Watch Reviews

The Rolex Explorer II 1655: In Honor of the Rescued Chilean Miners, We Bring You A Spelunker’s Watch

by on Oct.24, 2010, under Review, What's New

If you haven’t been living in a cave for the past two months you know that 33 Chilean miners were trapped half a mile underground since the mountainside collapsed above them, shutting off access to the light and air above. Can you imagine spending 69 days underground? Neither can we. Life underground, even for a few days is disorienting. Without visible daylight, the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted, day and night merge, and the passage of time gets suspended.

Survival in these circumstances is indeed heroic. Yesterday, all of the miners were rescued, emerging one by one into the bright daylight in remarkably good shape. Those miners deserve a medal. Or a very cool watch. And we’ve got just the one.

In the early 1970s, Rolex, the undisputed champion of tool watches, did some marketing research (or not) and determined there was an unmet need for a true spelunker’s (caver explorer’s) watch, one that was sturdy enough for rappelling through narrow spaces and with a useful complication to keep track of day and night. The result was the 1655 Explorer II, now erroneously known as the “Steve McQueen.” We’ve featured the “Freccione” Explorer before and it’s one of our favorites.

The 1655 featured the bombproof Rolex Oyster case with a fixed steel bezel that displayed a 24-hour time scale, at which pointed an oversized orange hand. The in-house 1575 movement, which was also found in the GMT-Master, drove this orange hand around once every 24 hours, thus providing a day/night reference for those in perpetual darkness.  In its day, the 1655 caught on about as well as the sport of spelunking and died out in the early ‘80s, before being replaced by the current Explorer II.

In honor of the rescued Chilean miners, we’ve found a model 1655 from 1982 that’s in fine shape for its age, with the right amount of patina for a vintage tool watch. The 1655 has enjoyed a boom in popularity in recent years and the price of this one reflects that.

Get more information on this 1982 Explorer II by clicking here.


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