Rolex on the International Space Station at Christmas
Recently I was doing research in the NASA Archive and I came across this image of Dr. Leroy Chiao taken during Christmas onboard the International Space Station in 2004. Dr. Chiao flew on three Space Shuttle Missions prior to being the Commander of Expedition 10.
I wrote a detailed article that included a fascinating podcast interview with Dr. Chiao which you can see by clicking here. Beyond his incredible career as a NASA astronaut, Dr. Chiao is an amazing man of incredible achievement!!!
Of course Dr. Chiao is sporting his Pepsi GMT Master on the jubilee bracelet. I also think I see an HP iPaq Pocket PC floating around above the IBM Thinkpad in the upper right hand corner of the photo. We sure have come a long way in 4 years from the iPaq to the iPhone.
Dr. Wernher von Braun is pictured below at NASA ground control in 1965 during the testing of a Saturn rocket. Dr. von Braun is wearing a yellow gold Rolex and Dr. Kurt Debus who was the director of the Kennedy Space Center is also wearing his Rolex in this photo. Both men were former German rocket scientists.
Ironically, Dr. von Braun was the principal designer of the German V-2 rocket weapon as well as the Saturn V Moon rocket that put NASA astronauts on the Moon.
Pictured from Left to Right: Dr. Kurt Debus Werhner von Braun
The Rolex board of Directors appointed Finance Director Bruno Meier as the new Chief Executive Officer of The Rolex Group. Bruno Meier will be replacing Patrick Heiniger on the first of January 2009. Mr. Meier has been the CFO of Rolex for 3 years.
Leo (The Idle Swede) is pictured below with. James Dowling is one of the most knowledgeable Rolex experts on earth and co-author of The Best Of Time–Rolex Wristwatches. James Dowling is also a moderator on Timezone's Rolex modern and vintage Rolex forum.
Leo sent in this photo from a GTG of himself and James doing schtick with their name-tags. Leo said this photo reminded him of the photo below this photo of James Dowling with John Mayer because in both, they were pointing at each other.
Leo (The Idle Swede) with James Dowling
Leo told me that he was goofing around with switching his name tag and then James Dowling joined in the fun, which explains why Leo's (pictured on the left) name-tag says "James Dowling" and James' (pictured on the right) says Dave Knoll. Dave Knoll is another Timezone moderator, as is Charles Newgas. GTG's are fun and you never know what to expect next.
My pal, Sheldon Smith of www.Minus4Plus6.com is an avid road biker and he sent in what he refers to as the cover of "The Ultimate Bike Geek Magazine."
Sheldon said he likes Lance's GMT Master on Lance better than the Stainless Steel Rolex Daytona Lance Armstrong started wearing about 6 months ago.
In the photo above and below, Lance Armstrong is wearing his stainless steel Rolex Daytona with a white dial. Lance will be back in France in 2009 again to attempt to make his 8th consecutive conquest of the Tour de France.
Prior to Lance Armstrong, the record for the number of wins for the Tour de France was 5 times. That puts Lance in a class all by himself with his record breaking 7 wins.
John Goldberger is a Rolex connoisseur/collector. His passion for excellent, beautiful and rare Rolex watches is both intoxicating and awe-inspiring at the same time.
John is from Italy, and he recently wrote an amazing Rolex book named 100 Superlative Rolex Watches which contains Rolex watches from the top 5 Rolex connoisseur's on earth–including his own magnificent collection. You can read the review and also listen to the detailed podcast interview by clicking here.
Last year, John took this photo of what he refers to as the rarest Rolex, a Reference 4113, split-chronograph. Rolex only made 12 of these watches in 1943 for the Italian Army.
The watch came from the Mondani collection and was originally auctioned by Antiquorum in 2006. John also owns another one of the 12 which you can find in his book on page 62.
Click on image for great detail
John Goldberger took this stunning photograph of his prized possession split-chronometer next to jumbo stone crab claws at Garcia's Restaurant in Miami, Florida. Those claws are really jumbo because the Rolex Reference 4413 split-chronograph is a whopping 44mm.
