Looking for an alternative to the classic Rolex Explorer II? This list has you covered.
The collection was first launched in 1971 and evolved from the original Rolex Explorer watch collection established back in 1953. This watch is instantly recognized for its vibrant orange-colored GMT hand and its fixed bezel for displaying the second time zone — key features designed to make it easy to differentiate between daytime and nighttime hours.
While many Rolex watch fans consider it a perfect alternative to the brand’s GMT-Master II wristwatch, others are in search of a more affordable alternative to the Explorer II or something altogether different.
Some of the best features of the Rolex Explorer II watch include 100-meter water resistance, a robust steel case, and a compact size that spans around 39mm to 42mm. The Rolex Explorer II is easy to tell apart from its ancestor. Modifications during the 1980s enabled the watch to display two time zones simultaneously.
The largest of its sizes came about unexpectedly in 2011. Paired with a chronometer-certified movement and a Twinlock crown — the Rolex Explorer II is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after and appealing luxury travel watches on the market.
What about those looking for a suitable alternative? Something slightly more wallet-friendly or a design with a twist?
Suppose you’re looking for an affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer II. In that case, some of the key features on your checklist should be a 42mm case size (or less), a 24-hour hand, a 24-hour bezel, and a date positioned under the iconic cyclops lens.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of 9 of the best Rolex Explorer II alternatives that won’t break the bank but will offer you some pretty neat features to consider.
Best Rolex Explorer II Alternatives
Here are the best Rolex Explorer II alternatives in no particular order.
The Alpha Explorer GMT
Its key features include a robust case crafted from 316L stainless steel, a compact diameter of 44mm, a screw-down crown that helps maintain the watch’s 50-meter water-resistant capability, as well as a strong anti-reflective sapphire crystal glass.
Models like the Alpha Explorer GMT reference: SB1019G-MATTE BLACK watch, although slightly larger than the 42mm case of the Rolex Explorer II, feature all the key travel-friendly elements you’ll need in a robust GMT watch.
These include a red GMT hand with a crisp white arrow-shaped tip, luminous hour markers and hands, a 24-hour scale applied to a stainless steel bezel, and a cyclops lens positioned over the date window at 3 o’clock.
Price-wise, you can expect to spend around $100 on this Rolex Explorer II alternative.
Seiko Sportura Kinetic GMT Series
If you haven’t got your heart set on a chronometer-certified automatic movement, you may consider a watch powered by one of Seiko’s leading Kinetic movements, as seen in the Seiko Sportura Kinetic GMT watch.
The reference: SUN025 features some cost-cutting elements like a Hardlex crystal front as opposed to a robust sapphire glass front, but it does come in a slightly larger size.
It features a 24-hour scale on its 100-meter water-resistant case. The GMT hand is incredibly legible thanks to its chunky arrow-tipped profile executed in a vivid orange color — a similar shade used for the Rolex Explorer II.
Unfortunately, the Seiko Sportura Kinetic GMT watch (priced at around $250) doesn’t feature the cyclops lens but does achieve the overall classic look of the Rolex Explorer II with its sophisticated stainless steel link bracelet.
Orient Star Seeker
For around the $400 mark, you can get your hands on an Orient Star Seeker.
It may not look exactly like a clone of the original Rolex Explorer II watch, but it certainly mimics the iconic “travel companion” look with a GMT function that enables you to track time both at home and at your new destination in one neat and compact design.
The Orient Star Seeker reference; SDJ00002W0 has a white dial with a date window at 3 o’clock and an additional power reserve indicator displayed between 10 and 12 o’clock.
The GMT hand is decorated with a leaf-inspired shape in red, whilst luminescent material applied to the central hour and minute hands ensures efficient timekeeping at night.
The Orient Star Seeker is a great alternative design to the Rolex Explorer II if you’re looking for something a little different yet still offers a solid 316L stainless steel case with 100-meter water resistance, a stainless steel bracelet, sapphire crystal glass front, and even a glass caseback for observing the reliable automatic Caliber 40P51 at work.
Grand Seiko Sport Collection SBGM245
If you’re looking to push the boat out a little but still want a budget-friendly alternative to the Rolex Explorer II, the Grand Seiko Sport Collection is a great place to start looking.
The reference: SBGM245 (priced at around $5,200) offers a unique dial color – a rich entrancing deep blue hue that forms a stunning backdrop to a vibrant red GMT hand.
This stunning colorway is perfect for the world traveler, featuring the date window at 4 o’clock and an hour hand that can be adjusted without affecting the accuracy of the watch.
