Cream Dial 16550 Rolex Explorer II

The Daytona has Paul Newman. The GMT-Master has Marlon Brando and Fidel Castro. The Explorer II though? It’s never really had a unilateral poster-personality to align with. Except that’s not quite accurate, because unbeknownst to many, a cream dial 16550 has been worn for decades by one Gordon Ramsey. If you don’t see the appeal, or irony, of the world’s leading restauranteur personality choosing a cream dial, then you may just be an idiot sandwich (I jest). Like most matters where chefs are concerned, Mr. Ramsay shows taste. It is, perhaps, overly-reductive to approach an entire reference through the attachment of a sole personality, there are many other facets of appeal. The irony of a chef choosing a cream dial was simply too delicious not to note. And who knew?


The 16550, a somewhat transitional reference, is really where the modern Explorer II design began. The 16550 updated the classic 1655 design by adding a fully independent jumping hour hand to track secondary timezones. Production ran from 1985 to 1989, with fewer pieces being produced than the references on either side of it. These few pieces had many variations through the production run. Hands and surrounds changed materials. Small variations often occurred in the ‘Superlative Chronometer; Official Certified’ text. Small hands exits. Fat and slim (or often called square vs thin) font bezels exist in the reference. Dials varied by rail (or not), black, white, and the gem we see here–cream. 


Most white dial 16550s were born with a paint defect which meant their dials went cream in tone over time. The extent and depth of that cream tone is often amplified or diminished with UV exposure. When perfect, the resulting effect is almost as if the entire dial is a deep tritium tone. In addition, this example sports a bezel with that fat, squarish font not seen after. Production spanned white gold and black surrounds, with the white gold here generally considered more desirable.If manners maketh man then patina maketh Rolex, and the 16550 has that in spades.


Aside from the 10/10 dial, the case here is pretty great as well. It has been recently polished, but still shows a sharp edge on both extremes of the bevel. Its bezel is almost untouched. Tritium applications are light in tone, but a cream is developing. It comes from a well-regarded California retailer.

Find this Panna 16550 here from Oliver & Clarke for 31500 USD.