The Rolex split-chronographs have a Valjoux 55 caliber movement. John mentioned in his email to me that "This caliber was used in other split chronographs like the 24h. Chronograph by Universal (made also for Italian military supplier Cairelli in Rome.)"
The Rolex has a matt silvered dial with pink gold relief Arabic and Baton indexes, with an outer 1/5 seconds division, outer black tachometer scale along with a blue inner telemeter scale. The watch also has pink gold Baton hands and a subsidiary seconds and 30-minute register dial.
In the future we are going to do a detailed story on this watch.
At first, I thought this was a Rolex Explorer, but as Douglas pointed out, it is the new Air King. The way you can tell is that an Air King has a Rolex Crown at 12, and the Rolex Explorer has an upside down triangle like the Submariner, which would glow in the dark.
John Goldberger, the author of 100 Superlative Rolex Watches pointed out that in the 1960 movie, The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando and Joanne Woodward, that Marlon Brando mentions his Rolex Moonphase 6062. John also points out that he thinks the watch is a chronograph, but I can't see it well enough to tell. I definitely see the moonphase on the dial of the watch when Marlon hands it to Joanne.
John Goldberger pointed out to me in an email "I think this is the first Rolex advertising in the movies, because I bet the original book or script by Tennessee Williams didn't exist with the words Rolex Chronometer."
Update: In a follow-up email, John mentioned "Tennessee Williams wrote the script for The Fugitive Kind in 1937, at which time Rolex had NEVER made a Moonphase of any kind. This means that in 1960, the screenplay authors added the words Rolex Chronometer as well as the description for the Moonphase. Also the description is too precise for the knowledge of a film-maker, and the supreme irony is that the model was out of production in 1960!!"
The President on The Godfather
Anyone whose favorite movie is The Godfather is alright by me
Bernhard is a vintage Rolex collector of the highest order. A true purist.
Bernhard goes by Bulibeer on the forums. Yesterday Bernhard mentioned to me that his 7 year old son spent a half hour on the James Bond section of Jake's Rolex Watch Blog yesterday just looking at all the Bondwatches.
I must admit that I was flattered to learn this fact, and I must also mention that I have learned much from Bernhard about some fantastic watches he owns. Today we are going to examine Bernhard's Rolex Milsub [Reference 5517] with the rare W10 engraving.
Milsub stands for Military Submariner. The Milsub as it is popularly dubbed has some unique design characteristics including sword hands, and 60 minute indices on the bezel. The Milsub also has a Tritium "T" in a circle designation on the dial just above the 600ft designation.
Bernhard bought his Milsub from the original owner who was a commando. Bernhard points out "The Milsub's were issued to the SBS and some other Special forces units close to them like, Mine divers and Intel units."
In both photos, Bernhard is wearing his Milsub on a NATO spec band. Bernhard is a really cool guy and I want to thank him for sharing these stunningly cool images of his very rare Milsub.
John Mayer is an ultra-talented singer, songwriter, guitarist and he has been dating the gorgeous actress, Jennifer Aniston for some time now. Both of them were Rolex fanatics before they met.
Here is a great video of John playing Let the good times Roll with B.B. King at the Grammy's. Both B.B. King and John Mayer are Rolex collectors.
Here is a video of John playing Hummingbird and you can see him sporting a Paul Newman Daytona:
John Mayer WISdom
John Mayer is a big Rolex collector and has quite a collection. Here is a photo of James Dowling hanging out with John Mayer at the June 6, 2007 IWJG show. John refers to James Dowling as "The Obi-Wan" of vintage Rolex collecting. Of course, James Dowling is the co-author of The Best of Times that I did a review on which you can view by clicking here.
James Dowling & John Mayer
John Mayer definitely suffers from WISITUS. On one of John Mayer's blogs he showed the photo below that he took of his two pristine Rolex Explorer watches [Reference 1655].
John Mayer wrote:
"Three people in the world will think this is interesting...A pair of Rolex 1655 Explorer IIs...As sharp and clean as they come. That's right. I spend nights at home taking pictures of watches. And I love it. So there."
Photo Credit: John Mayer
John Mayer has an amazing Rolex collection. I have been working on putting together a definitive article about John Mayer's Rolex collection which I will publish sometime soon. Also, I hope to do a podcast interview with John.
