Monday, February 18, 2019

Rolex X-Files...Wally Schirra

Update: I am republishing this story with new photos I found of Wally Schirra wearing his Rolex GMT-Master as well as a revealing article that tells how and when he got his Rolex GMT-Master:

Rolex X-Files

The Right Stuff

Wally Schirra


On Saturday we took a look at NASA Astronaut, Frank Borman and today we are going to take a look at another famous Astronaut. Wally Schirra was one of the original Mercury Astronauts and he wore a Pepsi GMT-Master as we will see in this story. Schirra was not only the first astronaut to travel into space three times, but the first ONLY one to have flown in  the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions!

Nick Gould recently pointed out an article published on that featured an interview with of Wally Schirra back in 2007 by Chuck Maddox in which Schirra reveals he received his Rolex GMT-Master from the Naval Academy Alumni is 1965.

The Original 7
NASA Mercury Astronaut Team
March 1, 1960 

Wally Schirra was chosen to be one of the original NASA Mercury 7 Astronauts, and he is pictured below with the other pilots who were chosen for the program. 

Pictured above we see the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) group portrait of the 'Original Seven' astronauts from the Mercury program as they pose in front of an Air Force Jet, in Florida, in January 1963. From left, Scott Carpenter (1925-2013), Gordon Cooper (1927-2004), John Glenn (1921-2016), Gus Grissom (1926-1967), Wally Schirra (1923 -2007), Alan Shepherd (1923-1998), and Deke Slayton (1924-1993).”

The photo below taken April 8, 1959 shows the seven NASA Astronauts of the Mercury program: Walter M Schirra, Deke Slayton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter, Alan B Shepard, Virgil Grissom and Gordon Cooper.”

It is fascinating to note that to date I have documented 4 out of 7 of the Original 7 Mercury Astronauts wore Rolex watches!!!

Mercury Sigma 7

Below we see NASA Mercury Astronaut, Wally Schirra. He was the fifth Mercury Astronaut to fly, in his Sigma 7, which achieved six orbits around earth. Wally Schirra then flew on Gemini 6A with Tom Stafford. Next he flew on the Apollo 7 mission.

The photo below was taken on December 15, 1965 and shows Wally Schirra maneuvered the Gemini 6 spacecraft within 1 foot (30CM) of Gemini 7 which was its sister craft. The two spacecraft were not designed to dock with each other, but maintained this close approximation to each other for more than 20 minutes straight.

In the photo above and video below we see Walter Schirra's to the White House to visit President Kennedy.

In the photo below we see Wally Schirra with JFK at Cape Canaveral in November of 1964, just before JFK was assassinated.

In the photo below we see Wally Schirra on April 17, 1967, testifying before a House investigation subcommittee in a probe on the fire that occurred aboard Apollo I, in which three NASA Astronauts died. Wally Schirra is pictured below in between Donald Slayton and Alan Shepard. If you look closely Wally Schirra is wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master.

Apollo 7

In the photo below we see an official Nasa photo with a caption that reads: "Astronaut Walter M. Schirra, Jr., enjoys breakfast before boarding the Apollo 7 spacecraft. October 11, 1968. Scan by Ed Hengeveld. Caption by Kipp Teague."

In the photo below we see Apollo 7 Commander, Wally Schirra suiting up for Apollo 7 and notice he is wearing a really cool Omega Speedmaster on the outer sleeve of his space-suit!

This next photo of Wally Schirra appears courtesy of Philip and was taken on October 23, 1968 during the Apollo 7 Mission debriefing after the crew returned from the USS Essex recovery ship, and you can clearly see Schirra's Pepsi GMT-Master on his wrist. These facts beg the question of wether he wore his Rolex on the Apollo 7 mission?

Schirra logged a total of 296 hours in space and after Apollo 7, he retired as a captain from the U.S. Navy, as well as NASA. He went on to consult with CBS News during their coverage of the following Apollo flights, and joined Walter Cronkite as the co-anchor for all 7 NASA Moon landing missions. Wally Schirra is pictured below in 1968 with fellow Apollo Astronauts, Jack Swigert and Donn Eisele. In this photo I believe it is likely both Jack and Wally are wearing their Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master watches.

