The Explorer II 16570-3186: The Last Of The Five-Digit Sport Rolex Models

The Explorer II 16570-3186: The Last Of The Five-Digit Sport Rolex Models

Aug 31

In 2000, Rolex released the then-new Rolex Daytona 116520 – the first of the six-digit sport models which refreshed and replaced the same model with a five-digit model number.  In the case of the Daytona, the 116520 replaced the 16520 “Zenith” Daytona which came before it.  Over the next 10 years, Rolex would slowly but surely introduce a new six-digit model and discontinue the older five-digit model number counterpart.  It wasn’t until the 2005 Basel Watch Fair that Rolex introduced another six-digit sport model however – the all-gold Rolex GMT Master II 116718, followed by the two-tone GMT Master II 116713 in 2006, and finally the all-stainless GMT Master II 116710 in 2007.  Like the six-digit Daytona refresh, the GMT Master II brought several enhanced and upgraded features including solid link bracelets, redesigned clasps, and and new movement – the Rolex 3186.  Rolex also confirmed at Basel 2007 that the GMT Master II 16710 in all it’s variations (including the much loved “Pepsi” bezel) would cease production.  The last of the five-digit GMT Master II models shipped out to dealers as M serial production models, and a rare few of the M serial GMT Master II 16710 models were equipped with the new Rolex 3186 movement from the six-digit GMT Master II models.  It was not until Basel 2011 that Rolex introduced the last of the six digit refreshed models – the Rolex Explorer II 216570, which replaced the discontinued 16570 Explorer II.

Now an interesting thing happened with the five-digit 16570 in the years just prior to its discontinuation.  At the same time (2008) that Rolex began shipping the last of the five-digit GMT Master II models (I call them the 16710-3186 models) which received the newer Rolex 3186 movement (M serial production), 16570 Explorer II models (both white and black dial versions) began showing up in dealer cases with an engraved rehaut (the “RolexRolexRolex engraving) and also equipped with the 3186 movement.

Click on the photo to enlarge and look closely at the rehaut (inner bezel) and you can see the “RolexRolexRolx” engraving.

The key difference between the 16710-3186 and the 16570-3186 is in the numbers of them which were actually produced.  In the case of the GMT Master II 16710-3186, they are extremely rare.  They were only produced during the M serial production, after which no more five-digit GMT Master II models were made and the 16710 was discontinued.  Because the six-digit model replacement (216570) for the 16570 didn’t come until 2011, the 16570-3186 enjoyed roughly 3 more years of production before being discontinued in 2011.  My contacts at Rolex USA confirm that their supplies of the 16570 were depleted by September of 2011.  It’s more difficult to determine when world wide supplies of the 16570 were depleted, but it’s a good bet that dealers placed their last orders in November 2011 directly to Rolex in Geneva for the Christmas shopping season – those order may not have been completely fulfilled until early 2012.  In terms of overall numbers produced, relative to the 16710-3186, the 16570-3186 is not as rare.  However, relative to the entire production run of the 16570 (which started in 1989) the 16570-3186 variants are rare.

Many have wondered why Rolex would choose to equip the 16570 Explorer II models and particularly the partial run of 16710 GMT Master II models with the newer 3186 movement.  Only Rolex knows for certain, but the theory which seems to make the most sense is this:  Rolex has manufactured hundreds of thousands of 16570 and 16710 watches in the roughly two decades which each were produced – both principally used the Rolex 3185 movement.  So it’s likely Rolex allocated their remaining inventories of the 3185 movement for servicing all those five-digit Explorer II’s and GMT Master II’s which are out in the marketplace and will have service requirements for decades to come.

Both this stick-dial 16170 (left) and this 16570 have the 3186 movement

DISTINGUISHING A 16570 FROM A 16570-3186

Because of their rarity relative to the 16570 production run, collectors will no doubt be seeking out the 16570-3186 models for many years to come.   But how does one confirm that any given 16570 is in fact a 16570-3186?  The best way to confirm with absolute certainty is to remove the case back on any 16570 you suspect may be one of the last production examples with the 3186 movement and visually inspect the movement (photo above).  Beyond that, the leading indicators are:

-An M serial production 16570 or later
-The engraved rehaut.
-The “wiggle” test (see below).

If I had to guess, I’d say there may actually be examples out there that may not conform to these leading indicators.  I don’t know for 100% certainty, for example, that every M serial 16570 Explorer II has a 3186 movement (though I’ve not heard of any that don’t) for example.  But the M serial production run does appear to be far more consistent than the M serial production run of the 16710 GMT Master II, which gave and continues to give collectors quite a challenge because a substantial number of M serial production 16710 models have been shown to not have the 3186 movement inside their cases.  More information on this can be found in the article I wrote about the Rolex GMT Master II 16710-3186.  But the take away here is that only Rolex knows for certain with any of their production runs as to exactly how many they produced – and they never publically release such information.

As you can see from this photo, a 16570-3186 looks identical from an older P serial Explorer II 16570:

P Serial 16570 on left, M serial 16570-3186 on right

The “RolexRolexRolex” engraving on the rehaut of the watch on the right is the only significant differentiators between these two watches, beyond the case lug holes in the P serial model which was indicative of all Rolex models pre-Y serial.

The “Wiggle” Test

It isn’t always practical to remove the case back on a watch you’re considering purchasing to inspect the movement, so collectors and enthusiasts have devised another way to determine the presence of a 3186 movement in a 16570 or a 16710 – the “wiggle” test.  If you spin the jump hour hand forward or backward on a Rolex GMT Master II or Explorer II which has the 3185 movement, the GMT hand has a tendency to oscillate back and forth or “wiggle.”  This particular anomaly was corrected in the 3186 movement, so performing this same operation on a 16570-3186 or 16710-3186 should not yield any movement of the GMT hand.  Again, this test is something that experienced collectors/enthusiasts of Rolex watches have devised.  I can’t guarantee it as a fool-proof method of confirming the presence of a 3186 movement in a Rolex watch – again, the only way to be certain 100% is to visually inspect the movement.

There is one final reason that the Rolex Explorer II 16570-3186 is significant to Rolex history (and therefore collectors).  With the introduction of the 216570 Explorer II, and the discontinuation of the 16570 Explorer II, so ends the era of the five digit model sports watches from Rolex which began in the late 1980’s.  Much like vintage era Rolex enthusiasts who don’t care for any Rolex that doesn’t have a plexiglass crystal, many of us out there “grew up” on the five-digit sport models and haven’t quite yet warmed to the thicker lugs and ceramic (sorry, Cerechrom) bezels.  The six-digit model number Rolexes represent the new status quo for Rolex – innovation and progress to be certain.  Perhaps some day I’ll jump on the six-digit band wagon (Rolex producing a proper red and blue bezel Cerachrom GMT Master II would be a great place to start).  Until then, I’m quite happy to hold the five-digit sport model torch.

Please note that the Author and this site are in no way affiliated with or related to The Rolex Watch Company Limited. All trademarked names, brands, models and designs mentioned herein are the sole property of The Rolex Watch Company Limited, or their respective copyright/trademark holder.

*All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

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  1. Watch zombie

    The first rolex 16570-3186 surfaced in late z series . I own one .

  2. GH

    I had the option of one with the 3186 movement, but I went for a P serial with both lug holes and SELs, instead. That was a more interesting option, to me.


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