Update: The day after I published this story, John Mayer posted the photo below on his blog and he said:
"Tonight's watch is a ref. 1680 "red" Submariner, issued to the Peruvian Air Force. The only brown dial "feet first" dial I've seen. Bezel faded to a gorgeous gunmetal gray."
Otto owns this beautiful yellow Gold Rolex Daytona and he just purchased an authentic Rolex brown crocodile strap to go with it. The honey-rust Rolex strap on the yellow gold Rolex Daytona creates a magnificent color combination.
Did you ever wonder how with White Gold & Yellow Gold Rolex Daytona's how the matching end-links attach to the watch? Now you can see in the illustration below. On top we have a white gold Daytona with the solid end links. First you remove the bezel then the end links come off.
I was surprised to find that the case is machined out under the bezel to accommodate the solid end links.
When I looked at this first photo of Miles' Beautiful Rolex 6062 Moonphase, it made me realize I had never seen a photo of a Rolex Moonphase on a wrist. We are so used to seeing sterile studio shots that are museum-like, it is easy to forget the Moonphase is even a wrist watch.
I sent Miles an email to ask him if he could take some more wrist shots of his 6062 for us to enjoy and the next day he sent in the second photo. He is going to take some more from different angles and hopefully one with a tuxedo cuff with the french cuff sticking out with some elegant cufflinks. That way we can get a real feel for the stunningly elegant Rolex.
I am a designer by training. I have been designing for as long as I have been wearing Rolex watches and that is over a quarter century. Over the last quarter century, I have experimented with designing watches and had a lot of fun.
I love the timeless, elegant, masculine design of sport Rolex watches and I have a design idea I want to share with you. The interesting thing about this design idea is that even though the images of the watch design I call the Cherry Vanilla GMT are not real, this watch can actually be made, and I am thinking seriously about building this actual watch.
I call this modified GMT Master II a Cherry Vanilla. The three photos below are of a real Rolex GMT Master that has had its black GMT dial replaced with a White Rolex Explorer II dial, and the standard silver hands from the GMT have been replaced with the black hour, minute and second hands from a standard, white dial Rolex Explorer. Also, in order to make this watch you would have to purchase an aftermarket all red GMT bezel that is not made by or approved by Rolex. I will get a little more into the logistics of how to make this watch later, but for now let's just focus on the design elements.
Some people won't like the design of this watch, but I love it. I like the Rolex Explorer II standard bezel that does not move, but like most people I like the rotating bezel found on the Submariner, GMT and Yachtmaster.
So essentially this hybrid watch is a GMT Master that has been converted into a Rolex Explorer II with a white dial and red rotatable bezel. I imagine the minimum takeaway point here is that you can put a rotating bezel on an Explorer II.
I love the color combo of red, white, black and stainless and I particularly like the combination on the right with the black strap. I think the black strap combination gives the watch a really sporty, cool look. Red is one of my favorite colors and I really like this combo. On the one hand it has a Christmasy, wintery, icy, candy-cane vibe, and at the same time it has a summery, lineny, light, cool, crisp, clean vibe.
Once again, I must point out that if you customized your GMT to this color and you feel like changing it up, it would be relatively easy to swap bezel inserts. Many people who own GMT's don't just have multiple bezel inserts, but multiple bezels, each with a different color insert because it is much, much easier and faster to swap a bezel than it is to swap out a bezel insert.
Before, I go any further, I must thank the two owner's of the German Rolex Forum located at R-L-X.de, Hannes & Percy for originally bringing to my attention that a GMT could be converted into what I refer to as a Vanilla Pepsi, Vanilla Coke and Oreo Cookie, and alas a Cherry Vanilla.
Also, The base image for the watches above was taken from a photo Hannes took of his Vanilla Pepsi (not shown) and the following images below are all based on an image Percy took of his Vanilla Pepsi.
Introducing the Cherry Vanilla
The Oreo Cookie
The watch above is real, I just put on an aftermarket all red bezel (In Photoshop). The photo below is real and this watch exists and is owned by Percy, but for illustration purposes I changed the bezel to all black (in photoshop) for comparison sake. As much as I like the red bezel insert, I really, really, really like the black bezel insert on the Explorer. For some reason, it looks amazingly good looking to me.