In the NRA magazine ad below from 1983 we see Wally Schirra discussing his passion for hunting and notice he is wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master.

Below we see a photo of Wally Schirra taken toward the end of his life and we see he was still wearing his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master. 

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Yellow Gold Rolex GMT-Master

....Rolex Studio Shot Of The Day....

Yellow Gold Rolex GMT-Master

Bakelite Bezel

The photo below of the vintage Rolex GMT-Master appears courtesy of Christie's Auction house, and is a beauty indeed! This is a very early yellow gold GMT, as it has the sword hands, which lack the traditional Mercedes Marker on the hour had, and it also has the tiny arrowhead on the 24-hour hand. The dial on this watch has nipple markers, and more importantly a very rare original brown bakelite bezel insert, with matching yellow gold 24-hour time numerals.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

PBS American Experience SEALAB Documentary

Note: I plan to keep working on this story until I feel it is complete at which time I will remove this notice.


PBS American Experience Documentary


The full-length PBS American Experience Documentary aired last night at 9PM PST in the United States. This documentary was really special for me as I was interviewed for it and contributed my research knowledge including photos. From what I understand this documentary is only viewable online if you are located in the United States, so if you can't watch it, I will do my best to share the Rolex relevant details. If you are located in the U.S. hit the play button and enjoy!!!

I thought the documentary was GREAT!!! It was extremely immersive and offered tremendous context, and as I have said so many times, "Context gives context meaning." I am already in my second decade of researching the SEALAB story and the PBS Documentary made many things clearer—particularly with timeframes. I intend to make this article my Definitive SEALAB article that puts many of the final puzzle pieces in place. I realize this is probably going to take me weeks, if not months to complete as I have so much information to add to this story.


Scott Carpenter was one of the Aquanauts involved in the SEALAB 2 Mission, and in the photo below we see Scott in 1970 wearing his Rolex SEA-DWELLER. If you look closely you will notice Scott wore his Submariner and SEA-DWELLER on a black diving strap which included a depth-gauge, as was customary for many of the SEALAB divers.

 "The Rolex Submariner & Rolex SEA-DWELLER have a cachet that is unmatched by any other watch. The Rolex brand is the most highly respected in my book. The Rolex Submariner was the preferred diving watch for U.S. NAVY SEALAB Divers." –Scott Carpenter

U.S. Navy SEA-LAB Aquanauts: Bob Barth, Wilbur Eaton & Scott Carpenter
Team 1 Preparing To Dive Down To SEA-LAB 2 Habitat [August 28, 1965]

Below we see a 1967 Rolex Submariner magazine ad which was published during the U.S. Navy SEALAB program. This is the closest vintage magazine ad I am aware of Rolex advertising the Submariner in relation to a Submarine Captain. Notice the text in the ad reads:

"You're looking at the Rolex Submariner. For many years, it's been standard gear for SUBMARINERS, frogmen and all who make their living on the seas."


This next set of images is really interesting to me. This footage shows Walt Mazzone welcoming the SEALAB 3 team members as they leave the decompression bell after the mission ended. 

I interviewed Walt Mazzone in 2010 and he mentioned he had a single red Rolex Submariner 1680, which this could be. If its not a Rolex Submariner Reference 1680 it would likely be a 5512 or 5513. I just went through my archives and found my interviews with Walt Mazzone which I plan to publish soon :-)

Rolex developed the SEA-DWELLER with SEALAB Aquanaut Bob Barth who is pictured below at the first Aquanaut to come out of the decompression chamber and we know he was wearing a Single Red SEA-DWELLER Prototype which you can see on his wrist.

The second Aquanaut who is behind Barth is also wearing a Rolex SEA-DWLLER from what I can see of the photo as it features all the tell-tale characteristics.

