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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1987
    Reference No: 16550
    Movement No: 1’491’536
    Case No: 9’375’976
    Model Name: Explorer II, Rail Dial
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. 3085, 27 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel Rolex Oyster bracelet, stamped 7836, end link stamped 258, max overall length 200mm
    Clasp/Buckle: Stainless steel Rolex deployant clasp
    Dimensions: 39mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

  • Catalogue Essay

    Rolex’s Explorer II reference 16550 replaced the beloved reference 1655, which was a modernized version of the brand’s historic Explorer line of wristwatches. The unique design was originally intended for spelunkers (cave explorers), with a fixed, engraved 24-hour calibrated bezel and additional 24-hour hand that permits the wearer to easily know the correct time in the darkness of caves. The 24-hour hand indicates the time on the non-rotating 24-hour calibrated steel bezel. While reminiscent of the 24-hour rotating bezel of the GMT-Master, this watch is not for dual time purposes, but solely for those who are in darkness for prolonged periods of time to enable the wearer to differentiate night and day.

    The reference 16550 was a milestone reference. It was introduced in 1985, and was the first Rolex model fitted with a scratch resistant sapphire crystal. Produced for only a few years, white dial examples have become a collector’s favourite due to a manufacturing flaw, with the original white color turning a very pleasing ivory or cream hue over time. Earliest version so the reference provide further intrigue with their attractive “rail” dial configuration found in the perfect alignment of the vertical space between the written text across the two lines of text on the dial at 6 o’clock with “Superlative” and “Officially” words on the left, and “Chronometer” and “Certified” words on the right. In addition to the color change, the dials were made using a glossy, lacquered finish, giving them a porcelain-like look. The white gold applied luminous hour markers complement the dial of the present example, and is different from dials used on the successor reference 16570 with black hour markers.
    In original condition, and remaining unpolished, this example stands out with its stunning deep cream dial color. Being sold to benefit The Institute for Digital Archaeology, a non-profit organization promoting digital techniques in archaeology, epigraphy, art history, and museum conservation.

  • Artist Biography

    Rolex

    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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Ref. 16550
A rare and attractive stainless steel wristwatch with ivory "rail" dial, 24-hour hand, center seconds, and bracelet, sold to benefit the Institute for Digital Archaeology

Circa 1987
39mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and clasp signed

Estimate
$8,000 - 12,000 
CHF7,200-10,800
€6,700-10,100
HK$62,000-93,000

Sold for $25,200

Contact Specialist

Paul Boutros
Head of Watches, Americas & International Strategy Advisor
Senior Vice President
+1 212 940 1293
[email protected]

Racing Pulse

New York Auction 12 December 2020