This Grand Seiko dual time zone watch features Lumibrite on the hands and hour markers, a screw-down crown recessed at 4 o’clock, a compact 40.5mm case size, and an impressive 200-meter water resistance.
The Caliber 9S66 has both automatic and manual winding capability, granting a 72-hour power reserve and matching the performance of Rolex’s 3285 Caliber.
Omega Aqua Terra 150M
If it’s not even about the money, you can go all-out on something altogether different. The Omega Aqua Terra watch is normally associated with daring underwater expeditions.
Yet, this GMT Worldtimer watch offers a superior globe-trotting feature that enables you to admire the continents on a grade 5 titanium plate boasting a laser-adorned ocean-blue dial with a vertically teak-striped pattern.
Blue, red, and silver global destinations are printed around the outside, as well as a legible 24-hour scale.
You can adjust the hour hand without interrupting the time, whilst the date adjusts itself. With another positioning of the crown, you can adjust both hands as the 24-hour ring rotates in synchronization.
Although the in-house Omega 8938 movement promises slightly less power reserve than the Rolex Explorer II, you do get a silicone hairspring and a free-sprung balance, along with an exposed movement through the lens of a sapphire-backed case.
Omega Planet Ocean 600M GMT
Now, the Omega Plant Ocean 600M is more affordable than the Rolex Explorer II, and here’s where it gets interesting because if you’re looking for a travel companion and a dive tool all wrapped into one, this is the watch for you.
Priced at around $7,100 as opposed to the $9-12,000 price tag you can expect with the Explorer II, this classic black dial with steel case and leather band reference: 126.96.36.199.01.001 boasts a black and white ceramic 24-hour bezel and a legible GMT hand housed inside a 43.5mm case that is water-resistant to a staggering 600 meters.
Equipped with a helium escape valve and powered by the Master Chronometer caliber 8906, it’s clear that the higher-end price tag of the Omega Planet Ocean 600M GMT watch certainly gives you more for your money.
Timex 3-GMT Watch
The Timex 3 GMT watch is a remarkably affordable alternative to the Rolex Explorer II because it provides the archetypal 24-hour scale upon its steel bezel and features a contrasting GMT hand for efficient timekeeping whilst country hopping.
With a date at 3 o’clock (although not a cyclops lens) and luminous hours marker and hands — the Timex 3-GMT watch reference T2P426 looks classic, understated, and smart for pairing with both business or casual attire.
The Timex 3-GMT watch is so affordable (priced at $160) because it makes use of a reliable quartz-powered battery and comes fitted on a classic-looking brown leather band with a simple stainless steel buckle for wearing on the go.
Bernhardt Binnacle GMT II
You can expect to pay around $700 for a watch like the Bernhardt Binnacle GMT II watch. The American-based family-run business has designed this robust automatic GMT watch from stainless steel and integrated it with 200-meter water resistance.
The movement provides a more-than-satisfactory 40 hours of power reserve, whilst the design of its dial closely resembles the key features of the Rolex Explorer II.
A white display is home to a red GMT hand, surrounded by an hour track represented in a mix of baton markers and Arabic numerals. As well as the classic 24-hour scale on the steel bezel, the Bernhardt Binnacle GMT II watch also features the iconic cyclops date at 3 o’clock.
Pagani Design PD-1682 Explorer II Men’s GMT
Lastly, the Pagani Design PD-1682 Explorer II Men’s GMT is an affordable travel tool that will resonate with any Rolex Explorer II fan.
You don’t have to break the bank to own this wristwatch, yet it achieves the Rolex Explorer II style with its legible white dial, vibrant orange arrow-tipped GMT hand, and cyclops date window at 3 o’clock.
Its hour track echoes the same circular, rectangular and triangular hour markers as seen in the Rolex Explorer II, whilst the dial itself is also protected by a sapphire crystal glass front.
Inside the watch’s 100-meter water-resistant stainless steel case is the mechanical hand-wound movement, and true to the Rolex Explorer II, the Pagani Design PD-1682 Explorer II GMT watch for men is fitted on a tough yet sophisticated stainless steel bracelet.
While many aspire to own a Rolex Explorer II, there are many reasonable alternatives on the market. From the relatively inexpensively-priced Alpha Explorer GMT to the $7,000+ Omega Planet Ocean 600M GMT, there are options for every watch enthusiast at almost any budget.
What alternative would you get? Let us know in the comments!