It is hard to overstate the appeal of Rolex’s first Explorer II. After the 1016’s monumental success, Rolex sought to expand the model range and capitalize on Hillary’s success. While intended to be an adventurer’s companion (and designed for cave and polar exploration), the 1655 became more of a go-to reference for the burgeoning jet set. Its charm is understated by comparison to the 1675, its contemporary GMT peer, which wound up selling in much greater quantity. Fifty some years on, collectors are truly appreciating the simple design and rugged appeal inherent in the Explorer II’s initial iteration. This one doubles down on that appeal for a modern collector by way of its Tiffany provenance.
I find the genius of the Explorer II design in its fixed bezel. The 24-hand that the bezel correlates to could not be accidentally reset with a bash, as the bezel does not rotate. While not many have need for that function whilst caving, it is remarkably comforting. The effect is like having that bezel lock that the Ploprof does, without the look-at-me attitude of a bright red button. It was powered by the 1570 and 1575, the same as a GMT of era.
This 1974 example sports what is called an albino patina, where much of the orange tones in its freccione hand and lume have gone cream white. This is a variation that appeared in the Mk4 dial, here also signed by Tiffany. I can’t imagine there are many in this combination floating on the market, this is the first I remember seeing in some time.
In terms of condition, this Explorer II is honest with a beautiful dial and decent case. The dial, all important when double-signed, is original and showing honest albino patina. The fonts all appear correct and the spacing for the plots is correct for its Mk4 execution. The case still shows polished bevels though a small amount of polishing may be present. It is said to be running well and no mention is made of service history. It comes from a well regarded retailer.
Find this Tiffany 1655 here from Romain Rea listed as POA.