facebook pixel
  • Watch Certification Services of America100% Certified Authentic

    BOB’S WATCHES

    The Trusted Name in Authenticated Luxury Timepieces

    Every watch on our site is 100% certified authentic. Certificates are issued by WatchCSA, the industry's leading independent authority on watch authentication.

  • SIGN IN
Low Price Guarantee
x
Low Price Guarantee

Bob's Watches is dedicated to always offering the best value to our customers. We will match the price, at the time of purchase, on a Low Price Guarantee product if you find the same item at a lower price at a Designated Major Online Retailer.

Here's how:

  • If you find a qualifying lower price online, call 1-800-494-3708 and direct a customer service agent to the web site with the lower price.
  • On qualifying products, Bob's Watches will then verify the current price to complete the price match.

Purchase price shown is the cash wire price, and any payment method fees such as credit card fees, PayPal fees, Amazon fees, etc, will be added to the transaction total. Prices may be higher if other payment methods are selected. Some exclusions apply. See the list of Designated Major Online Retailers and full details.

Free Overnight Delivery
x
Free Shipping Guarantee

Free priority overnight shipping on all orders applies to U.S. orders only.

Unlike many other websites that have special rules and lots of fine print , Bobswatches.com offers free shipping on all domestic orders placed on our website, with no minimum order size or special exceptions. Just because shipping is free doesn’t mean it should take a long time. Bobswatches.com understands that getting your item quickly is important to you, so we make every effort to process your order as quickly as possible.

From the Caves to Hollywood: Inside the Rolex Explorer II 1655

Not all vintage Rolex references that are highly regarded today had successful receptions when they first debuted. Just look at the mega-collectible "Paul Newman" Daytona: when these "exotic dial" chronographs first started to appear at dealers, most people thought they were ugly, and some even went so far as to have their exotic, "Paul Newman" dials swapped out for standard ones during routine servicing.

In regards to vintage Rolex watches, oftentimes it is the initial cold response to a particular model that ultimately leads to a greater level of rarity and desirability for future collectors. Today we are taking a look at the very first Rolex Explorer II, and a personal favorite of mine: the reference 1655.

Rolex Explorer II 1655

The Rolex Explorer II was created specifically for cave explorers.

Introducing the Explorer II 1655

In 1971, Rolex introduced the very first version of the Explorer II: the reference 1655. At the time of its release, Rolex watches were not regarded as the status symbols that they are today, and the Explorer II 1655 was aimed specifically at speleologists, intended to be much more of a 'tool watch' than a luxury item.

As a company that built its reputation producing high-end watches that were viewed as items of necessity rather than premium-priced accessories, this approach was very much in-line with Rolex's roots. The Explorer II 1655 was only ever manufactured in stainless steel, with absolutely no solid gold or two-tone options available. Additionally, like many of Rolex's other sports watches, the reference 1655 Explorer II was exclusively offered with a black dial.

Rolex Explorer II 1655

The large orange 24-hour hand on the Explorer II 1655 was intended to serve as a prominent AM/PM indicator.

The Movement

The Rolex Explorer II 1655 is powered by the 26-jewel Caliber 1575 movement, and the watch features a number of characteristics aimed specifically at cave exploring. Among these are a date function, a stationary bezel with 24-markings, a 100-meter depth rating, and a large, brightly colored 24-hour hand.

The idea behind this unique set of features was to create a watch for cave explorers working for days in total darkness, who Rolex claimed would "soon lose all notion of time: morning, afternoon, day, or night."

Rolex Explorer II 1655 movement

Powering the Rolex Explorer II 1655 is the Caliber 1575 movement.

A 15 Year Production Run

The Rolex Explorer II 1655 experienced relatively poor sales upon its initial introduction, and remained in production for about fifteen years until it was discontinued in 1985. Its narrow and highly-specific target demographic, coupled with a dial that many collectors at the time deemed to be "cluttered" and "illegible" hindered its popularity, and relatively few examples were sold.

During its 1971 to 1985 run, the reference 1655 went through five slight dial changes, four bezel variants, and two different second hands. All changes were very minor; however as was the case with the "Paul Newman" Daytona, none of the changes managed to stimulate Explorer II sales, and reference 1655 watches lingered on dealer shelves. Even celebrity endorsements (including one from the "King of Cool") fell short of drastically increasing the popularity of the watch.

Rolex Steve McQueen Explorer II 1655

While it is now highly collectable, the Rolex Explorer II 1655 experienced relatively poor sales when it was first released.

Pictures Or It Didn't Happen

Both Olympic ski champion, Jean-Claude Killy and actor, Steve McQueen had their names associated with the Explorer II 1655. Both men were featured in numerous advertisements for the watch; however Steve McQueen never actually wore the reference 1655.

There are many pictures of McQueen wearing a reference 5512 Submariner, but there are no known photos of him wearing an Explorer II 1655 - including the photos that were used for the advertisements.

Vintage Rolex Explorer II 1655

Although it is frequently called the "Steve McQueen" Rolex, the famous actor never actually wore an Explorer 1655 in real life.

As it stands today, the Rolex Explorer II 1655 is somewhat of an oddball in Rolex's history. It was made explicitly for cave explorers, yet promoted by actors and professional athletes. Its sales were disappointing while in production; however it is now one of the more desirable and rare vintage Rolex references.

Even the watch's unusual dial and prominent 24-hour hand - which were previously criticized - have now become the defining characteristics that give the reference 1655 such value among vintage collectors. The most recent version of the Rolex Explorer II (the 42mm reference 216750) even goes so far as to bring back the large, bright orange, arrow-shaped 24-hour hand as a nod to the original version from the early 1970s.

It seems that nearly every watch Rolex makes is a classic - even when they miss, they hit the mark… it just may take a few decades to catch on!

Vintage Rolex Explorer II 1655

It may have initially been unpopular, but now the Explorer II 1655 is among the most collectable vintage Rolex references.

"The most trusted place to buy or sell a used luxury timepiece" – WSJ

  • AWCI
  • Jewelers Board of Trade
  • IWJG
  • TrustLock
  • Spirit of Enterprise
  • PayPal Verified
  • Inc 500
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • The Hartford
Are you on the list? Subscribe for the latest Rolex news

Bob's Watches is an independent watch dealer and is not sponsored by, associated with and/or affiliated with Rolex S.A., Rolex USA, or any other brand listed on its website. Bob's Watches only sells pre-owned watches and provides its own warranties on the watches it sells. The brand names and associated model names for Rolex, OMEGA and other manufacturers are the trademarks of their respective owners.