The third aquanaut to leave the chamber is Blackburn who also appears to be wearing a Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

The next image below was taken in the SEALAB 3 Habitat and shows Bob Barth on the right and Barry Cannon on the left checking his Rolex Submariner, or more presumably his prototype Rolex SEA-DWELLER. This image was taken hours before the accidental and terribly tragic death of Barry Cannon.

The image below is from the SEALAB Documentary and shows a SEALAB underwater photographer wearing a Submariner. There are no cyclops lenses on any of these watches as Rolex did not add the date to the Submariner until the Submariner Date was released in 1969.

The photo below is from Bob Barth's personal collection, and we see Bob located in the back row in the center, standing up with the tattoos on his arms. Notice Bob Barth and Barry Cannon (front row on far left) are wearing Rolex SEA-DWELLER prototypes in the photo. Blackburn, Myers, Reaves and Heller are wearing Doxa Diver models.

The Cousteau Connection

The only thing I didn't like about the SEALAB Documentary was I thought the it could have easily been two hours long. Also, it really glossed over Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his son, Philippe Cousteau's contribution to SEALAB, as well as Dr. Bond's contribution to CONSHELF. In this story I hope to clarify and put those final pieces of the SEALAB puzzle together. Ironically, it was Jacques-Yves Cousteau who first turned Scott Carpenter on to the U.S. Navy SEALAB program while Scott was still at NASA.

Let's take a look at the three high-res screen grabs below from the SEALAB documentary which show footage from Jacques-Yves Cousteau's 1966 Academy Award winning Documentary named "World Without Sun." The first thing we see is that Jacques-Yves is wearing what has all the telltale signs of being a Rolex Submariner 5512 or 5513 as seen in the three pictures below.

Cousteau wearing this Submariner is something I first documented a decade ago in 2009, but with these new images we can see more detail, which is great.

I would not call this evidence unequivocal, but I would say there is a 99%+ chance it is a 5512 or 5513.

It is an established fact Jacques-Yves Cousteau wore a prototype Rolex Submariner in 1953 which his Calypso team tested for Rolex and we see Commander Cousteau in the image below wearing his Submariner in 1953. This photo was taken 13 years before the photos above, so I doubt it is the same Submariner model.

The close up photo above of Jacques-Yves Cousteau shows him wearing an early Rolex Submariner with pencil hands that looks like the similar vintage model seen below.

The document below confirms Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his team were testing Rolex Submariner prototypes in early 1953.

The letter below is from Jacques-Yves Cousteau to William Culpepper regarding the design of the SEALAB II habitat with recommendations from J.Y.C.

The drawing below shows Jaques-Yves Cousteau's recommendation for the layout of the SEALAB II habitat. Special thanks to my right hand man, Jose from for providing these historically significant images which he got when he traveled to Panama City in Florida to the SEALAB Museum.

In the next image below we again see Philippe wearing his Rolex SEA-DWELLER.

 The photo below, is of Jacques-Yves Cousteau's son, Philippe Cousteau, and it was taken while he was preparing for a dive during SEALAB III. 

Notice the dive assistant pictured on the left is wearing a Rolex Submariner.

Philippe Cousteau's Double Red Patent-Pending SEA-DWELLER is pictured below in a recent photo from an Antiquorum Auction. The caseback on this watch has an interior date stamp from the fourth quarter of 1967 that reads IV.67, with the serial number of 1,602,920. Philippe Cousteau's Rolex SEA-DWELLER sold on September 30, 2014 for $183,750 @ Antiquorum Auction House in New York. It is believed, based upon its serial number, this watch likely began its life as a Single Red-Sea-Dweller that ended up getting its dial replaced with a double red device dial.

In this next photo from the PBS Documentary we see another SEALAB Topside team and we see Morey wearing a Submariner.

The Special Thanks screenshot below is from the end of the SEALAB Documentary and you will notice my name on the list which is really cool as I shared everything I could with their production team.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Stewart Blacker First Expedition To Fly Over Mount Everest

...Rolex Coolness...