What is strange in my mind is that some would call the watch below a Frankenwatch, but I think it looks even more like a Rolex than the standard non-rotating stainless steel bezel that comes standard on a white-dial Rolex Explorer II. I love the way the black hands and indices play off the black bezel.
One of the obvious questions, would be, if Rolex actually made this watch this way, what would they do with the black dial Explorer II. If they offered it with a black bezel it would look too much like a black bezel GMT. I would offer the black dial Explorer II with a cobalt blue bezel like, the shade of blue on the yellow gold and two-tone Submariner. Also, I methinks the red bezel would look stunning with black dial.
The Vanilla Coke
Next we see pictured below the Vanilla Coke. Once again, this watch is made 100% from genuine Rolex parts. I changed the bezel from Pepsi to Coke, but I have seen real examples of this watch with the Coke bezel.
I can't speak for Rolex, and I am not affiliated with them in ANY way, but as I understand it, Rolex U.S.A. does not sell spare parts for your watch that would allow you to customize your Rolex like this, but in Europe Rolex will sell you the parts to customize your watch if you choose to do so. I also believe that if you customize your Rolex like this it might void the warranty.
The Vanilla Pepsi
Next we have the Vanilla Pepsi. This is a real photo of Percy's watch. In other words, nothing has been changed in photoshop. This is what Percy's Rolex GMT looks like after he modified it.
The photo below is of Percy's actual Oreo Cookie GMT/Explorer II. It has not been photoshoped in any way. In other words, it has the black bezel with black hands and indices, along with the white dial just as you see it.
The coolest thing is that if you want to make the investment in time and money, you could purchase a GMT, and the extra dial and bezel inserts and have one watch that could be customized into at least 8 different looking watches. Understand that as cool as this idea might be, it is not trivial to swap out parts and unless you really know what you are doing, would require a watchmaker to swap parts, not to mention, Rolex probably would not sanction any of this.
When I look at this second photo below of Percy's watch pictured below, it takes my breath away!!! It looks so crisp, cool, elegant and stylish to me!!! I love this color combination!!! Ironically, I nicknamed this color combination the Oreo Cookie which is kind of profound because I love Oreo Cookies!!!
The Real Oreo Cookie and Vanilla Pepsi...Kind of?
Did Rolex ever make an Oreo Cookie and Vanilla Pepsi? It is hard to say and only Rolex would know for certain, and it is possible they don't even know. There is a long standing rumor that says Rolex made a Vanilla Pepsi for the executives at Pan Am. The idea is that they designed the black dial GMT for the Pan American International Airlines pilots and rumor has it that they also made a white dial version for the Pan Am executives, but nobody knows for certain.
In the podcast interview I did with John Goldberger, he said he believes Rolex did make a Vanilla Pepsi, and he shows one from his personal collection in his book titled 100 Superlative Rolex Watches. John also says that the photo below is of a fake Vanilla Pepsi. He says it is fake because he says that Rolex never made a Reference 6542 GMT Vanilla Pepsi with a Bakelite bezel.
For the record, I am 100% apposed to ANY kind of counterfeit Rolex watches. However, I have no challenge with swapping Rolex parts, including dials, bezels and bands and hands. I also have no challenge with custom painting authentic Rolex dials or bezels. With the Cherry Vanilla mock-up I showed above, it has an all red GMT bezel which to the best of my knowledge Rolex has never made.
There are people who sell aftermarket bezels that fit Rolex. Personally, I would NEVER purchase one. I would only ever purchase authentic Rolex parts, but, and here is the big but; I would purchase an aftermarket red bezel since Rolex does not make one, in order to make the Cherry Vanilla GMT.
As we saw yesterday with Bamford and Sons, they sell customized Rolex watches and I think this is a trend that will continue. I also believe it is 100% legal as long as you use authentic Rolex parts. When Rolex redesigns the Explorer and gives it a supercase and triplock crown, I hope they finally give it a rotatable bezel.
The GMT Master II has come with 3 interchangeable bezels for many years, and the with the introduction of the Rolex LV Submariner with the green bezel, Rolex now has two different color bezels for the Submariner that are interchangeable.
