The name and history of Rolex began in 1905 when British-native Alfred Davis teamed up with his brother-in-law, Hans Wilsdorf in London, England, to officially form Rolex S.A. At the time, their humble commercial activity revolved around the importation of Swiss-made movements into England and placing them into watch cases made by a collection of manufacturers, including Dennison. When sold to various jewelers, they’d place their own names on the timepieces and sell them off as their own brand. In 1908, Wilsdorf officially branded the watches as Rolex before setting up an office in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The name, Rolex, is a play on words Wilsdorf used based on its onomatopoeic function, which sounded like a watch being wound. By 1919, Hans Wilsdorf officially relocated himself and the company to Geneva, Switzerland.
When Wilsdorf came up with the name Rolex, it was done so as a means to make it easier to market to the public. When it’s easier to pronounce something, it’s also easier to remember it. This strategy, combined with the hermetically sealed case technique that protected the dial and crown of the watches from dust and moisture, brought forth the Oyster, as dustproof and waterproof watches in 1926. After the demonstration of submerging these newly designed watches in aquariums, professional swimmer Mercedes Gleitze swam across the English Channel with one of these Oyster designs on her necklace. This feat was displayed as a full-page story advertisement by Rolex on the front page of the prominent newspaper publication, the Daily Mail, for a month. Continuing with the marketing genius, Rolex came up with its patented self-winding, Perpetual rotor mechanism, which is a semi-circular plate that relies on gravity for freer movement. In 1931, this resulted in an upgrade for the already infamous Oyster models into Oyster Perpetual models. The Oyster Perpetual is where Explorer I and Explorer II come from.
5. Rolex Explorer II (1655)
Although the infamous Steve McQueen never publicly wore the 1655 series of Rolex Explorer II, his name has given this watch its label. He actually wore a Rolex Submariner. When the 1655 model first came out, it wasn’t very popular during its era, which was between 1971 to 1985. That story has changed now as it has become one of the most sought-after watches today after a few dial modifications that have helped modernize this vintage series. It is a waterproof rating of 330 feet, plus a power reserve of 48 hours, and has a case diameter of forty millimeters at thirteen millimeters thickness. These watch models fetch $38,795 USD on average, primarily because it’s now considered the Steve McQueen Rolex.
4. Rolex Explorer II (16570)
The average market score for the Rolex Explorer II at this time ranges between $7,850 USD to $11,725 USD and this is steadily climbing upward. It’s one of the most sought-after watches among enthusiasts and collectors, as well as among the most performant of the Explorer II series. It features a power reserve of fifty hours, plus a caliber movement of 3185. The case diameter is forty millimeters at a thickness of twelve millimeters.
3. Rolex Explorer II (16650)
According to Watch Charts, the market trend has seen the Rolex Explorer II 16650 models trend upward by 43.2% and the going rate for such a watch sits around $20,552 USD. The case diameter is 44 millimeters with a thickness of 12 millimeters. The power reserve is forty-eight hours and has a 3085 movement caliber rating. Able to withstand water up to 330 feet, this watch carries on with the orange inscription on the dial, which will either be lacquered white or black. The sapphire crystal is the standard crystal of choice for the Explorer II series of watches, as is the stainless steel bezel, case material, and bracelet.
2. 2011 Oyster Perpetual Explorer II (215670)
Now that Rolex has officially discontinued the 2011 edition of the 216570 Oyster Perpetual Explorer II model, this now officially becomes a collector’s item among watch enthusiasts who may not have one yet. With a rated power reserve of forty-eight hours with a movement caliber of 3187, for a watch model that is now a decade old, it’s still impressive enough to maintain its status as one of the most elite watches ever made by one of the most elite watch companies in existence. The waterproof rating is at 330 feet. The case diameter is 42 millimeters and the lug width is 21 millimeters. The hands are made from 18-karat white gold. At the moment, a gently used 2011 Oyster Perpetual Explorer II watch can be located for as little as $14,000 USD, but expect this price to climb as collectors snatch up whatever they can get their hands on as time passes.
1. 2021 Oyster Perpetual Explorer II (226570)
There are two versions of the Oyster Perpetual Explorer II watch, 2021 edition, that’s been introduced by Rolex. The only real difference between the model numbers 226570 and 216570 is in the power reserve as the 226570 allows seventy hours, and the movement caliber as this model is rated at 3285. The stainless steel case of the watch is 42mm and is rated waterproof as deep as 330 feet. The Oyster bracelet is also made from stainless steel, which is 12.5 millimeters thick and 50.1 millimeters long, from lug to lug. The price listing for this particular watch series averages $18,397 USD.
Over the stretch of time, Rolex has established itself as one of the most elite watchmaking companies in the business today. Owning a Rolex watch not only serves as an impressive addition to a collector’s closet of timepieces but as a status symbol.