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Undecided between a Rolex Explorer II vs Submariner? Here is your guide to buy your Rolex

Rolex Explorer II vs Submariner:

Two of the world’s most recognizable and collectible watches are the Submariner and the Explorer II made by Rolex. Despite both being durable, ultra-precise and reliable, there are significant differences to note between the two. The most obvious differences, of course, are the classic look of the Explorer II as opposed to the more rugged look of the Submariner, which makes the Explorer more suitable for wearing under the cuff of a shirt and the Submariner more suitable for casual, sporty clothing. Let’s take a look at some other difference as the two watches are put side-by-side for comparison.


The release of the Submariner was the brand’s second great breakthrough in waterproofness. Debuting in 1953 it was the first diving tool to offer a water resistance of 100 meters. It made full use out of the brand’s innovative Oyster case, comprising of a middle monobloc steel center and a screw-down crown, as well as a screw-down case. The Submariner’s key features are the robustness and functionality of its hardy-looking steel structure. Improved water resistance and some other technical attributes have been equipped to the watch in its 60 years of existence. The Rolex Explorer II was designed for explorers, scientists, and mountaineers. Subject to the toughest of external conditions, these watches have equipped polar and caving missions for many years. The most recognizable attribute of the Explorer II is its bright orange arrow-tipped GMT hand, which makes one full rotation around the dial every 24 hours as opposed to 12. The fixed steel bezel is engraved with a 24-hour scale, enabling the wearer to keep track of a second-time zone whilst traveling on business or vacation.

Case and Dial:

The Submariner is available in steel, 18k yellow gold and bi-color steel & yellow gold options, as well as 18k white gold. The Oyster case as mentioned before takes the form of a middle monobloc piece of steel, accompanied by a screw-down case back and a screw-down crown. The latter is combined with Rolex’s patented Triplock triple waterproofness system, featuring three sealed zones. The unidirectional rotating bezel of the 40mm Submariner watch is completed in Cerachrom ceramic which helps to prevent the rich black, blue and green colors of the Submariner’s bezel from fading or scratching. The numerals and graduations are coated in platinum. The black, blue and green dials of the Submariner models feature luminous markers and hands, and there are date and no-date options in this collection.

The Rolex Explorer II is larger than the Submariner by 2mm, measuring a 42mm Oystersteel case available in white and black dial options. The date situated at 3 o’clock is positioned under a cyclops lens, accompanied by the vibrant orange-colored arrow-tipped GMT hand as mentioned before. The hand points to a fixed bezel crafted from steel with 24-hour graduations. The screw-down crown is equipped with a Twinlock double waterproofness system with two sealed zones. Compared to the Submariner’s 300-meter water resistance, the Explorer II is not as adequately equipped for underwater use, offering only a 100-meter water resistance.


The superlative chronometer movement fitted inside both the Submariner and Explorer II watches is what makes each timepiece so reliable. It means that the watches have passed hours of stringent tests inside Rolex’s quality control facilities, proving that they live up to the brand’s standards of accuracy and dependability. Rolex Explorer II watches are identifiable by their arrow-tipped GMT hand which circles the dial once a day. It works in conjunction with an engraved bezel to offer a second-time zone. 

The Rolex Submariner is powered by the 3130 and the 3135 calibers. Both produce a 48-hour power reserve and perform at a rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour. Both engines are also equipped with a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring. The Rolex Explorer II models are propelled by the Caliber 3187, which provides a 48-hour power reserve too, along with a performance of 28,800 vibrations. Like the Submariner’s movement, it is completed with a Paramagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring.

Bracelet and Clasp:

The Submariner attaches to the wrist with the brand’s iconic 3-piece Oyster bracelet, either in steel, 18k yellow gold, steel & gold or white gold options. A folding safety clasp provides a secure fit, whilst a Glidelock system will enable you to wear the bracelet over the top of heavy diving gear by extending the bracelet in small increments.

The Explorer II is also completed on a rugged Oystersteel bracelet. It features an Easylink facility that will allow you to fit the watch over outdoor gear by increasing the bracelet in 5mm increments.


The starting price for a Submariner and an Explorer II is similar. Both cost around the $8000 mark. The “Hulk” and “Kermit” versions are more expensive, costing around $16,000. The most expensive is the white gold blue dial model which retails at around $30,000. The Explorer II’s most expensive design is the ref: 1655 – a Steve McQueen vintage watch which sells for around $43,000. 

The Rolex Explorer II has grown by 246% between 1994 and 2016. Now worth triple the value that it was, it’s a solid investment. The Submariner has also tripled in value between 1994 and 2016. It’s a highly collectible model that has a distinct design, doubling up as a powerful statement piece.


The Rolex Explorer, with its slightly dressier look, can be worn alongside a smart suit as well as equipping the wrist for use in extreme outdoor expeditions. Alternatively, the Submariner is more suitable for diving, thanks to its better water resistance albeit in slightly smaller case size. The movements provide similar benefits in terms of power revere and performance. Whereas the Submariner is hugely collectible, the Explorer II is still a popular model. The bezels on the Submariner and the Explorer II serve a useful and functional purpose. The Explorer’s bezel enables a second time zone to be referenced whereas the diver’s bezel on the Submariner can be used to keep track of remaining time underwater, so it all comes down to what your need in a watch is. If it’s a watch for travel and outdoor use that you’re looking for – the Rolex Explorer II is the ideal option for you. If it’s diving or a statement piece you’re looking for – opt for the Submariner.

For more information:

More information about Rolex collection can be found here

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