I think Rolex should embrace people changing up their watches. The bezel inserts for the now discontinues Rolex GMT are relatively inexpensive. As I understand it you can purchase an authentic Pepsi, Coke or Espresso bezel insert for around $75. One of the challenges with those bezel inserts is that over time, as they are exposed to UV light and things like salt-water, they can fade, and they can also get nicked or scratched.
With the advent of the new Supercase Rolex GMT Master is has a ceramic bezel that will never change color or fade. It is also as scratch-proof as the synthetic sapphire crystals Rolex uses which means it is probably completely scratch-proof. This is an un-confirmed number, but somebody mentioned it cost close to $1000 to replace a ceramic Rolex bezel. I believe that even if the bezels are $1000, Rolex would sell many of them in different colors if they offered them.
Bamford & Sons is a long-established bespoke suiting house. Bespoke is a tailoring term that means "custom-made."
Bamford & Sons also has a bespoke watch department, that offers customized Rolex watches, like the PVD, black coated watches. Some of their designs are really interesting.
This kind of brings us to an interesting topic, and that is the question of whether or not Rolex should re-open their custom shop to everybody? Fender guitar is as popular in the guitar world as Rolex is in the watch world. Fender guitar has a custom shop that, for a premium price will customize your Fender guitar however YOU want.
I think Rolex should offer the same service. I think many people are fine with the idea that you can get a stainless daytona with a black or white dial, but then there are people like me who don't want to live in a black & white world. I personally like the idea of having a cool watch that is unlike any other watch on earth. I don't like going to a party wearing my LV while I talk to another guy who is wearing one.
Bafmord & Sons has been offering unusually customized Rolex watches succesfully for four years, and now they have an online simulator that allows you to roll your own.
You can visit the Bamford & Sons bespoke watch department by clicking here.
I experimented with the online design simulator and designed this green dial combo. In the past Rolex actually made prototype Submariner watches with a hunter green dial, but never brought them to market and they have never been seen by the public, so I decided to mock one up. I also gave my design a black date wheel with a white day which is the opposite of how the date wheel is on a standard Submariner.
This next image is what you see when you first land in the design simulator. Kind of cool looking if you ask me. I don't know if Bamford is a Rolex authorized dealer, but I doubt it.
I also think that companies that offer customization service for Rolex will continue to be a growing trend. Bamford & Sons, as far as I know, is the first to offer such a service.
Christie's has an Important Watches Auction coming up December 12, 2008 in New York at Rockefeller Center.
There are two really interesting watches that caught my eye. First is this magnificent stainless steel Rolex Curvex Art-Deco Watch [Reference 6555] that was made around 1930. I can't believe how timeless this design is. If Rolex mad this exact watch today, I would wear it.
It is 45mm long and has tumbling Arabic numerals with a hinged back. Christie's says it is circa 1930, but I think it could be from as early as 1928. [Lot 31 / Sale 2041, Estimate $3,500-$4,500]
Unique Arrow Hands
Next we have this Rolex GMT Master [Reference 1675] with definitely unusual if not unique arrow hands. I have never seen hands like this? Interesting design. [Lot 265 / Sale 2041, Estimate $15,000-$25,000]
I wonder if this watch was a prototype? It also has an unusual dual indices in the six o'clock position. Notice the standard GMT marker is elevated and has a small round marker underneath it. One thing I have learned about Rolex design throughout its history, is that they seem to have experimented like crazy with their details.
It almost seems like they threw everything they could think of at the wall and just watched to see what stuck. I mean this as a compliment. In design it is important to experiment and in my own experience as a designer, I have made more beautiful mistakes than intentionally great targeted designs.
This is a very important story. The mechanical wristwatch changed everything and in many ways it was the first computer that anybody could own. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual was the first of a long line of timeless watches from the great Hans Wilsdorf and continues to be one of the most popular models to date. However, no one would have imagined how iconic the Rolex Oyster would become when it was realized over a century ago.
I would like to thank Rolex historian and author, John Brozek. John Brozek is the author of the book, The Rolex Report. John helped me considerably with putting together this story and I could not have done it without him. I must admit that I find John Brozek's passion for Rolex and its profound history to be intoxicating and refreshing. Thank you John!!!
