The Orange Hand Explorer II
by M. Siegel
The Explorer II model, 1655, was introduced in 1971. The movement was either the 1570 or the 1575, and essentially this particular model was a GMT with a fixed stainless steel bezel. It had a distinctive dial with an extra hour hand that was designed specifically for speleologists, or cave explorers, who Rolex claimed, " soon lose all notion of time: morning, afternoon, day, or night." The extra hour hand, or 24 hour, would tell the explorers whether the 4 on the dial was 4:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. (16:00 hrs).
The watch initially when it was first marketed, the second hand was straight and the extra hour hand was a bright orange. In 1974 a luminous circle was added and models manufactured after 1975 the extra hour hand was painted a bright red. The production of the 1655 continued until 1985 when it was discontinued.
A debate exists in regard to when the orange hand was no longer used on the dial. Reference texts seem to agree that the orange hand was discontinued by the mid 70's. It is interesting to note that many 1655's made after the mid 70's and into the 80's have orange 24 hour hands. Perhaps the explanation is that the red hands faded to orange, just as orange hands have been known to fade to yellow.
The Explorer 11 was not a popular watch during its production run from 1971 to 1985. The dial is cluttered and even considered illegible by some watch collectors.
This model has also been called the Steve McQueen Rolex. Steve McQueen may have worn a Tag Heuer Monaco wristwatch in the film Le Mans, but in real life he wore a Rolex Explorer II, model 1655. The Explorer II is very popular among collectors today.
This example below is an earlier model with the second hand lacking the luminous material.
All photos Delgado