The Evolution of the Freccione

 By: DrStrong : December 31st, 2009-01:26

Our dear Amanico has already made a great in depth review of the Freccione a couple of months ago:

but I wanted to add a few personal comments as well as pictures of this watch and its evolution during its production period.

The Rolex Explorer II ref. 1655 has been produced from 1971 to 1984. Compared to the already existing Explorer I, the watch has been upgraded with the date feature and a 24 hours indication using an additional orange hand and an external graduated bezel. The movement used in this watch is cal. 1575.

From 1971 to 1974, the watch was fitted with a straight sweep second hand (without a tritium dot) and a case with almost “pointed” crown guards; the crown guards were not as small as on the first Submariner or GMT-master, but they were definitely smaller than on the other Rolex sports models of 1971 and than on the later case version of ref. 1655. The bezel used thick font with the numbers close to the dial ("thick font top").

Here’s an early example of a Freccione, where you notice the specific “swiss” dial, the straight second hand and the first type of bezel:

here’s a view where you notice the specific shape of the early crown guards:

and a different angle to appreciate the various aspects of the watch:

In 1974, the design of the watch is slightly modified: the crown guards get bigger and a new type of dial (rail dial) is fitted to the watch.

In 1974/75, a new bezel appears (thick font centered) until 1977 when it changes again ("thin font full").

Between 1977 and 1978, the dial is changed again, especially the shape of the coronet and the bottom of the dial which now reads  t swiss < 25 t.

A final version of the dial is introduced in 1979 and a final version of the bezel ("thin font reduced") in 1980.

Here’s a late 1970’s watch, where you see the Mk4 t swiss < 25t dial and "thin font full" bezel.

it is obvious on this picture that the crown guards are much thicker than on the early 1970’s watch:

Here’s a detailed chronological list of the dial versions that has been established by Carlo Pergola and Antonello Niceta:

• Mk1 1971-1973
• Mk2 1972-1977
• Mk3 ( rail dial) 1974-1977
• Mk4 1977-1980
• Mk5 1979 – 1984
• Mk6 replacement, tritium 
• Mk7 replacement, luminova

And a picture by these authors to illustrate the differences between the dials:

Here’s a summary of the evolution of the bezel:

1. thick font top, seen with Mk1 and Mk2 dials between 1971 and 1973
2. thick font centered, seen with Mk1, Mk2, Mk3 dials between 1973 and 1977.
3. thin font full, seen with Mk4 dial between 1977 and 1980
4. thin font reduced, seen with Mk5 dials after 1980

To conclude, here are the mandatory vintage ads featuring the Explorer II, that illustrate so well the philosophy of the watch:


COOL Jeff !!

 By: Philipps : December 31st, 2009-03:11
All the best for 2010!!

regards Philipp

Thanks and best to you too my friend ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:44
No message body

Great work, Jeff.

 By: amanico : December 31st, 2009-03:30

It is great to see how the writings, the bezels, and the hands changed...

Another interesting point is to see how the patina on the tritium indexes changed.

On some generations, it is darker than on others, even older.

I'm very happy with my 1655, even if I would have preferred bigger fonts on the bezel ,and a bigger crown, too.

Hey, by the way, is that 1655 first generation yours?

Best, and thanks for this informative post!


Yes that is my "ex" very early 1655

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:46

2.7 mil serial number, one of the first produced.



A pity you sold it.

 By: amanico : January 1st, 2010-14:05

It is such a Beauty!

The straight second hand is something, and the patina was so captivating.

Best, my friend.


Traded years ago for a Breguet Aéronautique Navale... [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 2nd, 2010-10:15
No message body

Very informative as usual

 By: Quan : December 31st, 2009-03:41
Thanks Jeff, they are real beauty

Wish you great harvest in 2010

Great Information - Thank you Jeff !! [nt]

 By: kaiserfranz : December 31st, 2009-04:37
No message body

My pleasure Matthias ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:46
No message body

Excellent Post

 By: Democritus : December 31st, 2009-07:36

I learnt more about my Freccione here and love it even more.  Mine is a MK1 (3.3mil) watch but had its dial/hands/bezel changed at servicing around 1979 (MK4?) 

Still a beauty to accompany me into 2010.

Sorry for poor photo skill.


Another clearer pic.

One more Freccione on the forum. Cool ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:47
No message body

The watch is cool and the forum too

 By: Democritus : January 1st, 2010-16:22

Thanks.  Really love it and had to buy it when I spotted it, especially when it was born in the same year as me.

Maybe some day, I will be able to source one with all the original dial/hands/bezel.  For now, this piece is good enough.

Thanks for the great write up and info.  It has added great value to owning the watch.

Very interesting article Jeff

 By: hans_jorgen_1968 : December 31st, 2009-07:37

.. Thankyou, thats the way it should be done. Very informative and good on details.

Beszt regards


Thanks a lot Hans [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:48
No message body

Fantastic post DrStrong!

 By: DRMW : December 31st, 2009-08:19

great piece Jeff

 By: Ryan5446 : December 31st, 2009-08:29
Thank you for sharing.

Here is my straigh-hand McQueen (3.0 mil ) with early bezel. Both you and Nicolas opened my eyes for this model.

Wow, Steven, when you do things,

 By: amanico : January 1st, 2010-03:41
You do them perfectly!

What an awesome example!

One of your latest catches?

Best, my friend.


thanks Nicolas

 By: Ryan5446 : January 1st, 2010-06:56
I already had it for a longer time. The condition was very very bad. Unpolished but it looked as if a dog chewed on it for a couple of years. After a long and full SPA treatment, it is in reasonable condition. Completely original. I m happy with it. (dont wear it often enough).


Great patina !

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:50

one of the best 1655's around, I love it !



Impressiv work my friend !!!!!

 By: Addict : January 1st, 2010-09:49


Good to see you're still alive ;-)

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:51
I wish you the best for 2010 !

Impressive work, Jeff, like always!

 By: E.J. : January 1st, 2010-10:41

For our learning and our pleasure!

Well done!



Thanks Emilio...and nice avatar btw ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 1st, 2010-13:53
No message body

because of posts like this

 By: darma : January 1st, 2010-15:07
i learn to appreciate and understand this watch even more.. Great article with plenty of the right sort of information. many thanks darren

Excellent post Jeff

 By: Starman : January 1st, 2010-15:56

Thanks a lot for this piece of history and the great pictures. Fantastic watch this Freccione. I've settled for a new Explo II, but those early birds are really to die for. Maybe one lucky day I can get myself a 1971 Freccione (my year of birth you see). I noticed these Rolexes are quite sought after, hence the pretty steep prices for good examples. Well one keeps dreaming!



My first Explorer II was made in 1971

 By: DrStrong : January 3rd, 2010-03:12

those are interesting watches, with the straight sweep second hand.

Good hunting !


Great post again Jeff, thanks for sharing [nt]

 By: cisco : January 2nd, 2010-11:05
No message body

Thanks François ! [nt]

 By: DrStrong : January 3rd, 2010-03:12
No message body

Nice Post of a nice watch [nt]

 By: gazoz : January 3rd, 2010-02:48
No message body
Load More Comments >>