Explorer II | 1655 | Steel
The Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 perfectly encapsulates Rolex’s unparalleled ability to fuse ruggedness with enduring design. Thanks to its thick steel case, distinctive dial and vivid, ‘big arrow’ orange 24-hour indicator, it achieves an unmistakable presence on the wrist. As the first Explorer II reference, it also happens to be a historically significant piece and features small, distinctive details which collectors enjoy pouring over.
Purchased by the original owner in 1973, whilst holidaying in the Seychelles (for the heavily discounted price of $100), it was serviced for the first time by Rolex in 2011, through Norwich-based jeweller Windsor Bishop.
The Story of the Explorer II
The origins of the Explorer begin in 1953, as a prototype designed for professional use. Typically thought of as the most durable of the Oyster family, the Rolex Explorer has always been closely associated with the rigours of extreme adventure and exploration. Famously tested during the Himalayan expeditions, there aren’t many mechanical timepieces more deserving of the reputation.
The Explorer II was produced alongside the original Explorer line, with the former providing additional functionality aimed at speleologists. For those unaware, speleology is the scientific study of caves and other karst features, such as their structure and physical properties. A perfect combination of science and adventure. Much like Rolex, some could argue. On top of its rugged and functional design, the orange 24-hour hand of the Explorer II was meant to be used by speleologists during their exploration of dark caves, as a way to distinguish day from night. As a Rolex advertisement from the period puts it,
As with any Rolex sports model, the ref. 1655’s ties to sporting endeavour and prominent ownership only enhance the enduring appeal of the reference. The orange-hand Explorer was often photographed on the wrist of renowned cave-explorer Jean-François Pernette, which featured prominently in a French Rolex advertisement for the watch during the late 1970s. The Explorer II was also famously worn by legendary Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who’s achievements typify the lasting significance of Rolex associations. Despite these relationships, the Rolex Explorer II was relatively unsuccessful commercially, only adding to its rarity.
“The scientists involved in observing volcanoes need completely reliable watches to record the changing temperature of gases and the magma flung by volcanic action. The figures they collect help them to understand the whys and hows of this basic phenomenon: the Earth’s volcanism.”
The ref. 1655 offered here has a Mark II dial. It is very well preserved, with a matte black finish, alternating square and baton tritium markers and classic ‘ROLEX’ and ‘OYSTER PERPETUAL DATE’ - ‘EXPLORER II’ references on it. Like the fully preserved hour markers, the tritium lume on the hands has aged to a golden yellow patina, matching the indexes perfectly. The watch also features the correct Mark I bezel and straight seconds hand.
The steel Oyster case fully retains its original shape, with minimal signs of polishing. The brushed finish on the lugs is clearly visible, while the polished sides are in very good condition. The watch also comes with a service replacement Oyster bracelet (stamped 78360) and matching end-links (stamped 580). The bracelet is unworn since it was replaced by Rolex in 2011.
Inside the watch, it houses Rolex’s calibre 1575 bi-directional, self-winding movement, also found in the Rolex GMT-Master ref. 1675. The mechanism features a lever escapement, 26 jewels, mono-metallic balance and a KIF shock-absorber, beating at a rate of 19,800 A/h, with a power-reserve of 42 hours.
This watch is accompanied by its original Rolex inner box, punched guarantee booklet (dated April 1973), punched chronometer certification, Rolex paperwork holder and Explorer card. It also comes with a service guarantee from Rolex UK, from 2011.
Whilst the Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 may not conjure images of the the golden age of aviation, 24 Hours of Daytona or deep-sea exploration, the trademark orange hand (from which it takes its “Freccione” monicker), makes it stand out among the other members of the Rolex family.
|Model:||Explorer II Ref. 1655|
|Movement:||mechanical automatic Calibre. 1575|
|Functions:||date, 24-hour, hours, minutes, centre seconds|
|Features:||unrestored MKII dial, early bezel, straight seconds hand|
|Case:||39mm stainless steel|
|Bracelet:||Rolex Oyster bracelet (78360) end-links (580)|
|Box & papers:||original inner box, punched chronometer certificate, punched guarantee paper (dated 1973), Rolex UK service guarantee card (2011).|
The case of this 1655 Explorer II is in good condition, with nicely-preserved thick lugs and strong bevels. The case appears to have been polished during its first servicing in 2011. The MKII dial is in excellent condition, with an even finish, no signs of tarnishing/damage and without fading on the minute markers or the Rolex logo. The handset matches the tritium dial nicely. The early bezel is also well-preserved.
The watch comes with its original inner box, along with its original punched chronometer certificate, original punched guarantee paper and Rolex UK service papers from 2011 - all of which have been very well kept. The original bracelet was updated to the current version by Rolex in 2011 (as we believe the date disc). It’s guaranteed for authenticity and comes with a two-year warranty from A Collected Man.
All of our pre-owned watches have undergone thorough mechanical inspections, including being ultrasonically cleaned, serviced and resealed if appropriate and tested for at least four days, to ensure they meet our highest timekeeping standards. Our pre-owned and vintage watches, unless stated otherwise, are covered by a full or a limited twenty-four month warranty. For example, due to their age, some vintage watches should not be subjected to the same conditions as when they were new. Please see our Terms & Conditions for further information.
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