Few defects are as beautiful as the Explorer II cream dial. Early white dial Explorer II production runs had a paint defect which, after a few years, aged the dials to a beautiful ivory. Less than halfway through the run, Rolex corrected this and left collectors with two rare references to hunt. Like all good Rolex niches, however, there is strong controversy.
Cream dials are often observed in the 16550. The effect for 16550s is more common in rail-dials but also observed in a subset of non rail dials marked ‘T SWISS < 25 T’. Some 16570s have been confirmed to have original dials which have gone cream but are far more rare. To my knowledge, most confirmed original 16570s with cream dials are rail-dial variants, such as this confirmed example from Phillips. There is controversy on Rolex Forums, in multiple threads, debating the validity of exactly what we have presented here today.
This is a non-rail 16570 Explorer, yet still sporting a cream complexion. The seller is adamant that the dial is factory original and has an established good reputation in our community. At a cursory inspection, I see no faults that would say otherwise. Its patina is matched by the rest of the watch, all fonts are correct, and the tritium is matched. I’d like to see it under a loupe to observe the black indice surrounds and ensure they aren’t lifted. Often that work leaves tell tale signs. Seeing the dial backing in a service would be ideal.
This is the sort of piece that is on the cutting-edge of Rolex geekery. It could potentially be a proof-in-metal that many collectors have the wrong idea of when cream dial production ended. Alternatively, you could be in for heartbreak. I would love an opportunity—once travel is a thing again—to study this example closely. If you’re buying blind, do your own research.
Whether this is a true factory ivory dial, a replaced factory dial from a 16550, or a heat-treated tanning job, it’s gorgeous. I would love for one true 16550 non-rail cream to exist, because that establishes new territory in nuanced Explorer II collecting. Whatever the truth may be, you could lose 13200 EUR in far worse watches. I’d choose a 16550 with a replacement dial over any Hublot every day of the week.
Find this Cream 16550 Explorer II here from Vintage Portfolio for 13200 EUR.