Rolex Explorer II Polar

Before diving straight into the specs of what is considered by many to be an eternal classic in the Rolex lineage, it’s only fair to establish that the following is not a review borne of a week-long wear.

This Polar 16570 has seen wrist time every day for the past 18 months, from 12-hour days at a desk to hiking trips in the Adirondacks as well as long evenings out in Downtown Philadelphia.

True to its name, it held its own in each and every one of these endeavors.

In this review, I’ll be covering the Rolex Explorer II 16570 with the following points:

Use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read it all!

Rolex 16570 Polar Wristie

Technical Specifications

  • Case Diameter: 40mm
    • 42mm with crown
  • Case Material: Stainless Steel
  • Bezel: Stainless Steel, non-rotating (fixed)
  • Bracelet: Oyster, Stainless Steel
  • Crystal Material: Scratch-Resistant Sapphire w/ Cyclops
  • Case Depth: 12mm
  • Lug to Lug: 47mm
  • Weight: 126 grams
  • Strap Size: 20mm
  • Movement: Rolex Manufacture Caliber 3185
    • Automatic, Bi-directional winding
    • COSC-Chronometer Certified (-4 to +6 s/day)
    • ~46 hour power reserve
  • Water Resistance: 100m / 10 bar

Rolex Explorer II Price

I purchased my Rolex 16570 Polar in the fall of 2017. At the time, steel Rolex sports models were in the early stages of the price explosion that has evolved in the last few years. The craze had not yet spread to the Explorer II models, so I was lucky to snag one at a great price.

  • Original Retail Price: $6300
  • Pre-Owned Price: $5,000 to $7,800 (As of April 2019)

Similar Models Current Prices

Explorer Polar Wristie Lume

Owner’s On The Wrist Review

Having now owned the Rolex Polar Explorer II for nearly two years, the following section of this review will cover my experiences of wearing it in detail.

The Case

The case is 40 mm in stainless steel and possesses a satin finish on top of the lugs, while the case flanks and crown guards are polished.

Unlike the “Super Case” seen in Rolex’s modern line, this 16570 sports the older-style case which is significantly slimmer with thinner lugs and smaller crown guards. Furthermore, the overall case profile is sleek in comparison to its bulkier younger siblings.

You can judge this for yourself by comparing Paul Anthony’s review of the contemporary GMT-Master II “Batman”.

Explorer II and GMT Batman

Atop the case sits the non-rotating GMT bezel presented in brushed stainless steel with a high-polish outer brim and recessed numerals accented in black lacquer. A trademark of the Explorer II line, this bezel further differentiates it from the GMT-Master II models.

For instance, both the former aluminum bezel or modern Cerachrom (ceramic) examples possess bi-directional rotating bezels with inserts.

This particular example from the late 90’s also has lug holes which make it almost too easy to maintain multiple straps on rotation. Similarly, there is a small detail to note at this point for those on the hunt for one of these. The bevel on the top edge of the lugs, where the brushed finish of the top of the lugs meets the high polish of the case flanks.

Unfortunately, this Explorer II has seen one too many refinishings so this bevel is no longer present. Nevertheless, it is something to look out for if you are in the market for a 16570 and want one as close to mint as possible.

16570 on Sailcloth strap & Dial Closeup

The Bracelet

The bracelet on this Explorer II is the Rolex 78790 Oyster bracelet – a 3-link stainless steel bracelet. Additionally, it features hollow center links finished in satin on the top/bottom and high polish on the sides, clearly maintaining the theme found throughout the case.

The bracelet links taper gently, starting at the hollow end-links (“HEL”) that attach to the case, down to the stamped steel clasp.

Rolex Oyster Bracelet Internal Clasp

Overall, the bracelet on this 16570 is very fluid and comfortable, particularly on a well-worn example such as this one. It also possesses the signature ‘jangle’ of the pre-Super Case Rolex sports models; this is notoriously off-putting to some and loved by others.