Last, but not least, I would like to thank Rolex historian and author, James Dowling. James Dowling's book, The Best Of Time has been a superb source of knowledge and I have probably learned more about Rolex history from James Dowling than any other person. As time goes by, and as I learn more about the absolutely fascinating history of Rolex, I continue to appreciate James Dowlings significant contribution that much more. James, thank you very, very much!!!
The Oyster & The Mermaid
The History Of The Rolex Oyster
The story of the Rolex Oyster is really the story of the foundation of Rolex. Rolex was founded by Hans Wilsdorf 100 years ago in London England. Rolex History can accurately be divided into two distinct timeframes.
The first timeframe is the Hans Wilsdorf era which began in 1905 and went until Hans Wilsdorf passed away in 1960. The second timeframe has been the Hieniger era which began in 1963 when Andre Heiniger became the director of Rolex. Years later, Andre's son, Patrick Heiniger took over as the director or C.E.O. in 1992 and ran it until last week.
This story, about the history of the Rolex Oyster only deals with the first quarter of Rolex history, and the star of this show is the young Hans Wilsdorf as pictured below.
Founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf
In order to tell this story properly, we must begin at the beginning–The beginning of Time. The time before time. In order to truly understand Rolex history, we must first examine the social construct of time. We must seek to understand its true meaning and we can only do so by starting at the beginning.
What is time? Why is it significant, or is it? Are we slaves to time? What first caused man to attempt to measure time? In my personal opinion it all boils down to synchronicity. Let me be specific. When people or an entity are in sync they achieve synergy. Synergy has in many ways marked the upward and downward surges of mankind.
Mankind's first successful attempt at tracking time, many thousands of years ago, did not use a watch, but a lunar calendar to track the seasons. The Egyptians created the sun-dial for tracking the hours of the day when the sun was visible.
The ancient Sumarian's & Babylonian's were the first to study and contemplate the existence of measurable time by observing the workings of the heavens' and it was their revelations that were passed along to the ancient Greek's that bore the understanding of time.
Prior to that, the Greeks based all their truth on myth, superstition and legend, but with the new age of science came a newfound desire to separate the fact from the fiction–Science and reason were born.
Mathematics, which is the science of logic was also born, and many long held assumptions about how the universe worked were called into question.
Aristostenes was a Greek philosopher who conducted one of the first scientific experiments to determine if the earth was truly round or flat, and from this experiment came a profound understanding of how time actually worked.
In Europe the great cathedral's were the first to have clocks that would allow passers-by to tell the time. Then the development of the pocket-watch changed everything with its introduction several hundred years ago. For the first time, two men could accurately synchronize their actions with a device they carried in their vest. The pocket-watch changed everything.
When Hans Wilsdorf started his first watch company in London in 1905 with his brother-in-law it was named Wilsdorf and Davis. At the time, pocket-watches were everywhere and wrist-watches were only worn by ladies. The first wrist watches were simply pocket watches with wire lugs soldered onto the pocket-watch case.
All pocket watches had the same basic snap-back case construction for hundreds of years and this created a challenge in humid, tropical environments. The challenge was that the dust and moisture and perspiration could penetrate the watch case and corrode the watch from the inside.
The following four images are from James Dowling & Jeff Hess' book The Best Of Time and they help illustrate the evolution of the watch to make it waterproof.
The Snap-Back Case
This first image is a snap-back Rebberg Rolex watch from 1914. Essentially it is a pocketwatch on a leather strap.
If you look closely at the image above, you notice the watch has a hinge on the left side of the case. If you flip the watch around onto its face (as seen below) you notice that if you open the rear door it exposes the movement. (Note: the snap-back door on the photo below is not in sharp focus, but it is on the left edge of the photo sitting upright perpendicular to the case). The challenge is there is no seal or gasket to stop dust, perspiration, water or humidity from entering the case.
The Hermetically-Sealed Case
The next Rolex pictured below is called a Hermetic watch and it was made in 1924. This new style of watch completely protected the entire movement and notice that when it is sealed the watch winding crown is hidden inside the watch.
