Rolex Explorer II


Rolex Explorer II

In 1971 Rolex launched the Explorer II 1655 with its distinctive orange 24hr hand. This extra hand would indicate on the fixed bezel whether the displayed time was AM or PM. This was of interest to explorers who had no view of outside light such as...cavers.

Maybe the target audience was too small, maybe cave-explorers just didn't cut it in the role-model department but whatever the reason Rolex only produced the watch until 1984.

In the world of watch collecting the unsuccessful ugly duckling can become a beautiful horological swan. Lack of commercial success brings rarity and if the watch is good looking or is seen to be 'cool' then prices start to climb.

The Explorer II 1655 is thought, in some circles, to have the ultimate cool credentials being referred to as the 'Steve McQueen'. Head over to and the myth is dispelled. He has never been pictured wearing the Explorer II ref. 1655, his watch was the Submariner ref. 5512. The 5512 was only available in the UK leading to confusion with the internationally sold 1655.

The Rolex Explorer II doesn't need spurious associations to make it desirable. The large orange hand and the blocky indices mark it as a watch of its time. The angled bezel softens the dramatic looking dial making it less showy. It is interesting without being overly complicated and the 24hr display is no more redundant than most of the chronographs that we wear daily.

The pictured watch is the earlier iteration of this rare model with a straight second hand having no luminous dot. This watch is available to view in all its glory through our 360 degree imaging, as are all the watches in this Vintage & Modern Wristwatch sale.

We have two Rolex Explorers in this auction - lot 163 and 168 both with estimates of £8.000 - £12,000.


Rolex Explorer II
Lots 163 & 168

£8,000 - £12,000
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