely affects the nighttime usability of this watch. While my Seamaster glows all night long, the hands on the Explorer II are barely readable after four hours. The maxi dial and hands would be a welcome update to this otherwise spectacular tool watch.

Otherwise, I love the contrast of the black hands with the white face of this watch. It is such a unique combination. The red 24-hour hand adds a very nice accent while not being obtrusive or overpowering the rest of the face’s design. Frankly, the leaked photos of the suspected updated version, sporting an orange 24-hour hand ala the 1970’s “Steve McQueen” version, just looked a bit too “over the top” for me. I would personally hope that Rolex retains the red hand on future versions of this watch as it just plain works.

7. The Movement – 10/10: Perhaps the biggest draw of this watch for me was the 3186 movement incorporating the Parachrome Blue hairspring. As a minor modification to the tried and tested 3185, I had high expectations from the performance of this watch. My expectations have been exceeded.

Out of the box, this watch was running +2. After three weeks of use, my watch is DEAD ON. I am hoping it stays right where it is. I cannot tell you how much satisfaction I get from the performance of this watch. I should also mention that I am able to wear this watch running and cross-country skiing with no adverse effect on the timekeeping of the watch. My Seamaster and other ETA-based watches all would speed up by 10-15 seconds after such activities, whether due to shock or overwinding – I can only guess. In any event, the repetitive arm swinging seems to throw these watches off. The 3186, on the other hand, seems to avoid this variance.

8. Wearability/Versatility – 10/10: As I mentioned before, this watch is extremely comfortable. I have tended to gravitate towards titanium watches because their minimal weight has always been easier for me to wear with high intensity activities.

The Explorer II weighs in at 124 grams and, while it is slightly heavier than my 98 gram titanium Seamaster, the additional weight is not noticed at all. In comparison, my Marcello C Nettuno 3 weighs 143 grams and this does make it too heavy for a lot of the activities I enjoy.

The white face of the Explorer II is surprisingly versatile. While I feel that the Submariner and GMTII C are slightly dressier, the Explorer II does look very good dressed up as well as dressed down. I have worn this with everything from jeans to suits with no difficulty at all.

Summary


After three weeks of wear, this watch has proven to be everything that I hoped it would be. It is easily the most comfortable stainless steel watch I have ever worn. The greatest attribute of this watch is that it incorporates Rolex’s past history and current innovation in a very utilitarian and unassuming package. This watch truly earns its reputation as the “stealth” Rolex and, as I do not like anything flashy or blingy, this is the perfect match for my personality. I get to wear an iconic watch without showing off.

Things that I used to consider potential deficits, such as the bracelet and clasp, actually make great sense when viewed as part of the whole watch rather than as individual parts. Sure, a new bracelet and clasp would update this watch but if it comes at the expense of the minimal weight and supreme comfort of the current version, I could not justify it.

As it stands, this watch may very well become a classic representation of another transitional period in the Rolex line, sporting the old style case and bracelet as well as the new, completely in-house, 3186 movement.

With Rolex’s current design focus turning away from the utilitarian tool watch and more towards high-end, albeit beautifully executed, status watches, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the Explorer II model. Will it remain a tool or be transformed into a jewel? Only time will tell.

For those who are debating whether to purchase this current version or wait until the suspected new version is released (possibly in late-2011), I would offer this advice.

• If you have bigger wrists and do not mind wearing a heavier watch wait and try on the newer version.

• If you are not impressed with the design changes that have been made to the GMT IIC and new Sub C then get the current version now while it is still available. You can always sell it for little to no loss if the new version is a home run.

As for me, even if the upcoming redesigned Explorer II holds true enough to it’s tool heritage that I feel a need to add the new version to my collection, I do not see myself parting with this excellent, excellent watch under any circumstances.

Pros
3186 movement
Amazing comfort
Stealth factor

Cons - I had to search...
Bracelet adjustability
Poor Lume
Lack of AR coating
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Explorer II Dial.jpg (67.4 KB, 7062 views)

Last edited by JasoninDenver; 16 November 2010 at 09:06 AM.. Reason: Photo Links not working
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Old 16 November 2010, 09:19 AM   #2
Submarino
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Great review! Congrats!
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Old 16 November 2010, 09:30 AM   #3
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Review

Outstanding review.

I had the same debate with the Sub Date and went with the Explorer 2 as well for many of the same reasons as you stated.

Also, mine was a wedding gift from my wife which makes it extremely special to me.

