Rolex Explorer II 16550

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File:Rolex Explorer II.jpg
Rolex Explorer II (black)
See Also: Rolex Explorer II

Ref. 16550 was the "transitional" Rolex Explorer II produced between 1985 and 1988.


Rolex introduced the Explorer II series in 1971 to complement the Explorer line. It features an additional 24-hour hand like the GMT-Master but the bezel is fixed in place. This 24-hour indication, among other things, has been designed with regard to professional cavers, for whom a reliable temporal orientation independent of the outside world is of the utmost importance. Accordingly, at the design of the dial a special emphasis was put on excellent readability, even in the dark.

This original Explorer II Ref. 1655 used a 39 mm case, but this new Ref. 16550 has a larger 40 mm case. In keeping with its sporting intent, it used an Oyster bracelet and featured crown guards. The bezel is marked with numerals at even numbers between 2 and 24 and triangle markers between. The dial is similar to the contemporary Submariner with a large triangle marker at 12:00, large bar markers at 6:00 and 9:00, and smaller dots at the other hours. There is a date window at 3:00 with a cyclops magnifier. The hands are Rolex "Mercedes" style, with the 24 hour hand using an arrow point.

The design of this "transitional" Explorer II diverges greatly from the original Ref. 1655. The dial and hands are much more conventional, looking more like a Submariner or GMT-Master than the old model. The iconic huge orange triangle shaped 24 hour hand is also gone, as is a great deal of lume from the dial. And the bezel is marked with triangles between the even hours rather than stick markers. One upgrade was the addition of a sapphire crystal.

Another novelty was the availability of a white dial in addition to black. The paint used on the white dial is prone to fading, making a cream color that has become very desirable to collectors. Along with the orange-handed Ref. 1655, this cream dial Ref. 16550 is the most desirable Explorer II today.

For the first time, the 24 hour hand is independently adjustable, thanks to the new Cal. 3085. This means that the Explorer II can now display a second timezone.

Rolex redesigned the movement and updated most of their watches in the late 1980s. The Explorer II was upgraded to become Ref. 16570 in 1989, after just a few years of production.


16550 (steel)
Production: 1985-1988
Predecessor: Rolex Explorer II 1655
Successor: Rolex Explorer II 16570


Rolex 3085, self-winding 28,800 A/h
Certified chronometer (COSC)
27 jewels
Power reserve 42 hours


Oyster case, stainless steel
Ø 40 mm
24 hours bezel fixed
Sapphire crystal with date loupe
Screw-in crown


Black or white dial
Red central 24-hours hand with white triangle as pointing arrow
Indexes and hands with luminous color


Hours, minutes, central seconds, date
Independently adjustable central 24-hour hand (second time zone)


Oyster bracelet in stainless steel with folding clasp