If there’s something that the Rolex collecting community loves, it’s a great nickname! Blame it on enthusiastic auctioneers, passionate forum participants, or marketing minds, but Rolex watches—more than any other watch brand—have some of the most interesting nicknames around. Here we take a look at three popular nicknames of the Rolex stainless steel Explorer II.
The Steve McQueen
The “Steve McQueen” Rolex refers to the inaugural Explorer II ref. 1655, which made its debut in 1971. This is a tricky one because there’s seems to be no evidence that The King of Cool ever wore a stainless steel Explorer II! In fact, his go-to Rolex was a stainless steel Submariner. However, the legend goes that an Italian magazine misprinted that he was wearing an Explorer II ref. 1655 rather than correctly stating that he was wearing a Submariner ref. 5512.
Nevertheless, the incorrect name stuck and it’s very common for the vintage stainless steel Explorer II ref. 1655 to be referred to as the “Steve McQueen” Rolex.
Also a name attributed to the Italians, is the “Freccione” Rolex. Again, this nickname is used for the same vintage stainless steel Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655. But this time, its origin is correct.
Freccione is derived from “freccia,” which is Italian for arrow. And arrow, of course, alludes to the prominently displayed orange arrow-tipped 24-hour hand of the stainless steel Explorer II ref. 1655. This bright orange arrow allowed wearers of the Explorer II ref. 1655 to differentiate between daytime and nighttime thanks to it pointing to the 24-hour marked bezel. This function was particularly practical for adventurers such as cavers who spent extended periods in darkness.
While the first stainless steel Explorer II was only offered with a black dial, from the mid-1980s onwards Rolex offered a white dial version too. Therefore, the Explorer II ref. 16550, Explorer II ref. 16570, and Explorer II ref. 216570 all have white dial variations in addition to the black ones.
So, while the “Polar” nickname can suggest any white dial version of the Explorer II, it’s typically in reference to the Explorer II ref. 16570 and Explorer II ref. 216570. The Polar name is especially fitting for the icy white dials of the sporty stainless steel Explorer II watches.
Whether you choose to use the Steve McQueen, Freccione, or Polar nicknames or not when discussing these particular Rolex models, what is certain is that the Rolex Explorer II mens stainless steel timepiece is one of the coolest sports watches from the brand.