Personally, I believe it even enhances the vintage feel the of the watch and has helped this Explorer II attain its “future classic” moniker (is it the future yet?)

The Dial

The glossy white dial of this Explorer II has earned it the nickname “Polar”, and contentiously made it the most desirable variant in stark contrast to its black dial counterpart. It possesses black-oxidized indices and hands, printed minute graduations, and a date with cyclops at 3 o’clock, all of which contrast beautifully against the white background.

The red GMT hand at center also introduces an unexpected splash of color encountered nowhere else on this model. Furthermore, this is reminiscent of the orange hand seen in the highly sought-after Explorer II ref. 1655 (“Steve McQueen” – See result in Google).

Explorer II Polar Dial Close-up

Thanks to its decades-long production run, this dial has seen Rolex transition from Tritium to Super LumiNova luminous fills for its indices and hands.

With the passing of time and depending on exposure to sunlight, Tritium degrades and turns an orange-brown hue. However, this patina of the dial has become highly desired among collectors. As it ensures that no two examples are alike, it exponentially increasing the perceived scarcity of each individual watch.

I was not so lucky as to obtain one of these Tritium variants. Nevertheless, the Super LumiNova leaves little to be desired as far as lume shot material for your gallery. Even after passing the 20-year old mark, it’s a wonderful specimen.

SuperLuminova Night Dial Shot

The Movement

Inside the case of this Explorer II beats the robust Rolex 3185 self-winding movement. Additionally, it offers a 46-hour power reserve and COSC-chronometer certification.

This movement also allows the wearer to easily and independently configure the hour hand. If you’re jumping time zones, all that is required is to unscrew and pull the crown out to its first position to change the hour forwards/backwards without disturbing the minutes and GMT (“home time”) hands.

Final Thoughts On The Rolex Explorer II 16570

Overall, the Explorer II Polar ticks a lot of boxes for those who dare to step outside of the glam of popular sports models offered by Rolex. In a world of Cerachrom bezels and Rolesor cases, the 16570’s unassuming looks and subdued details allow it to fly under the radar and onto the wrists of those who long for Rolex’s notorious quality and design without the stigma.

Unable to shed it’s uncanny ability to pair with any outfit, occasion, or adventure, the Explorer II will proficiently take over your wrist for months at a time. This is only further guaranteed if you allow yourself the opportunity to chase down your favorite variant among the wide range of condition + dial + age + accessory possibilities that are out there.

Explorer II Double Wrist Shot

What do you think? Would you pick a 16570 as your first Rolex (as I did), or would you aim for staples like the Submariner, Datejust, or GMT-Master II? Let us know in the comments below!

Further Reading

Want to read more about watches? Check out some of our related guides below!

Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II 16570 “Polar”
Reviewed by Rafael Dominguez, on .
"Albeit an often overlooked reference, the Explorer II 16570 "Polar" possesses many of the qualities that made the previous generation of Rolex so successful. It is sure to find a place in any enthusiast's collection."
Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★

About the Author:

Armed with an iPhone full of wristshots and a passion for watches, Raf's contributions to BespokeUnit's mission orbit primarily around Horology. Based in Philadelphia, he's often scouring scenic overlooks to augment his wristie collection.

6 Comments

  1. Daniel June 23, 2019 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Great Article! I’ve had this same watch for six years and I’ve worn it pretty much every day, Never get tired of it, never lets me down!

    • Rafael Dominguez June 24, 2019 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Hey there Daniel,

      Many thanks for your feedback! As you now know, I’m not yet at the 6 year mark of ownership of my 16570 but I can’t see myself getting rid of it any time soon. Just curious – what else do you have in your collection fighting your explorer II for wrist time?

      Rafael

  2. Jamie Lee June 26, 2019 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the article Rafael.

    I bought mine second hand about 7 years ago and I love it.

    Ithink it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing pretty steep price increases on it (not that I’m bothered).

