Finds Vintage

Tiffany-Signed ‘Chicchi di Mais’ 16550 Rolex Explorer II

16550-Rolex-Explorer-II-Tiffany-Signed

Some watches require very little explanation; their appeal is inherent. FPJ’s resonance is intriguing on the dial side and downright bewitching once flipped over. VC’s skeletonized perpetual calendars will not let your eye rest. Watching a Lange rattrapante split seconds with complete equanimity is mesmerizing. Others take a bit more background. If you’ve been into watches for some time, the title alone is all you’ll need to know. This Tiffany dial is almost certainly rarer than the blue 5711 (and orders of magnitude more subtle). This 16550 is a confluence of provenance, patina, Wilsdorf details, and charm. A transitional reference, the 16550 often misses attention from collectors; I’d like to note that this should not be the case.

16550-Rolex-Explorer-II-Tiffany-Signed

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, cream, and the sort of ‘chicchi di mais’ we see here (a term given to dials which sport deep corn-tone indices contrasted against a white dial, this moniker is usually reserved for 16570 dials but this 16550 sports that precise style of patination and the nickname gets the point across).

16550-Rolex-Explorer-II-Tiffany-Signed

Further, the headline stamp. Yes, this is a Tiffany signed 16550. That is no common sight. These are not complete un-obtainium, but are far rarer in my experience than Tiffany Daytonas or Subs of era. This is partially explained by demand, as the 16550 simply was not terribly popular in period and undersold. I have seen one of these (usually sporting a cream dial and not these more chicchi di mais indices) maybe every other year at auction across all the big three houses. A rare beast and very discreet collector’s Explorer.

16550-Rolex-Explorer-II-Tiffany-Signed

This example sports a full case with strong bevels on all lugs. Its bezel is the correct font and all dial signatures appear correct. The tritium is a deep cream tone and the dial is a still quite white for this production year. The bracelet even appears tight. The ask is a bit intimidating for many, but then so is the watch.

Find this Tiffany 16550 here from Oregenpak Machinery Co. Ltd on Chrono24 for 85000 EUR.

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