Rolex Explorer II vs Rolex Explorer II “Fat Hands”

Watches have been slowly but surely growing in size over the past several decades. This trend is most noticeable when it comes to design elements like case size. At one time, 36mm to 38mm was standard sizing for men’s watches. Now, 40mm or more is becoming the standard. With case size, other elements have inevitably grown, like the lugs. All of these changes toward bigger, bolder designs are more structural. They’ve influenced the literal size, shape, and weight of the watch. However, in some cases, aesthetic updates have followed suit. One example of this is the Rolex Explorer II.

Rolex Explorer II

Rolex first introduced the Explorer II back in 1971. One of the key differences between the original Explorer and the Explorer II is functional. With the Explorer II, Rolex created a more robust tool watch. They added a signature orange fourth hand and fixed 24-hour bezel. As Rolex released model iterations, this hand became red. These allow the hour indicators to be felt by hand with the 24-hour hand designating local time in day or night. All in all, this combination of elements allows for optimal usability in any conditions, particularly low light. In addition, the 24-hour hand can also serve to indicate North. These new technical capabilities along with the new movement necessitated a new design. Everything about the Explorer II is larger from the case to the lugs and dial markers.

Rolex Explorer II Fat Hands

2011 marked yet another new era for the Explorer collection. At Baselworld that year, Rolex unveiled the latest edition of the Explorer II. It debuted an all-new movement for the brand, and with that, a new design. The model’s case was larger, measuring 42mm. However, this change isn’t all too surprising with the upgraded movement. What was most striking about the new Explorer II were the aesthetic changes to the dial. The hour markers were even bigger and the hands were noticeably fat. Some called it the “maxi-est” maxi dial the brand had ever created. In typical Rolex fashion, this new generation of the Rolex Explorer II quickly garnered a nickname. It was then that the Explorer II Fat Hands was born.

Choosing the Best Model for You

Next time you encounter an Explorer II, you’ll be able to roughly recognize its age simply by the size of its hands. When you see an Explorer II Fat Hands, you know it. Even from a distance, you can spot these bold, thick hands as they pop against the dial. They truly take the enhanced legibility a step further. If you’re looking for a watch that’s easy to read and has an incredibly sporty feel, the Fat Hands is a great option.

A “Steve McQueen” Explorer II

However, the original Explorer II models have become a classic. Fans of the initial Explorer may have rejected the Explorer II at first. However, the legendary actor and racer Steve McQueen ultimately helped to popularize the model. This gave the original Explorer II models the nickname the Steve McQueen Explorer. When it comes to choosing between the two models, you really can’t go wrong.



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Caitlyn is the founder of Grey Ghost, a New York City-based boutique content marketing agency with a passion for artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups. She believes in quality over quantity, creative thinking, and, above all, using language as powerful tool to build lasting connections.

Latest comments
  • i have an original explorer ii. Lovely piece and enjoy it greatly. Besides, in the 26 years I have had it, the value has gone up, outpacing inflation! And i have had the opportunity to wear it every day! Ain’t life great??

    • That’s awesome! It is a beautiful watch!