An excellent comparison between the Rolex Exporer and the GMT. Kind of like watching two terriers fight to the death.

The Explorer II is created for cave-dwellers, when working under the surface over longer periods of time they can loose the sense for day-and-night orientation, and therefore Rolex created a watch which always displays the 24-hour notation of time as an extra feature. They introduced the white dial lateron on the ref.16550 so they can see the watch better in difficult and dim light-conditions. The Explorer II used the inhouse 1575 caliber when the watch initially was introduced. The Explorer II also came with the cal.3075 and the cal.3175. The bezel is fixed and it is engraved with the 24-hour track and made from solid stainless steel.


TimeZone: Watch Reviews: Comparison: Rolex Explorer II vs. Rolex GMT Master II

ByJohn Biggs

John lives in Brooklyn and has loved watches since he got his first Swatch Irony automatic in 1998. He is the editor of WristWatchReview.

42 thoughts on “Cage Match – Rolex Explorer II vs. Rolex GMT Master II”
  1. I love the Explorer II. I have a Rolex Daytona and an Explorer II. My dad has several Rolex watches along with several other watches in his collection. I’ve never seen a watch that is as cool looking as the Rolex Explorer II, it’s a really clean looking watch.

  2. I recieved a Explorer II for christmas from my wife along with a trade in for a 16234 datejust. I love the Explorer II. I travel a bit so the ease I have with it is fantastic but I guess I would get the same from the GMT now wouldnt I. Both equally ecellent watches for the traveller.

  3. Both watches are nice but I got the GMT Master instead… The two toned, rotating bessel makes it looks better and gives you two timezones. Cant go wrong with that.

  4. I have a GMT Master II. A 2001 model for which I paid $3200. It is a great watch. My son bought a new Explorer. In doing some research on it I came across a review by what sounded like a true watchmaker that was very critical of the quality of the Explorer. The article showed close-ups of the internal pieces which were appallingly shoddy and showed really poor workmanship. The technical jargon in the article sounded genuine. You have to think that the author would know a fake when he saw one. Anyhow, my son now has a yachtmaster which he loves.

  5. The Rotating Bezel on the Subs and GMTs makes them more fragile in my opinion. Plus the funky colored bezel inserts are really prone to scratching . . I know I only have a sub. . .

  6. I have had my GMT II for about 18 months and it frequently receives admiring glances. I was torn between the GMT II and the Explorer, but having seen an Explorer that a friend has, I am so glad I chose the GMT II – it is much cooler and just looks more ‘Rolex’. Great watch.

  7. I have just recieved a GMT Master for my 21st birthday from my dad and have to say i agree with Jules in saying that it just looks so much more ‘Rolex’, I extremely pleased with the watch

  8. i have gifted a GMT master II for my 29th birthday. its a pepsi bezel. i think its the coolest looking watch a nd also serves me a good deal when i am travelling across the continents: india to europe.
    the looks of the watch are amazingly good as is the price. the clasp could have been better. i would have prefered a butterfly clasp instead. but overall a great companion.

  9. I just bought a used 2003 Y series Explorer II. In my opinion, it is the cleanest, most striking masterpiece of a watch I have ever seen. I am so proud to own it. I even like it better than the Daytona.

    btw – I think the GMT Master is too loud especially with the red and blue coloured bezel.

  10. I just purchased a new Explorer II. It is one of the finest looking Rolex watches to wear casually or with a suit. For some reason the explorer II seems to be less popular or “typical Rolex looking” in some countries, but is a big seller worldwide and becoming more and more popular in European countries, especially with businessmen who need a reliable and excellent watch without wanting to ‘show off’.

  11. I’ve been buying and selling my Rolexes for some time now. I had a GMT II, a Sub No Date, a Sea-Dweller and a Two Tone GMT LN (the new model). Now, I have an Ex II. The main reason is the stealthy looks while still being an archetypical Rolex sports model. What a fantastic piece it is.

  12. iam from the philippines and i have a Rolex explorer II and 2 more in keep (submariner and 2-tone gmt LN). i should say this is the best watch i have in my collection. i am a flight attendant and this is very useful when iam working because of the 24 hour track on the bezel. very useful for me. this is my best investment so far. and yeah i agree with jules, im frequently receiving admiring glances from the passengers for this watch.

  13. By a Rolex! I have had a GMT on for the past twenty four years. I does not miss a beat and currently loses about 5 or 6 seconds every twenty four hours. I only take it off when I take a shower in order to clean it. I has taken a beating in twenty four years but it is tougher than any nails that I have ever come across. I do not baby this watch at all I swim, sail, do gardening, woodwork, paint, and play soft ball with it on and never have had a problem with it. It got a direct hit by a 16″ softball once and nothing happened.

