I’ve had a thing for great-looking, functional watches ever since I can remember. A watch’s brand was never the number one factor for me. What mattered instead was that I liked the watch, and that it had a certain level of quality. Ten years ago, I was mostly into diver’s watches, then shifted to what has become the most important feature for me: the GMT complication. The look of a 24-hour scale with an extra GMT hand is something that I think sets these watches apart from anything else out there in the watch world.
I kicked off my search, and before I knew it, I found myself staring down a (wanna take a guess?) Rolex GMT-Master. The Rolex name on the dial was fine by me, but nothing really more than that, and to be honest, the current model at the time was a bit too chunky for my taste. I liked the vintage models of these tool watches better anyway. The only problem ten years ago was that they were pricey.
I needed something else. That’s when I came across the Rolex Explorer II ref. 16570. Taking a closer look at it, I really liked the stainless steel bezel more than the colored bezels on the GMT-Master II. And while the GMT-Master II was close-but-no-cigar in terms of its dimensions, the Explorer II’s specs were perfect for me: a 40-mm stainless steel case, a nice, flat profile, and the GMT feature delivered by the Rolex caliber 3185. I went with the black dial version.
Hello and Farewell to My Ex(plorer II)
I was 41 years old in 2014 and on the go as a musician. The band I was playing in did a long tour through Europe that fall, at the end of which I treated myself to the Rolex Explorer II, a used 2003 model in good shape that I found quickly and easily on the then-new Chrono24. I put it on, and knew immediately that it was the perfect watch for me. I could finally end my hunt for my dream watch. That is, until… I regularly wore my 16570 for two years, alternating it with the other watches in my collection, which always hovers around a five- to seven-watch lineup. I’m also what’s known in the watch world as a “flipper,” so my collection is changing all the time.
I flipped my Explorer II in 2016 to buy a Tudor Heritage Black Bay and an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600. Now, this was essentially just horological itch-scratching to check out other watches, and it turned out to be a financial mistake. Back then, I still thought I could pick up another Explorer II at any time for the same price if I started to miss my old one. We all know, however, how this pricing story ended (my Sea-Dweller fell victim to the same thing, but that’s a story for another day).
There I was, without my Explorer II. The next three years saw nice watches from brands large and small come and go. The watch market and its price developments were never really on my radar, so it didn’t occur to me to check what the Explorer II was doing. That changed in 2019 when I started my job at Chrono24, where I would be working with precisely that: the questions about, and answers to, how watches were performing on the market, and how much certain watches might increase in value.
The Thrill Is Back
I was poring over a Rolex text one day, researching the price performance of an Explorer II ref. 16570, when my heart stopped. Was I seeing things? Or was this great-looking, albeit simple watch now around $5,000 more expensive than it was six or seven years before? We all know the answer: The pandemic and the global economy sent speculators to the luxury watch market in droves, driving the prices of select models to ridiculously high levels. This happened to be the case for the Explorer II 16570.
Whatever was going on, this watch was back on my radar, etched as it was unforgettably in my mind. During my entire flipping career, thinking back on its specs and features, the Rolex 16570 was the best watch I’d ever owned. The fire burned brightly again.
By early 2022, the hunt was back on: googling away, comparing ridiculous prices, sending questions to sellers – you know the drill. But there was one question nobody could answer: Was I in my right mind to shell out nearly three times what I’d paid in 2014 for the same timepiece? There was no rational explanation for this. Oh, by the way: I had already subconsciously told myself some time before that I would buy the Explorer II 16570 again.
Things started to get serious. The website of a well-known German luxury watch dealer in Berlin was displaying some interesting pieces. This time around, I wasn’t going the “buy it used on a watch forum, or somewhere on the internet” route. For the price range I was facing, I wanted someone to present me with the watch and say some cool stuff about it in person.
I remember it will: seated in the dealer’s salesroom, with the dapper-looking salesperson placing three freshly-refurbished Explorer II 16570 models in front of me. I was over the moon, and I was not leaving this place without one of them. Deciding on the newest, and most expensive, of the trio – a 2003 Explorer II whose overhauled, like-new condition made it look like I was the first person to ever wear it. The dopamine rush was probably a factor here, but at that moment, I didn’t even care that the original box was no longer available, even though the papers were. The dealer hooked me up with a shabby-looking generic box for storage, but I didn’t really mind, since I never bought into the “full set” hype anyway. Later, I even took the watch off its original Oyster bracelet, replacing it with a comfortable tropical strap.
I’ve had the 16570 in my Chrono24 Watch Collection ever since, keeping an eye on its market performance. I know, I know – selling my first Explorer II way back when was the wrong move financially. Chalk up a 20% loss for me as I hang my head in horological shame. But hey, when it’s love at second sight, why would money matter in the first place?