'Steve McQueen' Explorer II, Ref. 1655 Stainless steel dual time zone wristwatch with 24-hour indication date and bracelet Circa 1973
'Steve McQueen' Explorer II, Ref. 1655 MK.I
Stainless steel dual time zone wristwatch with 24-hour indication date and bracelet
Calibre: cal. 1575 automatic, 26 jewels
Case: stainless steel, screw down case back
Case number: 3'276'286
Closure: stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet with folding clasp
Dimensions: 39mm, bracelet circumference approx. 190 mm
Signed: dial, case and movement
Accessories: Rolex service invoice and travel pouch
Please note: Condition 16 of the Conditions of Business for Buyers (Online Only) is not applicable to this lot.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The online condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance purposes only. The images of the lot also form part of the online condition report for the lot provided by Sotheby's. Any reference to condition in the online condition report does not amount to a full description of condition. The online condition report may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the online condition report of the lot or shown in the online images of the lot (for example, the online condition report may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome). Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. The online condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation but rather the online condition report is a statement of subjective, qualified opinion (for example, information regarding colour, clarity and weight of gemstones are statements of opinion only and not statements of fact). Please also note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and wrist bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. In addition, certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot (for example, the online images may represent colours and shades which are different to the lot's actual colour and shades). For these reasons, the online condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. Prospective buyers should also refer to the Buying at Auction guide which includes important notices concerning the type of property in this sale. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species. Please be advised that wristbands made of materials derived from endangered or otherwise protected species (i.e. alligator and crocodile) are not sold with the watches and are for display purposes only. We reserve the right to remove these bands prior to shipping. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
The intention behind the release of the Rolex Explorer II does not stray far from its name. The timepiece’s market and target customer were extremely narrow, catering almost exclusively to cave explorers. Upon first glance of the watch, it is clear that the piece is a technical one. With its pencil hands, prominent minute track, and its surplus of luminous details, legibility and clarity appear to be key.
But, what jumps out rather strikingly is the bright orange, arrow-tipped 24-hour hand—the specific feature, in fact, that gave the watch its first of two nicknames: Freccione, Italian for “big arrow.” The 24-hour hand pointing directly at the 24-hour marked, non-rotating bezel serves as an day and night indicator—a function perfectly served for explorers spending long hours and extended days deep in caves where natural light is lacking. The watch’s alternate, more popular nickname and one that has firmly stuck in the collector’s world, though, is actually a falsely misinterpreted rumor. The watch was quickly coined the “Steve McQueen” after the famous actor that was allegedly seen sporting one in public. However, McQueen did not actually have the Explorer II on, but rather the Submariner ref. 5512.
Functionality aside, the Explorer II is also a very handsome watch. Sporting a matte black MK2 dial (or better known as a Frog Foot dial, cleverly named after the MK2’s coronet that closely resembles a frog’s foot), a stainless-steel Oyster case, and a matching Oyster bracelet, the piece shows a clean look despite the myriad of high-functioning features encasing the dial and bezel. Introduced in 1971 and ceased in 1985, the Explorer II is an extremely rare piece. Additionally, all following Explorer II references differ largely in style and in function, further emphasizing the collectability of this very example at hand.