Think of a Hermetically sealed watch as being like a jar lid screwed on a jar. Once the lid is screwed into place, it forms an impervious barrier. No liquid can get in our out of the jar when the lid is securely screwed into place.
This was revolutionary at the time because it consited of two pieces. Basically you would spin the threaded cap off the front of the watch (think jar lid). The challenge was that in order to change the time or wind the watch you had to twist off the top every time and then twist it back on afterward. Even though it worked, this design was short lived because it was a bit like having the on-off switch for the windshield wipers in the glove compartment of your car.
Notice also the face of the cap has a machined or fluted edge to make it easy to grip. Another challenge was that over time the fluted bezel would wear down so if you used it for a long time, eventually you would no longer be able to grip the face to twist it off.
This machined edge or fluted bezel is the genesis for the fluted bezels on modern Rolex watches including the Day-Date and Datejust.
Note the wire lugs are soldered to the case, so the only way to replace the leather strap was to cut off the old one and sew on the new one.
The Rolex Oyster Case
This is where the Rolex Oyster comes into play. Understand that in 1926 the invention of a waterproof watch was a HUGE innovation. Rolex basically developed a new watch case that Hans Wilsdorf dubbed The Oyster. The oyster consisted of a screw-in front and back as seen on Mercedes Glietze' Rolex below.
The original Rolex Oyster was revolutionary because it not only had a screw-off front and back, but it also had a winding crown that also screwed down like a hatch on a submarine, thus making it impervious to dust, water and perspiration.
Hans Wilsdorf was not a watchmaker nor was he Swiss. He was born in Bavaria, which is part of Germany today. Hans really was, more than anything, a superb brand architect. Rolex had created an amazing new innovation, but it needed a way to communicate this innovation to the watch buying public.
On October 7, 1927 a British woman named Mercedes Gleitze who had been working as a bilingual secretary in Westminster became the first Englishwoman to swim the English channel from France to England as well as the twelfth swimmer to achieve the feat. Mercedes was the third woman to cross the channel after two American women had successfully swam the channel before Mercedes, but the fact that a Englishwoman swam the channel was a very big deal.
Mercedes had trained to be a long distance swimmer in the River Thames. In 1923 she set the British women's record for Thames swimming in 10 hours and 45 minutes.
Swimming the English Channel was not an easy feat for Mercedes. Mercedes tried unsuccessfully seven times prior and finally on her eighth attempt she finally made it across in 15 hours and 15 minutes.
Mercedes Glietze, First English Woman To Swim The English Channel
At 2:55 a.m. on October 7, 1927, Mercedes Glietze left Gris Nez, France and swam out into the English channel which was shrouded in thick fog. Mercedes experienced many challenges on her swim including almost being run over by ships, not to mention the cold water that never rose above 60 degrees.
At 6:10 p.m. Mercedes arrived on the English coast between South Foreland and St. Magret's Bay. As she came out of the water she murmured the words, "Thank God, I am conscious!" and then she collapsed into the arms of her trainer, Mr. G. H. Allan.
Mercedes remained unconscious for two hours. After she regained consciousness, Mercedes was interviewed by the London Times and she mentioned that for two hours she had been enduring terrific pain in her limbs from the severely cold water.
Four short days after Mercedes Glietze became the first Englishwoman to successfully swim the English channel, a strange thing occurred. Another British woman named Dr. Dorothy Cochran Logan who went by the name of Miss Mona McLennan (for swimming purposes) claimed to have swam the channel in a record breaking time of 13 hours and 10 minutes.
Apparently, the British people were skeptical about Dr. Dorothy Cochran's new record and it turned out that she admitted she lied and did not swim the entire channel. Then people turned to Mercedes Gleitze and accused her of doing the same thing.
Mercedes was very upset by the false allegations and announced she would prove that she had crossed the channel by doing it again only 14 days later. This of course, caused a big media stir and Mercedes was in the limelight.
Hans Wilsdorf got wind of this interesting news and met with Mercedes and offered her a Rolex Oyster watch to wear on her Vindication Swim. That watch is pictured three photographs up the page.