Stewart Blacker

First Expedition To Fly Over Mount Everest

Flying 6 Miles High In The Himalayas In 1933
Wearing Standard Rolex Oyster Snowite Watches

Most Rolex aficionados know Rolex was the first to conquer Mount Everest when Sir Edmund Hillary and his loyal Sherpa, Tenzing Norway were the first members of the Mount Everest climbing team in 1953 to each the summit of Everest. That being said, most people are not aware of how the first expedition to really conquer Mount Everest did so, twenty years earlier in 1933 when they were the first humans to fly over Mount Everest in airplanes.

Stewart Blacker was member of the expedition that first conquered Mount Everest and he and his expedition member did so wearing Rolex watches that looked very similar to the one pictured below.

Stewart Blacker wrote the letter that appears in the Rolex ad below from July 12, 1933 after flying at over 33,000 feet of altitude.

Stewart Blacker took the photo below in 1933, which Rolex incorporated into the Rolex ad seen above, as an illustration. 

It is important to add some context to this story. Rolex was the very first company to patent and bring to market, the worlds first water-proof watch, and it was called the Rolex Oyster. That being said, Rolex first started offering Rolex Oyster watches in 1927, and this expedition that was equipped with Oyster models achieved this great feat only 5 years later!!! Below is a copy of the original letter Stewart wrote to Rolex on June 12, 1933.

This story kind of reminds me of another recent story I published about Stan Barrett, who was the first man to drive on land past the speed of sound—In the sense that in both stories men pushed the envelope of what was possible, with machines they navigated, while wearing Rolex watches on their wrists. Rolex History really is the story of Man and his machines.

Wings Over Everest
1935 Academy Award Winning Documentary

The video documentary seen below, titled 'Wings Over Everest' was made in 1933 and covers all the details of the amazing event. It goes into great detail and offers a first hand perspective of how everything unfolded. It was released to the public in 1934, and in 1935 won the Academy Award for 'Best Novelty Short Subject'. IN the documentary at 14:15 you can see team members wearing their Rolex Oyster watches.

On April 3, 1933, the Royal Air Force Squadron was the first to fly over Mount Everest. Pictured below is Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre, who, which his squadron members, including Stewart Blacker, flew into the history as the first men to fly over Mount Everest—with their trusted Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches keeping their time.

Contextualizing 1933

Let's get in the Rolex Time Machine and travel back to 1933 to better understand the time.

One of the greatest events in the history of cinematography took place in 1933, and that was the release of the original King Kong movie. King Kong literally created the action-adventure category of movies, and in the final scenes of the movie, features King Kong fighting with airplanes that are attaching him. Ironically, this was the most state-of-the-art science fiction at the time. Ironically, while this movie was playing in theaters, the English Mount Everest expedition team was flying airplanes to conquer the highest mountain on earth—while relying on their then technologically amazing Rolex Oyster wrist watches!!!

1927 Rolex Oyster Introduction Advertorial

On an interesting side note, we know that Mercedes Gleitze was the first Rolex Brand Ambassador, and appeared in the Rolex ad seen below on November 24, 1927, which was in the same year Rolex introduced the Rolex Oyster to the marketplace. So basically, this Mercedes Gleitze Rolex ad pre-dates the Everest by six years. In other words, this ad was the very first where Rolex published an advertorial featuring a person who achieved an amazing feat while wearing a Rolex.

1930 Sir Malcolm Campbell Advertorial

The Rolex Magazine ad pictured below, which features Sir Malcolm Campbell, was the next major Rolex ad published on June 18, 1930, which was less than three years earlier than the first flight over Mount Everest ad.  

1935 Sir Malcolm Campbell Advertorial

The next Rolex ad, seen below which again features Sir Malcolm Campbell, was published two years AFTER the conquest of Everest Ad. This is fascinating, as it gives us a first-hand perspective on how excited Rolex Founder, Hans Wilsdorf must have been at the time—to see one person after another pushing the envelope of what was previously thought to be impossible.