Watches

Rolex 1655 vs. Rolex 226570 – Explorer II Comparison

rolex-1655-vs.-rolex-226570-–-explorer-ii-comparison

First launched in 1971 as a watch specifically designed for speleologists (cave explorers), the Rolex Explorer II spent much of its history as one of the more overlooked sports watches from the brand’s lineup. However, that has all changed in more recent years, and now the Explorer II receives nearly the same amount of attention as its older and more famous siblings such as the Submariner and GMT-Master. With that in mind, the Rolex Explorer II has undergone a rather significant change over the course of the last half century, and the Explorer II watch that first debuted way back in the early 1970s is significantly different from the one that Rolex sells today.

So, what exactly are the differences between the vintage Rolex Explorer II 1655 and the current-production Explorer II 226570? Keep reading to find out…

Rolex Explorer II 1655

Rolex 1655 vs 226570 Vintage Rolex Explorer II

Rolex 1655 Key Details:

  • Year of Introduction: 1971
  • Reference Number: 1655
  • Case Size: 39mm
  • Materials: Stainless Steel
  • Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, 24-Hour Display
  • Dial: Matte Black w/ Printed Luminous Hour Markers
  • Luminous Material: Tritium
  • Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel w/ 24-Hour Scale
  • Crystal: Acrylic (Box Shaped w/ Cyclops Lens)
  • Movement: Rolex Cal. 1575
  • Bracelet/Clasp: Oyster Bracelet w/ Fold-Over Clasp

Rolex Explorer II 226570

Rolex 1655 vs 226570 Modern Explorer II Black Dial 42mm

Rolex 226570 Key Details:

  • Year of Introduction: 2021
  • Reference Number: 226570
  • Case Size: 42mm
  • Materials: Oystersteel (904L Stainless Steel)
  • Functionality: Time w/ Running Seconds, Date Display, GMT-Functionality
  • Dial: Gloss Black or White w/ Applied Luminous Hour Markers
  • Luminous Material: Chromalight
  • Bezel: Fixed, Stainless Steel w/ 24-Hour Scale
  • Crystal: Sapphire (Flat w/ Cyclops Lens)
  • Movement: Rolex Cal. 3285
  • Bracelet/Clasp: Oyster Bracelet w/ Oysterlock Clasp & Easylink Comfort Extension

Click here for our Ultimate Buying Guide on the Rolex Explorer II.

Rolex 1655 vs 226570 Explorer II White Dial 42mm

Rolex 1655 vs. Rolex 226570: Key Differences

Despite both being Rolex Explorer II watches, there are a number of significant differences between the vintage Rolex ref. 1655 and the current-production Rolex ref. 226570.

Case:

One of the most noticeable differences between the vintage Rolex 1655 and the modern Rolex 226570 is that the current-production version measures a full 3mm larger than the inaugural model from the 1970s. While the original Explorer II 1655 had a case diameter of 39mm, the modern Explorer II 226570 is significantly larger at 42mm in diameter. Additionally, while both models are crafted from stainless steel, the modern ref. 226570 uses Rolex’s proprietary Oystersteel alloy, which is the manufacturer’s own special blend of highly corrosion-resistant 904L stainless steel.

Dial:

Next to the case size, the dial is the second most significant difference between the vintage Rolex 1655 and the modern Rolex 226570. The original model was exclusively fitted with a matte black dial that featured printed tritium luminous markings for both a 12-hour and 24-hour timekeeping scale. Meanwhile, the modern Explorer II is available with either a gloss black or white “polar” dials, and both colors feature a more traditional 12-hour design with applied luminous hour markers that are filled with blue-glowing Chromalight.

Crystal:

On the vintage Rolex Explorer II reference 1655, the box-shaped crystal is made from acrylic with the brand’s signature Cyclops magnification lens above the date display at 3 o’clock. On the modern Rolex Explorer II reference 226570, both the crystal and its Cyclops magnification lens are crafted from clear synthetic sapphire for superior scratch resistance and a more modern overall appearance.

Vintage Rolex 1655 vs 226570 Steve McQueen 39mm

Bezel:

On both the vintage Rolex 1655 and the modern Rolex 226570, the bezel is made from radially brushed stainless steel with an engraved 24 hour scale. However, the bezel on the vintage example features a thinner font and has vertical lines between the numerals, while the bezel on the contemporary version has a much thicker font and small inverted triangles between each of the numbers on its 24-hour scale.

Movement / Functionality:

Although the vintage Rolex 1655 and the modern Rolex 226570 are both Explorer II watches, their actual functionality is significantly different. The Caliber 1575 movement inside the vintage reference 1655 has its two hour hands permanently coupled together, meaning that its 24-hour hand can only be used as a 24-hour display of the 12-hour time, meaning that it is essentially just a large AM/PM indicator. On the other hand, the Rolex Caliber 3285 movement used to power The current-production Explorer II reference 226570 features an independently adjustable 12-hour hand, allowing the watch to simultaneously display two different time zones and offer true GMT functionality.

Bracelet:

Both the vintage Rolex Explorer II 1655 and the modern Rolex Explorer II 226570 come fitted with stainless steel Oyster bracelets, although the actual structure is different between the two bracelet generations and their accompanying clasps. Although both follow a flat three-piece link design, the version fitted to the vintage ref. 1655 features hollow center links (or even folded links on the oldest examples), paired with a standard fold-over clasp. On the modern ref. 226570, all of the bracelet links are completely solid and the redesigned Oysterlock safety clasp features Rolex’s patented Easylink extension system for on-the-fly adjustability.

Rolex Explorer II 226570 vs. 1655 comparison Polar Dial

Which Rolex Explorer II Watch Is Right for Your Wrist?

At the end of the day, both the vintage Rolex Explorer II 1655 and the modern Rolex Explorer II 226570 are significantly different watches, and there is certainly room for both in one collection. However, if you only can choose one Explorer II watch, some of the biggest deciding factors will be your wrist size, your preference in dial style/color, and whether or not you actually need your watch to be capable of simultaneously display two different time zones.

The vintage Rolex 1655 holds the title of being the very first Explorer II and it also offers one of the most unique dials that Rolex has ever produced. Additionally, at 39mm in diameter, it is hardly a small watch, but it is not so large that it cannot also easily be worn by those with slender wrists. On the other hand, the modern Rolex 226570 represents the most capable and advanced version of the Explorer II that has ever existed, and it offers all of the iconic Swiss watch manufacturer’s latest and greatest technologies. Both versions of the Rolex Explorer II are amazing examples of purpose-built sports watches, and regardless of whether you go vintage or modern, there truly are no wrong choices.

Vintage Rolex Explorer II 1655 vs. 226570 Black Dial Comparison

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