  14. I purchased the Rolex Explorer II (model 1655) in 1984. It had been sitting in the jeweler’s case for a couple of years. Price? $975.00 It had never been opened or worked on until last week when I had the crystal replaced. When I went to pick it up the clerk was someone different from the one that had received the watch for repairs. When she dumped it from the envelope it fell into her had face-down. When she turned it over I heard an audible gasp. She sain that she had been working with Rolex watches for the past fifteen years and had only heard stories about the ‘orange hand’ Explorer II; she never held one in her hand. The buxom blonde was actually nipping out over the watch. She then informed me as to the value of this watch. I don’t know whether to keep wearing it (it’s served me for 23 years as an ‘everyday’ watch) or to stash it in the safe deposit box.

  15. i have a very rare cream dialed 16550 explorer 11 from 1985 that was only made for a year that i absolutely love (it was only made for a year because the paint was not right, thats why they turn cream), and a 1680 submariner my dad gave me for my 21st birthday. tried a patek philippe aquanaut 5065 for a couple of years, the brand may have a better reputation than rolex, but the quality from my experience is not as good.

  16. I recently bought a Rolex Explorer II and I love this watch, I went with a pre-owned because I like the look with the holes in the case, kind of a vintage feel, I like the no nonsence look, the black dial with the red 24 hr hand is a great look, as well as very functional, I just spent 5 months in China and the 2nd time zone came in very handy, I travel alot so the ease of just changing the hour hand as we land is also a great feature, all and all a great looker, keeping great time, one change I did was I bought a Oyster look rubber style watch band on ebay and It looks very cool,(just like the metal)But black rubber, The metal braclets to me are not very comfortable, of course I have it in the orignal boxes but love the contrast of the black oyster band, I love to display this watch on my wrist.

  17. My wife just bought me a two tone GMT II Anniversary Edition. Almost 10K with taxes thrown in but a beautiful watch. It is accurate as can be for an automatic and receives a lot of admiring glances. You only live once. The band is much better than the old style and the bezel is ceramic which makes it near scratch proof. Awesome watch. My wife must love me or she was sinnin’

  18. I bought my first Explorer II some months ago to add on to my list of watches (one steel/gold Bretling Crosswind with the UTC extra watch, one Breitling Colt Superocean and one Submariner). The Explorer II is a great watch. Not as flashy as the Crosswind and not as common as the Sub. A great watch for all occasions!

  19. This month I exchange my 13 year old DATE for a new EXPLORER II with white dial. Having SUBMARINER, GMT and EXPLORER II on my mind for some months, I finally decided on the white EXPLORER II. I don’t dive so I don’t need the extension link, I don’t need the rotating bezel (which I anyway always have oriented with the triangle at 12) and I think the EXPLORER II look a bit smoother with the fixed bezel. The white dial with black arms (red for the 24 hour arm) and indices makes it cool, clean and aesthetic. This is a very successful design taking the best elements from the other ROLEX sports models.

  20. Here is an intesting story.I have been an auto mechanic for 20 years.One of my regular customer needed money and sold me a used rolex watch for a thousand bucks 8 years ago.According to him his ex-mayor buddy owed him money and gave it as payment to him.For a month I was wearing it day and night abusing it somewhat.My friend(a rolex lover)noticed the scracthes on the glass and bracelet and suggested to have the glass replace,buff and service.To make the story short,it came back so beautiful that I had two offers from the place it was serviced(exchange for a new one)Because of the orange hand.Never took the offer.Years past,seldom worn it,got a call a few weeks ago from my friend if am interested selling it.Wondering why,I check the internet and to my astonishment I have this rare 1655 ROLEX EXPLORERII!!Now,looking at this fine watch,with a smile,surprises come in small packages.

  21. I have a Rolex Explorer I that has served me very well over over a decade. In that time I wore it to McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the South Pole. New Zealand, Chile and Australia.

    I used to travel internationally on an old beater BMW motorcycle. I fellow, more seasoned traveler told me to always carry something, anything, other than money that would be equal to a flight home. That’s originally why I bought a simple Rolex.

  22. I got a replica explorer from thesupplier,co,uk its just like the real one and only cost me £50!

  23. i have a gmt master and i have found the bezel scratches – when i landed on it onto concrete – but no colour change – just a slight scratch in the metal – but no colour loss.

  24. I have been a watch lover since my school days when I used to smack my G shock watch on the class room floor to show the strength of my watch to my class mates,long story short today I own over 20 high end swiss automatic watches out of which my Explorer II in white face is my all time favorite and everyday watch .other than this I have Breitling Chronomat Evolution, Tag Heuer SLR , Aqua Racer , Omega Seamaster blue and black, Speedmaster broadarrow and reduced ,Porsche Design , Raymond weil Tradition and the list goes on to my vintage G shock collection .

  25. My current yachmaster is too sensitive to scratches and I have been very close to buying the explorer2 several times now to have it for daily use. However the article in the web site below keeps coming back to mind. I just keep wondering if it were true.

    Any comments on bad experiences with the explorer2, anyone? I love the white dial with the red hand!

