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When Rolex introduced the Explorer II, their slogan was “You can tell by the men who wear them.”
One man whom Rolex profiled in advertisements was Jean-François Pernette.
At the age of thirteen he became enamored of the world “at the center of the Earth.” He spent his youth exploring the caves of Bordeaux and the Pyrenees. It was there in the mountains between Spain and France that he made his first discovery: an underground river in the Massif de la Pierre-Saint-Martin that had never before been seen by human eyes.
And in 1980, at the age of twenty-six, he would lead the first expedition to an underground river in the remote interior of Papua New Guinea.
On his wrist the entire time was an Explorer II… which certainly didn’t receive any special treatment throughout the expedition.
Pernette wrote: “Moisture, sand, mud, and especially frequent and violent shocks against the rocky walls—I spared it nothing. During the expedition to New Guinea, all my teammates counted on it to give them the time, day or night.”
The Explorer II’s sturdy Oyster case withstood the “frequent and violent shocks” that Pernette subjected it to, and told the time—day or night—with a 24-hour hand and fixed 24-hour steel bezel.
Though the Explorer II was produced in far fewer numbers than other Rolex sports models like the Submariner and GMT, it has gained a cult following among collectors who admire it for its rugged coolness—in all environments, whether above the Earth’s surface or below it.
This particular Explorer II is a Reference 16550 minted in the mid-1980s. Unlike its predecessor the Reference 1655, which bore a distinctive orange hand, the Reference 16550—like many other Rolex sports models of the 1980s—got a luxury makeover that doesn’t detract from the rugged appeal of the watch. The glossy black dial was equipped with round luminous markers with white gold surrounds, a sapphire crystal, a wider steel bezel with a fatter fat, and a red 24-hour hand.
As a transitional model, the Reference 16550 bridges the gap between the Reference 1655 and the Reference 16750. Since it was only produced from 1985 to 1989, it’s become a highly sought-after model. Seamlessly blending the old and the new, the Reference 16550 is a tough-as-nails tool watch that you can wear anywhere.
Stainless steel Oyster case is approximately 40mm (excluding crown). Reference 16550. Circa 1986/1987.
Overall Condition: Case is in very good condition with light wear and no signs of overpolishing. Fixed bezel shows some signs of wear and paint loss. Dial shows some faint hand drag on left side but is otherwise in good condition, with a fine, even patina across the luminescent elements. Signed crown.
Includes one 20mm 93150 HD Oyster bracelet.
Analog/Shift stands behind the authenticity of our products in perpetuity.
We back each Analog/Shift vintage timepiece with a one-year mechanical warranty from the date of purchase.
All of our watches include complementary insured shipping within the 50 states. We are happy to hand deliver your purchase in Manhattan or you may pick it up at our showroom.
Please contact us prior to purchase for additional details on shipping and payment options