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The Rolex Explorer II vs. the Rolex GMT-Master II

The Rolex Explorer II

The Rolex Explorer II was launched in 1971 primarily for speleologists (cave explorers). This model features a fixed bezel engraved with 24-hour track and a special 24-hour hand (initially orange in color, now red) which together help to distinguish AM from PM. This feature has proved to be a boon fo cave explorers. They spend days together exploring deep caverns where daylight is nonesistent. As a result, keeping track of the time is a challenge. Rolex GMT-Master II, an improved version over the initial GMT-Master (introduced in 1954), was launched in 1983. This model is meant for the pilots who need to travel through multiple time zones. It features a special 24-hour hand and a bi-directional rotating bezel, designed to display the times of any two time zones simultaneously.

How Does the Explorer II Resemble the GMT-Master II?

The 24-hour engraved bezel and the extra 24-hour hand in the Explorer II make it resemble the GMT-Master II. Together these features enable these watches to display the time in two different time zones. In both the models, the 24-hour hand points to the 24-hour time represented on the bezel. For instance, if it is 7:00 AM, the 24-hour hand will point to 7 on the bezel. If it is 7:00 PM, it will point to 19 on the bezel. Another feature common to the two models is the “jump hour” feature. This feature allows the 12-hour hand to be set to a different time zone without adjusting the 24-hour hand and bezel. This is done by first unscrewing the winding crown and then slowly turning it clockwise or counterclockwise. This adjustment will result in the jumping of the hour hand one hour at a time without stopping the minute and second hands. In addition, the independently-adjustable 12-hour hand allows the wearer to simultaneously check the time in any two time zones.

The Rolex GMT-Master II

The initial Rolex Explorer II model had the same caliber movement (1575 movement) as that of the GMT-Master

Some other commonalities between the two include the following:

  • Mercedes hands in place of old, large stick hands
  • A slimmer, scratch resistant synthetic sapphire crystal
  • Crown guards
  • Cyclops lens over the date aperture
  • Self-winding and waterproof to 100 meters/330 feet

How Are the Explorer II and the GMT-Master II Different?

The major difference between the Explorer II and the GMT-Master II is that while the Explorer II features a fixed bezel, the GMT-Master II has a bi-directional rotating bezel.

The other areas where the two differ from each other are cosmetic in nature. While the Rolex Explorer II is available only in solid stainless steel, the GMT-Master II is available in 18k yellow gold, white gold, stainless steel and in Rolesor (steel and gold). Also, there are many dial options available in the GMT-Master II, unlike the Explorer II--which is available in only black and white dials.