How Does The GMT Work On Explorer II [Complete Guide]

Rolex Explorer 216570

How Does The GMT Work On Explorer II [Complete Guide]

The Rolex Explorer II was released in 1971 and was a follow-up model on the Explorer, which was first introduced in 1953.
The Explorer II was made, just like the Explorer, for adventurers and explorers, but the added function of a GMT hand and a fixed 24-hour bezel made it possible to distinguish day from night whilst exploring caves where the sun didn’t reach. 

We know from the GMT Master which was released in 1954 that the fourth GMT hand was added to make it possible for pilots to tell the time in two different timezones simultaneously. In this article, we’ll cover which function the GMT hand has on the Explorer II, and how the hand can be set. 

As mentioned in the preface, the GMT hand on the Explorer II which first was launched in 1971 was to make it possible for explorers who were deep down in caves, or other areas where the sun didn’t reach, to be able to know which part of the day it was. An hour hand on a watch rotates two times in a day, making it impossible to tell whether the time is 6 AM or PM, but by adding the fourth GMT hand, which only rotates one turn in a day and is pointing on the 24-hour fixed bezel, it is possible to tell whether the time is 6 in the morning or 18 in the evening. 

The GMT-hand on the first Explorer II reference 1655 was in a contrasting orange color, which really stood out from the black dial. However, when the model got upgraded for the first time (reference 16550), it was possible to have the dial in either black or white, but the orange GMT hand was swapped out for a red GMT hand, which in fact was a lot smaller than the previous orange color and shape.

It wasn’t until the fourth evolvement of the Explorer II, reference 216570, which was released in 2011, that the big contrasting orange GMT hand was brought back, and even stayed on the newest generation Explorer II, reference 226570, which was released in 2021. It’s safe to say, that the big orange contrasting independent GMT hand, which matches the orange “EXPLORER II” text on the dial, is what today makes the Explorer II, apart from the all stainless steel fixed 24-hour bezel, a trademark. 

Mechanical Functions Of The Explorer II 

The Explorer II is more or less an ordinary time and date model from Rolex, but with the added 24-hour GMT hand. 
The Explorer II has since its’ launch in 1971 displayed the hour, minutes, and seconds, along with the date and the GMT hand which displays the hours 1-24 in military reading. The Explorer II has of course since its first launch in 1971 gotten several improvements which follow Rolex annual innovations, such as new movements, new bracelets, and proportions.

The first Rolex Explorer II reference 1655 had a case size of 39mm, which were then enlarged to 40mm in the reference 16550 and 16570, which again was enlarged to 42mm for the reference 216570 presented in 2011, and the newest generation Explorer II reference 226570. 

Setting The GMT Hand 

Typically, A Rolex with a date function has a two-step crown which in position 1 when you pull out the crown sets the time, and changes the date in position 2 (the crown pushed all the way out). However, the crown works a bit differently on the Explorer II. 

Position 0: When you first unscrew the crown, the crown is positioned in the “manual wound” position, making it possible to manually wind the watch power reserve. This position is commonly used when the watch has stopped working because of the lack of power in the mainspring. This typically happens when you decide to stop wearing the watch for 2-3 days. 

Position 1: When you pull out the crown into the first step, position 1, you are able to rotate the hour hand of the watch independently. Note that in this position, only the hour hand is controlled and no other hand. In this position, the secondhand does not stop ticking, which it commonly does whilst setting the time. It is by rotating the hour hand it is possible to set the date. If you were to jump the date 4 days forward, you are required to spin rotate the hour hand 2 turns for each day. 

Position 2: When you pull the crown to the furthest position, position two, the secondhand stops ticking, and the crown allows you to rotate the minute hand in order to set the exact time. Also note, that whilst setting the minutes hand, the GMT hand is also rotating. This position could therefore also be used to control which timezone the GMT hand should be set in, and in theory, making it possible to use the Explorer II as a GMT watch to keep track of two different timezones simultaneously.  However, the idea is to set the GMT-hand to the correct AM/PM time and then set the minutes. When this is done, the idea is to set the independent hour hand to the same hour the GMT hand is set on, and also the date. 

As seen in the picture above, the hour and minute hand display the time 9 past 9, and the GMT hand indicates the time is in the morning (AM) and not in the evening (PM). 


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