by Christopher Scapelliti
Steve McQueen famously wore a Tag Heuer Monaco in the film Le Mans. But in real life, the actor was known for sporting a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Date Explorer II model 1655 on his wrist.
Introduced in 1971, the Rolex Explorer II has undergone numerous revisions over the years, but the orange arrowhead GMT hand (painted bright red from the mid Seventies onward) was one of the model’s most distinctive visual features. For 2011, Rolex has reissued the Explorer II with a new in-house movement, a 42mm case (versus the original’s 39mm case), and a distinctive orange-arrow 24-hour hand that recalls the original.
The new series (ref: 216570) is offered with a black or white dial and features broader and more legible hands. On the black-dial version, the black base of the hands blends with the dial to create what Rolex calls a “phantom” effect, in which the hands seem to float over the dial, as on the 1971 version. The orange GMT hand can be set independently to display a second time zone in conjunction with the bezel markings.
The new Explorer II’s case is made from 904L stainless steel (standard for Rolex’s sport models) and is matched with a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and “cyclops” date magnification. The case houses the latest version of the Rolex movement, caliber 3187, which incorporates recent technologies, such as Paraflex shock absorbers and the nonmagnetic Parachrom hairspring, to deliver reliability and shock resistance.
Other innovations include the dial’s blue Chromalight display, which glows up to eight hours with uniform luminosity, a duration nearly twice that of standard luminescent materials.
We haven’t seen the price yet but imagine it will be somewhat more than the $6,325 of the previous issue. With that eye-catching orange GMT hand, it will be particularly hard to resist.