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Old 16 November 2010, 10:38 AM   #4
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Great to have another Explorer II fan in Denver!
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Old 16 November 2010, 11:56 AM   #5
David Woo
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Excellent review, these are a ton of work to put together. I have one of these and it's currently in NC getting relumed, to fix con #2. Other than that, it's a swell watch, lol.
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Old 16 November 2010, 01:01 PM   #6
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Excellent review.
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Old 17 November 2010, 03:12 AM   #7
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Great Review. I am seriously considering purchasing a Polar Exp II, and your review was very helpful. You definitley covered many points that I have been thinking about.

Thanks!
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Old 17 November 2010, 07:28 AM   #8
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Nicely done.
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Old 18 November 2010, 08:11 AM   #9
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I had an Explorer II for about a year and sold it...I regret it often.
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Old 19 November 2010, 06:09 PM   #10
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thank you for the great review.

Don't you think that Omega Planet Ocean liquid metal would have been a better choice for you?
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Old 20 November 2010, 12:29 AM   #11
vukotab
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Very good review!
I had Explorer II for years, and I 99% agree with your opinion about it!
Well done!
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Old 20 November 2010, 01:57 AM   #12
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There is nothing better than an explorer II:), white or black. Congrats!
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Old 20 November 2010, 07:23 AM   #13
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Super review , congratulations (wearing my V serie at this moment)
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Old 1 December 2010, 12:39 PM   #14
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Very nice review!I love my white Explorer.John K Szabo
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Old 3 December 2010, 04:30 AM   #15
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Hi,

I bought a G series and I realised the breacelet had too many links in the 6 o-clock side. I decided to go to Rolex spain and told me that the sole soluetion was to remove one permanent link. I was against doind that, as the watch was new and I did not want to break a link. I finally remove it and it fits perfectly. Flipping the bracelet is a good idea... I should had tried that before removing anything

thank you for the review!
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Old 4 December 2010, 11:43 AM   #16
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Hi All

Just got my Explorer II Polar and just loving it. I believe this is a very under rated watch in Rolex's lineup. And so far it has been my most accurate Rolex. Get it you wouldn't regret it!
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Old 27 December 2010, 09:16 AM   #17
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Great review. I'm planning on buying an Explorer II next month and you brought up several point for me to consider before making the used or new decision.

BTW, I've seen sever a posts that comment that the Explorer II depreciates faster than other Rolexes. Any thoughts on this claim?

#5
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Old 6 January 2011, 03:23 AM   #18
JasoninDenver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rolexer! View Post
thank you for the great review.

Don't you think that Omega Planet Ocean liquid metal would have been a better choice for you?
Sorry for the delayed response to your question.

I have considered the Planet Ocean (42mm) for some time. In fact, I waited for two years for it to come out way back when as I was very interested in the co-axial escapement. Instead, I ended up with my titanium Seamaster instead as I felt the PO was too heavy and that the curve of the bracelet did not fit the shape of my wrist very well. Furthermore, I really like the MOD sword hands on the old Seamasters as opposed to the new arrow hands on the PO.
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Old 6 January 2011, 03:27 AM   #19
JasoninDenver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garys View Post
Great review. I'm planning on buying an Explorer II next month and you brought up several point for me to consider before making the used or new decision.

BTW, I've seen sever a posts that comment that the Explorer II depreciates faster than other Rolexes. Any thoughts on this claim?

#5
I did consider this and concluded that I would most likely NOT be selling this watch and so depreciation had minimal impact on my eventual decision.

You may want to consider buying from the Sales forum here. I purchased mine from DavidSW and could not be happier with the substantial amount I saved over AD prices.

I should also mention that a sales guy at Ben Bridge commented on my watch this weekend when my wife and I were looking at something for her. He said that they have seen a run on these watches in the last few weeks. Could be people are picking them up in anticipation of the upcoming new model.
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Old 6 January 2011, 03:29 AM   #20
JasoninDenver
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prbas View Post
Hi,

I bought a G series and I realised the breacelet had too many links in the 6 o-clock side. I decided to go to Rolex spain and told me that the sole soluetion was to remove one permanent link. I was against doind that, as the watch was new and I did not want to break a link. I finally remove it and it fits perfectly. Flipping the bracelet is a good idea... I should had tried that before removing anything

thank you for the review!
I can say that after wearing the watch for two months now, I do not notice the clasp position AT ALL. I do not need to remove the permanent link or flip the bracelet on my 6.5" wrist. If it was any smaller - maybe.
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Old 25 January 2011, 03:59 AM   #21
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Great review..