    My other watches are Omega Seamaster which was my first really nice watch. I saved up for a year and bought it un 2003 (Pierce Brosnan did it for me) and I still really like it.

    I also have a pocket watch and Panerai (PAM00320 I think). I like it, but probably not as much as the others.

    Cheers

    Jamie

    • Rafael Dominguez June 27, 2019 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      Jamie,

      It was actually quite a pleasure writing about the 16570. I also have to admit, it’s not difficult to believe that you’ve had your explorer for so many years and still love it. I have also been sitting on my hands waiting for the price hikes that are affecting other steel sports watches, but as you, I am totally fine with them staying where they are. Either way, I would not get rid of mine.

      With the Seamaster and PAM, you have a very rounded collection! I’ve looked into expanding mine with a Luminor Due in the past, but I never took the plunge. It’s one I still have my eye on for sure.

      Best,

      Rafael

  3. Gorg Lalli July 26, 2019 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Dear Rafael, thanks for the very interesting write up about a watch that the more I see and read about, I am increasingly feeling the urge to buy.
    My first ‘nice’ watch was an Omega De Ville Hour Vision in 2004. My other two watches are both new Rolexes – Submariner (no date) and the GMT Master II (Batman).
    I have been wearing my Submariner pretty every day much since i bought it around 12 months ago and absolutely love it.
    Regarding the 16570 (Polar), I have noticed the second hand prices creeping up over the past 6months or so. 7k USD seems steep for used but I fear this will continue to go up with the limited availability of stainless steel sports watches from Rolex (another entirely frustrating topic we could discuss and debate I am sure!)
    One question I have is about the bezel, I have read a few times that it scratches easily and may be more so than the new ceramic bezels being used by Rolex – have you you experienced this?
    Also, if not the 16570 do you have any other watch in the same price range you would consider instead?
    Many thanks. Gorg

    • Rafael Dominguez July 29, 2019 at 4:36 pm - Reply

      Hey there Gorg,

      Thanks for your reply! As far as the price of the 16570, you are correct, they have been climbing higher and higher, especially over the past ~6months. If we’re to judge by how other Rolex models have behaved, the 16570 is not likely to go down in price any time soon. That said, this could be as expensive as they get- they may never reach the $10k mark, for example. In my opinion, for any of the models (Rolex or otherwise) that have been increasing in price, they’re probably not going to drop in price. If they do, it’s more than likely going to be an industry-wide trend that causes all prices to drop, not individual models at a time. When or if this will happen is, as you can imagine, very unpredictable.

      I tend to keep up to date with pre-owned watch prices, and particularly the 16570’s performance. Indeed, they can be purchased for 7-8k from the largest dealers online, but can also be had for ~5k, sometimes even less, by purchasing directly from other individuals through forums and such. If you’re not familiar, I recommend you check out watchrecon.com which is an aggregator for watch forum sales listings. It’s a great resource for seeing how models are trading in hand-to-hand transactions. Of course, these mediums have their own risks, but many online forums have ‘feedback’ systems that allow you to get a sense of who you’re dealing with and if they’re trustworthy.

      Before buying a 16570, I definitely recommend trying one on the wrist if you haven’t already, as it wears different than the Rolex Sub you’ve been wearing. Not bad, just different. As you can tell by the article, I love mine, but watches are always a thing of preference, so make sure this one will work for you.

      Lastly, with regards to the bezel and scratches – it depends on how you use the watch. Will it scratch more than a ceramic bezel? Definitely, as the ceramic bezel insert can’t be scratched. Consider how many scratches you can see on the steel part (the “outer rim”) of your Submariner’s bezel; these would be much larger on the explorer as it’s all steel without ceramic. Nevertheless, I think the Explorer II is one of the watches that wears scratches the best,they develop personality and truly make the watch your own.

      If the 16570 is the style you like, I really can’t think of a similar watch that could take its place. It really depends on what you’re looking for. Give me a couple of characteristics that you want and I’ll see what other options I can come up with!

      Best,

      Rafael

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