The Rolex Explorer II Ref.1655 was always something of an ugly duckling. Launched in 1971, and following on from successive successes in the Explorer, Submariner and GMT, this tool watch received a rather more muted reception.
Maybe it was too niche, targeted at explorers who needed to know whether it was day or night, the 24 hour bezel being fixed and unable to be used for a second time zone.
Cavers and speleologists did not have the same glamour as climbers, pilots and divers. Maybe the styling was too loud and ‘70s, but whatever the reason it did not sell well.
These factors come together to make the 1655 relatively rare compared to other sports references and while the styling is still divisive, prices are on the rise.
Lot 113 was an early example of this reference in lightly worn condition, complete with box and papers and offered for sale by the original purchaser.
Strong bidding both in the room and online saw the final price sail over the top estimate, achieving a hammer price of £22,000 which is a new international record for a Ref. 1655 without a retailer-signed dial.
Lot 113: Rolex, Explorer II, Ref. 1655
Stainless steel bracelet watch with 24 hour indicator, no. 3181543, circa 1972
Movement: Cal. 1570, automatic, 26 jewels, adjusted to 5 positions and temperature
Case: Stainless steel, screw down crown, screw down case back
Bracelet/Strap: Rolex stainless steel Oyster bracelet with Oyster clasp
Size: 38mm, 20cm
Signed: Case back, dial, movement, crown, clasp
Accessories: Rolex box, guarantee certificate, two spare links, outer card box
Est. £10,000-15,000 + fees
Sold for: £27,500 incl BP
View full sale: Fine Jewellery, Watches, Silver, Objects of Vertu and Fine Pens (13 March 2019)
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