SAS 216570 Rolex Explorer II

It’s really not often that the rear of a watch without a display back is more captivating than dial-side. It’s all a bit Kim K if you know what I mean. But that’s about all this Explorer II shares in common with the Kardashians, because otherwise this one of the hardest modern tool watches out there. This is 1 of somewhere between 100-150 examples of the ref. 216570 ordered for the SAS, one of the most elite Special Forces branch of the British Army. They’re well under the radar, almost never come up for sale, and are that rare occasion in the modern world of a tool watch which really served a role.

Allow me to explain: modern militaries very rarely issue mechanical watches anymore. For the most part, they tell their soldiers to go buy a G-Shock or Suunto. No, in the modern era this role has become the plaything of the more elite units or squadrons to order special production runs more as a sort of celebratory thank you to their operators rather than as needs of the service. But these units are uniquely positioned as brands are often keen to work with such storied branches and the collaborations will undoubtedly be worth multiples of standard production, should any of the unit’s members choose to sell later on. In essence, it’s a gift that can be used in service as well. That’s what happened here, and it’s one of just three that I’ve ever seen for sale in all my time doing this.


Historically, the Royal Navy, British Army, and RAF have placed these orders with Omega and more recently Bremont. Around the 2010s, a few units were able to place orders with Rolex. This almost never happens, but the SAS and later JHC’s Attack Helicopter Force both had a few of this generation’s Explorer II made in small numbers. There may be other units since, but none have come up for sale that I’m aware of. Fun fact, there’s also an Special Reconnaissance Regiment 116610 Sub on Chrono24 as of writing. There really couldn’t be a more fitting watch though, ready for quick time zone changes, decent water resistance, and dependable cal 3187. The best bit though is that this 42mm case is engraved on its side and back with the unit motto ‘who dares wins’. That is the tightest bit of accurate three-word life advice I’d want to be regularly reminded of. Dare on. Just have a large bank balance to bank it up, because these are serious money today and only going up (not investment advice, but true). Also, I struggle with the thought that it’s a bit uncouth to wear if you weren’t in the SAS. Speculative investment sure, but to wear out as a lifetime civilian? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


This example was worn lightly, not polished, and kept care of. The bracelet shows surface wear, the case as well, but both only relatively light. No patina to mention, it’s a modern Rolex. It comes with a full set from a well-regarded UK retailer.

Find this SAS Explorer II here from A Collected Man for 40000 GBP.