The devil is in the details and in this case the details are in the dials, the bezels and seconds hands. But let's
start with the dials. There were actually seven dials produced during the lifespan of the 1655 - five by Stern and
two service replacement dials manufactured by Beyeler. The two service dials were available later then the watches
production run and were stockpiled to service the watches for the following decades. It’s important to remember that
Rolex were not always the fully in-house manufacture that they are today and that production of components was
outsourced to other companies. Therefore, we see variations in the batches of dials and bezels that were
On Your Marks
I don’t really intend to focus on the service dials but more on the main production run.They are referred to
as the Marks (MK) one to five (1-5). The dials had a large triangle at 12 o’clock and rectangular hour markers at
six and nine o’clock.The remaining hour markers sit within the minute track and are essentially extra-bold
minute markers. Where the dial gets a little busier is on the outer edge of the dial where intermittent 24-hour
markers sit, which are off set from the regular hour markers. It’s a very distinctive look and led some collectors
to refer to the dial as the Disco Dial, due to its resemblance to a 1970s disco floor with flashing square light
panels. The different marks are distinguished by the printed text on the files.
The MK1: The first iteration had a wide coronet, with a rounded foot on the R of Rolex. The bottom of the dial was
marked T SWISS T.
The MK2: The second series dial is very similar to the MK1. The coronet is a little more splayed with heavier dots on
the tips of the coronet and has been given the name Frog Foot by collectors (it can also be seen on Rolex Explorers
reference 1016). The other big difference is the spacing of the word PERPETUAL. It is less wide than the MK1 and the
top of the letter L lines up with the bottom right stroke of the letter X in ROLEX (on the MK1 the A of PERPETUAL
sits below the X). The MK2 also has T SWISS T on the bottom edge denoting the use of tritium on the dial.
The MK3: This version is noticeably different due to what collectors term the Rail Dial. The coronet is different to
the MK2, in that it is wide, better defined and symmetrical. It is still marked T SWISS T on the outer bottom edge.
The SUPERLATIVE CHRONOMETER OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED text in the bottom half of the dial is the clue to the MK3. The
letters C in the words CHRONOMETER and CERTIFIED are aligned vertically, which creates a noticeable vertical gap in
the two lines of text. This is known as a Rail Dial and can also be seen on some reference 1665 Sea-Dweller.
The MK4: The coronet on the MK4 is a noticeable difference, being narrower and seemingly taller. Interestingly, the
text alignment of the letter L in the word PERPETUAL is the same as the MK2. The most noticeable feature is the
change at the bottom edge of the dial which reads T SWISS < 25 T in a serif font. This signified that the tritium
used for the painting of hour markers was emitting less than 25mCi.
The MK5: The last of the production dials for the 1655, the MK5 had the T SWISS < 25 T at the bottom edge of the
dial but without serifs on the font. Also, the coronet is more narrow with a bigger opening in the oval at the
bottom of said coronet (which was reminiscent of the coronets on the Maxi dial Submariners reference 5513).
As I mentioned earlier, there were also differences in the bezels over the production run. There were four production
versions and a service version also exists. The breakdown of the bezels is as follows:
The MK1: A thick font with the edges of the numerals sitting very close to the inner edge of the steel bezel. These
were used on watches fitted with MK1 and MK2 dials.
The MK2: A thick font where the numerals are centred. Seen on some MK1 dial watches but mostly on watches with MK3
and MK4 watches.
=The MK3: The fonts on the MK3 are thin and centrally positioned on the bezel. These were fitted on some watches with
MK3 dials but mainly used on MK4 dialled watches.
The MK4: Found on watches with MK5 dials, the MK4 bezel has numerals with a thin font, but there are some noticeable
changes to the font. The most noticeable difference is the ‘long hook’ on the 1s.
The final point to note about the 1655 is the seconds hand. Early versions of the reference, from the first year of
production, were fitted with a straight seconds hand. The hands were painted white and were of a fairly minimalist
design. The so-called straight seconds hand was a simple long, thin needle-esque centre sweep hand. Rolex introduced
a seconds hand with a lollipop, luminous filled bubble quite quickly within the watch’s lifespan. Collectors look
for watches with a MK1 dial, MK1 bezel and straight seconds hand when wanting the perfect early Explorer II.