The Vindication Swim
According to an article from the London Times dated October 21, 1927, Mercedes Gleitze wore her Rolex Oyster around her neck on a band. In the Photo below we see Mercedes entering the chilly water. As you can also see there were a number of onlookers as Mercedes entered the water at 4:21 a.m. If you look closely you can see the watch dangling on a necklace from her neck.
Mercedes got off to a good start. As you can see from the photo below, she was in good spirit and smiling.
The water was ice cold and on average 6 degrees colder than on her last swim just two weeks prior. Mercedes swan breaststroke and sidestroke only.
At 1 p.m. Mercedes was very cold and exhausted. She was so exhausted, she was having a hard time staying alert. As her trainer was trying to encourage her, Mercedes responded by saying, "Why don't you let me sleep?"
At 2 p.m. her trainer tried to rouse her sharply and she responded by saying "Let me sleep, please!" Her trainer asked if she wanted to give up and she said no. Mercedes started falling asleep while she was swimming. She would wake up every few seconds and then seem to fall back asleep. She was now about 7 miles from the English coast, but she was making very little progress.
At 2:25 p.m., a ladder was placed at the stern of the small boat that was following her. When she saw the ladder, she deliberately swam away from it. At 2:45 she was completely out of energy and allowed herself to be hoisted into the boat by her trainer.
According to the London Times "She had swum with remarkable endurance under very difficult conditions. The temperature of the water varied from 53 to 58 degrees, as compared to 60 degrees on October 7, when she made her successful swim."
Mercedes Gleitze may not have swam all the way across the English channel the second time and she may have been forgotten in history, but Hans Wilsdorf had better plans for her. Essentially, Hans Wilsdorf helped turn Mercedes into a sports celebrity that is well know to this day in the Rolex world. Mercedes Gleitze is picture below in the Rolex ad in the bottom left hand corner.
Rolex leveraged Mercedes celebrity for all that is was worth as can be seen in this French Rolex ad from 1930. I think the marketing message this ad gave modern women was that if you wore a Rolex Oyster, you could achieve anything.
Rolex began giving their authorized dealers fish tanks to put in their windows to show-off the waterproofness of their watches.
Rolex published the innovative ad below that shows a woman with her watch in a fishtank to illustrate the waterproofness of their watches. Just a few years earlier, this would have been unheard of.
Mercedes Gleitze is pictured below, and she went on to get married and have a family
The Mother of Rolex Endorsement
Mercedes Gleitze was was probably the first celebrity female athlete in the U.K., or certainly one of them. It is also profound to realize she was probably the first celebrity in history to endorse the Rolex brand.
If you stop and think about it for a moment, it is kind interesting that the first celebrity to endorse Rolex was a woman and not a man. Mercedes Gleitze belongs to the ages as does Hans Wilsdorf, but I imagine their story will continue to inspire people for generations to come.
For some reason, I find the photo below of Mercedes Gleitze and all the other people at the train station to be mesmerizing. It almost seems like the people in the photo are watching you watch them from way back in history–neat.
Rolex being the first to bring waterproof watches to the market was a huge technological achievement for Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex.
The next major step would be to perfect the perpetual movement, meaning a watch that relied on an internal rotor that would wind the watch by deriving energy from wrist movement, thus keeping the watch perpetually wound. This was achieved by Rolex in 1935.
Hans Wilsdorf was a brilliant brand architect and had a tremendous cunning for strategic design and marketing. He passed away in 1960 and the torch was passed to the Heiniger's.
Historically Rolex has always been extremely secretive and discreet, and no journalists in the past have ever been invited "INSIDE ROLEX" to explore and report on all four Rolex Manufacturing faclities in Switzerland.
In November 2013, this changed when Rolex invited Jake to take an unprecdented journey into the heart of Rolex to learn and report on everything he witnessed and learned.
This Super-Detailed 3 Part Story is a "MUST READ" story for anybody who wants to understand what really makes Rolex tick.
The Hans Wilsdorf Story: Founder Of Rolex
Rolex is one of the most recognizable brands on earth, but very little has been known about its real history. If you really, really want to understand what makes Rolex tick, I very highly recommend you read the fascinating story of Rolex's amazing founder–Hans Wilsdorf.
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