Not sure I can explain it myself bawlin, but I can tell that black dial version has been whispering sweet nothings at me big time, and I already have the updated (39 mm) Explorer.
I think it's that little touch of orange, the additional timezone functionality, the all-brushed look...pretty appealing overall, if you ask me.
Nothing you need to feel stupid about, of course....no watch is ever going to "do it" for every single one of us.
When it was first released, I felt it was a bit too large as well.... but last time I was at my AD, I tried one on for kicks (mistake LOL) and I thought it sat pretty well on my wrist.
Compared to some others in the current lineup, I think Rolex formulated a winning combination of bracelet taper, lug size, and overall balance on the Exp II.
There's probably more fans of the white dial, from what I've seen on other sites like TZ, WUS, etc...but dang that black looks pretty hot to me!
As for watches less than $1000, there have been some good recommendations already, ( Hayward has definitely posted a few great options from other brands above).... but I will add a +1 for Hamilton at that level. I have always thought their Khaki line represented good value, and my 7750-powered chrono still sees regular wear.