Rolex Explorer II 1655 'Freccione' MK1 'Straight Hand' 'Steve McQueen'


Reference: 1655

Serial: 3097xxx

Case: All Stainless Steel

Dimensions: 40mm excluding crown

Function: Sports watch

Caliber: Rolex cal. 1570 Automatic

Strap: 20mm Rolex Jubilee bracelet for the USA market

Box/Papers: No/No

The Rolex Explorer is the brand’s most understated sports watch, often flying under the radar. However, with its rich history and very wearable look, the Explorer is a Rolex watch that shouldn’t be overlooked and it’s getting much appreciation by the watch community – see Ref. 1016 for the Explorer I and this Ref. 1655 for the Explorer II. The Explorer’s official story famously takes shape with Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s pioneering ascent to Mount Everest in 1953.


Rolex unveiled the Explorer II, as the larger sibling to the original Explorer I, in 1971 with the introduction of the Ref. 1655, which was produced between 1971 and 1984. Aimed at a specific group of people – spelunkers, cavers, volcanologists and polar or jungle explorers - and being one of Rolex’s most unusual watches in terms of style - it features alternative lume markers and a bright orange 24-hour GMT hand to ensure optimal legibility in the dark such as caves -, it did not gain much popularity.


Thanks to this low popularity back in the time, today this reference is one of the most sough-after watches amongst collectors.


This is the very first example, “Freccione”, derived from the Italian word for arrow, “freccia,” which is in reference to its famous arrow-tipped hand. Another popular nickname of the Explorer II Ref. 1655, is the controversial “Steve McQueen” label. There actually isn’t any photographic evidence that Steve McQueen ever sported an Explorer II. Nevertheless, the Explorer II ref. 1665 will forever be known as the Steve McQueen.


Anyway, this particular example, with correct serial number 3,097,xxx, dates back to the early 1970s, being the very first variant; MK1, the king of them all. It features a correct black matte MK1 dial with beautiful patina lume hour markers and matching hands. Also, it has the correct MK1 bezel with fat font 24-hour numerals and, of course, the correct and distinctive MK1 ‘straight (seconds) hand’ that differentiates it from later versions that feature the more commonly seen lollipop seconds hand. The fat 40mm stainless steel case is in great condition with very sharp bevels. The domed plexi has no scratches.


The watch is running good and keeping time, as it has been fully serviced by our watchmaker. It comes suited with a vintage Rolex Jubilee bracelet for the USA market.