and very informative too. At this moment in time i have came to the conclusion that my next Rolex will be a Explorer, however i cannot make my mind up on either a white or black face i've always thought that only a Daytona works as a white face when it comes to Rolex but as i have GV Milgauss i don't really want another black dial and this indecision is making me look at other brands.
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Old 25 January 2011, 04:11 AM   #22
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The explorer II is sadly one of the most under-rated models of the Rolex line. People seem to pass this watch off and go right for the GMT Master II. They are both a good value, but the Explorer II is still a bit more professional looking in a suit, not to mention it fits a little better underneath a dress-shirt cuff.
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Old 25 January 2011, 07:13 AM   #23
JasoninDenver
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Originally Posted by witch watch View Post
and very informative too. At this moment in time i have came to the conclusion that my next Rolex will be a Explorer, however i cannot make my mind up on either a white or black face i've always thought that only a Daytona works as a white face when it comes to Rolex but as i have GV Milgauss i don't really want another black dial and this indecision is making me look at other brands.
The Milgauss is a stunning watch. I can see how you are torn about another black faced watch. What sold me on the polar explorer is how it looks with casual clothing. While i like the looks of the Daytona, it is a bit too busy for me. I have not really taken a shine to any chronograph, though.

Try on the polar Explorer II and see if it talks to you. If it does, the decision will be easy. I do not think you could go wrong with the black dial either.
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Old 25 January 2011, 07:16 AM   #24
JasoninDenver
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Originally Posted by Accoutre-Montres View Post
The explorer II is sadly one of the most under-rated models of the Rolex line. People seem to pass this watch off and go right for the GMT Master II. They are both a good value, but the Explorer II is still a bit more professional looking in a suit, not to mention it fits a little better underneath a dress-shirt cuff.
Very good point for those of us who have to dress up at work. I am sitting here in a suit today for the first time in months and the Explorer is looking quite nice.
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Old 25 January 2011, 08:12 AM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Accoutre-Montres View Post
The explorer II is sadly one of the most under-rated models of the Rolex line. People seem to pass this watch off and go right for the GMT Master II. They are both a good value, but the Explorer II is still a bit more professional looking in a suit, not to mention it fits a little better underneath a dress-shirt cuff.
Why sadly? I am glad that not everybody has the same watch! Why get influenced by what other people are wearing? I have been influenced towards the Rolex brand because of its history (first wristwatch, first waterproof, etc.),its high profile advertising and sponsorships, and the people I admired who had one(that does not include any footballer I am afraid...) but then I want to choose the model I prefer.
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Old 22 March 2011, 10:29 AM   #26
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Great review!
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Old 22 March 2011, 10:44 AM   #27
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Very thoughtful review. Thanks.
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Old 22 March 2011, 12:28 PM   #28
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Fantastic review \
thanks
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Old 10 April 2011, 08:49 PM   #29
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I totally agree w/ the great review. Have the same watch w/ black dial, awesome!
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Old 20 April 2011, 04:10 AM   #30
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Six Month Update

Thanks for all of the kind comments.

I thought I would update my impressions after about six months of wear and hard use.

The accuracy is still running about -1 in normal wear that includes 2-3 runs each week. The arm swinging with running seems to cause the watch to speed up about +3 seconds per hour of running. So, I am actually able to regulate this watch by running or not running. "Sorry honey, I have to sit on the couch and drink a beer tonight as my watch is already spot on."

I have only worn my Omega Seamaster a handful of times over the last six months. Usually, it comes out for hiking or camping trips where the watch will get dirty or potentially scratched. So, all in all, the Explorer II has ALMOST turned into the perfect "one watch" solution for me.

My thoughts on the 2012 Explorer II....

Well, when I saw the photos of the upcoming revision to the Explorer II, I was initially a little intrigued. I really liked the idea of the improved lume on the new watch (thereby correcting the only real major complaint with the old version). However, I simply cannot see the increased case size as an improvement. The current version's case is, in my mind, perfect.

I also am not wild about the orange hand on the white face. I do think it looks spectacular on the black dialed version, however.

While the new bracelet and clasp seem interesting as well, I am not sure that it would be worth the weight penalty for me. Furthermore, rumors have it that the retail price on the new Explorer II will be pushing $7,000.00. That seems a little steep for me even considering the "improved" bracelet and clasp.

In any event, I have no doubt whatsoever that the new version will be a HUGE hit for Rolex. Hell, I might even be lining up for the black faced one in a couple of years if i can pull off the increased case size. However, all in all, I am very happy that I have one of the last "old" Explorer IIs. Maybe in 40 years it will be a collector's item with the 3186 movement.

Oh yeah - One surprising development from my purchase of this watch....

My wife now wants a Rolex

She has started to understand the attraction of mechanical watches and, while she has a very nice Raymond Weil MOP dialed quartz, was able to immediately notice the difference in materials and finish when she picked up a DJ with a MOP dial. She even commented that she is impressed that I do not have to baby such an expensive watch at all. So, it looks like I will be watch shopping again soon.
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