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Rolex Explorer II 1655


Pre-Owned, Rolex, 40mm Explorer II, Black Dial, Stainless Steel Bracelet, ref. 1655

For explorers of the dark who could not distinguish night from day, Rolex used the caliber 1575 from the GMT Master II to give the Explorer II a 24-hour dial.  Unlike the GMT that used a rotating bezel to track a second-time zone, the Explorer II bezel is fixed with the 24-hour markers.  The large, (originally) bright orange, arrow-shaped hand points to the 24 hours of the day marked on the fixed bezel to identify day from night.  Additional lume markings were placed on the outer circle of the dial at the 24-hour marks between the traditional 12 hours.  The 6, and 9 numerals were replaced with large rectangular luminous markers, with a date window added at the 3 hour marker, should the intrepid explorer wish to stay underground longer than 24 hours.  Like the original Explorer, the Explorer II was also water resistant to 100m, thanks to its Oyster Perpetual case.

This reference 1655 is important because not only is it the first Explorer II and different than any other Rolex model, Explorer II references that followed resembled the GMT-Master II models.  During the fourteen years of production, the 1655 had five slight dial and four bezel modifications, with two different seconds hands.  This circa 1973 Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 has a Mark 2 dial with a Mark 1 bezel.  The matte black dial is in excellent condition with its intact tritium lume beginning to fade to a light cream color, (with small dark marks at the 13 and 8 hour markers.)  The lume no longer glows, as expected for a vintage tritium watch with orginal dial and hands.  While the lumed and painted hands are in great condition, the original orange paint of the 24-hour hand has faded.  This watch has the lollipop seconds hand that appeared on all but the earliest production.  Most notable on the bezel is the missing paint from some areas, with some nicks on the edges under magnification.

The stainless-steel case has sharp edges with intact chamfer and micro scratches typical of wear, with one small nick at 9 o’clock near the lower edge and some scratches on the side at 10 o’clock that are visible upon close examination.  Like a proper sports Rolex, it has drilled lug holes, with the holes well-recessed as expected for a watch with limited or no polishing.  The serial number between the lugs is partially obscured/worn away due to decades of rubbing from the bracelet end link, which is not uncommon on vintage watches. The heavy Oyster Bracelet model 78360 has little stretch and it was originally available with this Explorer II, although the P8 code on the Rolex clasp indicates a 1991 bracelet.  It is not uncommon for bracelets to be changed, whether because they wore through or simply for aesthetics.  In this example, the previous owner chose a newer bracelet from Rolex exactly like the original.  The 580 end links are also correct.

Out of stock

Categories: , , , SKU: 210000004056

Additional information

Band Color

Stainless Steel

Band Material

Stainless Steel

Box and Papers

No Box/Papers







Case Material

Stainless Steel

Case Size







Date, Dual Time Zone, GMT/World Time

Crystal Material


Dial Color


Case Finish

Bright, Satin




1-Year Watchworks Guarantee

Item ID0004056
Model #1655
Model NameExplorer II
Year Producedca. 1973
Serial NumberXXXX316


After the original Rolex Explorer accompanied the team that climbed Mt. Everest in 1953, the Explorer would forever be known as a rugged professional tool watch.  In 1971, Rolex introduced the Explorer II, but not as a replacement for the original Explorer.  Instead, the Explorer II included a new set of features for a new type of exploration, spelunking.  To this day, Rolex continues to offer both Explorer models.

Due to its highly specialized target audience and its unusual design, this watch had a limited appeal when introduced.  Rolex fans found the unusual lume markers for each of the 24 hours distracting.  Rolex also anticipated that a watch designed for cave explorers might have limited appeal.  That has now changed, as the unusual or quirkier and rarer pieces are exceptionally appealing, particularly from a brand with such a rich history.  There are also still many opportunities to find ourselves in dark places, even if it is not in a cave.  The Explorer II makes a nice companion.

Rolex is recognized throughout the world not only as a brand associated with luxury, but as a watch that is both luxurious and precise. For Rolex, this hard-won and well-deserved recognition was never in doubt. The founder, Hans Wilsdorf named the company Rolex to be pronounceable in any language, as he anticipated the acclaim his company would receive due to relentless pursuit of precision and accuracy in a wristwatch. Soon after its founding, Rolex produced the first wristwatch to receive the Swiss Certificate of Chronometric Precision, which was followed rapidly by receipt of a certificate of precision from the Kew Observatory in Great Britain. From those roots Rolex built a legacy of innovation. The Oyster watch was the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch in 1926, followed by the first self-winding Perpetual rotor. Building once again on innovation, the Datejust became the first self-winding wrist chronometer to include a date in a window on the dial. Adventurous women and men who strive to make history have chosen Rolex for their expedition, which both perpetuates the brand’s claim to precision and dependability as well as attests to its veracity. Hans Wilsdorf may have anticipated the acclaim Rolex would someday achieve, but even he might have been impressed its success.