  26. I recently received an Explorer II as a birthday gift from my wife. I always said I wouldn’t buy a Rolex but I never said I wouldn’t wear one. It beats my other Swiss timepieces hands down. It might just have cured my watch addiction.

    It is not flashy. Perfect for me.

  27. I have the new GMT Master II with the ceramic bezel and it is gorgeous, I bought it right on the spot, I love the new look and don’t care about the two tone bezel.
    I also got last weekend a brand new Daytona SS with black dial, one of the greatest sports watches of all times.

  28. hello! i received a rolex from my father. I don’t like to boast about with anything . i was also very suprised when i saw how much it is worth… but looks so normal that i’d never think that is rolex , moreover it incredibly heavy – i dunno what is exciting abut that watch – i don’t see many differences between rolex and other watches… and actually i prefer my casio

  29. Proud owner of the white face exp. II. Cool and clean bezel in solid steel. Timeless Rolex. The littlesister to the white face Daytona S/S.

  30. I just got the Explorer II, what an awesome watch. very clean and sturdy design, not just for ‘cave-dwellers’ but for adventurers and travelers in general. it also looks smashing with a suit..allowing the stainless bezel peak out of the french cuffs signifies or signals to everyone that you have that streak of ruggedness and adventure..under that bespoke suit. also looks good in a crisp linen shirt at some beach resort…The Rolex Explorer just pushed my Omega Speedmaster (Cal 861) aside…

  31. I recently recently a black face explorer ii. I already had a speedmaster and a baum and mercier. i never wanted a rolex. that being said I LOVE MY ROLEX. just a different feel when you wear it.

  32. I have loved watches, especially nice ones, since my aunts and uncles all chipped in to buy me my first special watch when I was twelve years old, a Movado. There was quite a big deal made of the watch and the love that went behind the money spent. So here I am about forty some odd watches later, at least the ones I can find. I got rid of my gold and stainless blue sub as it was very uncomfortable and a little too flashy and maybe a hint of unmanliness compared to the black and SS Sub a few years ago, but I love my Explorer ll with the white bezel ( so clean, easy to read, and comfortable ). My Yachtmaster with SS and Plat is a great watch also quite comfotable due to a better contour than the sub and I love the way it glows at night. Like the Explorer ll, it is clean and not so much in the face, but I know their quality. Love my GMT ll coke in mint shape-yes it’s flashy but it’s SS. It is also a very comfortable very special time piece. Love my Thunderbird in SS and gold with black face and gold hands with jubilee bracelet. Actually I gave it to one of my sons and he doesn’t feel comfortable wearing it to work-too expensive and recognizable. Some day I’ll give him my Explorer ll, but I just got it and it just feels too good and looks too good (to me)on my wrist for now to part with. I compared the Explorer ll to the Daytona (which I would also love to own) and realized that I don’t need a stop watch but can’t ever remember the date and the GMT feature comes in handy when I travel. Besides that, they both are equally handsome and cool and the main reason the Daytona is worth more probably has a lot to do with the one that happened to land on Paul Newman’s wrist as a gift from his wife, a previously unpopular and low valued Rolex. Bottom line-I never met a Rolex I didn’t love, even the sub that’s a little too heavy, the crown digs into my wrist, and the contour is poor the way it sits on my wrist, Still a really great looking watch.

  33. Question? My Rolex explorer 2 , stainless steel, 40 mm has HOLES on the case. I noticed that the others do not have it. any idea when they discontinued the holes, which year model have them/Thanks

  34. both watches are based on the same movement with same functions,
    both are winners that can last more than a lifetime,
    great products,

  35. Hi John,
    It’s been a while since you posted the photo of the now retired Rolex GMT II with the Coke bezel insert and the Explorer II Polar with the fixed 24 hour bezel with your excellent commentary that I have enjoyed on several occasions.
    I am fortunate to own both of these classic Rolex dual time zone sport watches which are perfect for travel. They are both far more comfortable than the more common Submariner, and although they share some similarities, they do seem to take on their own unique personalities.
    I can’t tell you how many times I have held the two together and struggled to choose between them. The Coke is flashier, but the Polar is understated perfection.
    Lately I have found myself favoring my more recently acquired Yacht-Master I in stainless steel with a platinum bezel and dial. You can feel the extra weight and quality in its workmanship and materials. With the addition of the Yacht -Master I, Rolex gave us another sport watch model to compete with their all time master piece, the Daytona. It has the eloquent design and comfort of the Daytona with the upgraded band and movement, as well as the awesome pure platinum bezel and maxi dial with the similar look of the Submariner with the cyclops.
    As the perfect watch for most all occasions (except cave dwelling-LOL!), it’s hard to beat the Rolex Yacht-Master I (NOT the over done Yacht-Master II!), an excellent buy and investment on the pre-owned market.
    Dr. Larry Buhrman

Leave a Reply to AndyCancel reply