Sir Edmund Hillary's Everest Expedition Rolex Discovered!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Missing Piece Of The Puzzle Has Been Found
This is one of the most exciting moments of my life with Jake's Rolex Watch Blog!!!!!!!!!!
I wrote a super detailed article about Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's conquest of Mount Everest which you can read by clicking here. The challenge is that I was able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle except one? and that was whether Sir Edmund Hillary was wearing a Rolex on his wrist when he conquered Everest and if he did where was the actual watch today?
After many months and many international emails and phone calls I can report with confidence that Sir Edmunds Hillary's Rolex has been found and properly documented. The watch is in possession of the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum in Zürich, Switzerland. I have been working with folks at the Beyer Clock And Watch Museum on this story and they just confirmed with me that Rolex in Geneva confirmed the watch indeed belonged to Sir Edmund Hillary and was given to the Hunt Expedition.
This first photo is of the the actual watch Sir Edmund Hillary wore when he conquered Everest. The watch is an Officially Certified Chronometer Rolex Oyster Perpetual with a white dial and it is pictured below on top of a Rolex magazine ad which I believe is from between 1953 and late 1958. The irony, of course is Edmund Hillary's Rolex watch was NOT a (as widely believed and reported) a Rolex Explorer model, but a Rolex Oyster Perpetual COSC.
This next Rolex magazine advertisement is from 1953 and it appears to show the exact Rolex Oyster Perpetual that Sir Edmund Hillary wore. It does not show a Rolex Explorer, but the actual model as seen above but on an early Rolex Oyster bracelet. To the best of my recollection this model is very similar to the one Chuck Yeager wore when he broke the speed of sound barrier in 1947.
Also, notice that next to the photo of the watch in the ad below it says:
"The ROLEX OYSTER PERPETUAL that accompanied the victorious British Everest Expedition. Waterproof, self-winding, and a miracle of accuracy, this watch is the 'highest achievement' of the watchmaking industry."
It is interesting to note the use of language in the ad below as well–where Rolex uses the term "Highest Achievement." This is interesting to me because in my mind that is what Rolex has always been about. I think there is something about wearing a Rolex on your wrist that makes people strive higher to achieve. Perhaps, I and Rolex are romanticizing things, but it makes perfect sense to me.
The ad has a letter from Sir Edmund Hillary to Rolex written upon his return from the 1952 British Himalayan Expedition and it reads:
"I received the watch (Rolex) on March 29th an Jaynagar on the Nepalese border, and throughout the whole of the British Cho Oyu Expedition, until we finally reached India again some 14 weeks later, I wore the watch (Rolex) continuously, night and day, and on no occasion did it stop or require winding. In the course of the expedition it experienced considerable extremes of temperature, from the great heat of India to the cold temperature at over 22,000 feet, and seemed unaffected by the knocks it received on rock climbs or the continual jarring on long spells of stop cutting in ice."
"To me an accurate watch is a novelty. I am one of those unfortunate people whose watches, for some some strange reason, always seem to go slow. No adjustment seems to counteract. However this Rolex has been different a different matter altogether. Its accuracy is all one could desire and it has run continuously without winding ever since I put it on some nine months ago...I count your watch amongst my most treasured possessions."
These next two photos are of Sir Edmund Hillary's actual Rolex Watch he was wearing when he conquered Mount Everest. This first photo which gets us up close was taken by Andrew and it shows all the detail on the dial. When I was doing research for the original story, I watched a tremendous amount of film footage and I kept looking for a Rolex Explorer on an Oyster band with a black dial, but I saw nothing that even resembled one. Instead, I kept seeing members of the Everest expedition including Hillary wearing watches on leather straps with white dial and this confused me terribly.
Welcome Home Baby!!!
The obvious reason I did not see any Rolex Explorer models is because the members of the Hunt expedition were not wearing them. In the photo below of Sir Edmund Hillary's watch we see that it has an extra long leather strap which enabled it to be worn over clothing or gloves.
The following images and text are from the original article I wrote:
If you examine the evidence, it appears that Edmund Hillary wore a Rolex and a Smiths' watch. This next image substantiates that claim. It was taken just after he came down from the peak. He is posing with a group of Sherpa's and he is wearing two watches–one on each wrist–at the same time. Both watches appear to have white dials on dark leather straps.
Why would Hillary be wearing two watches at the same time? Probably for the same reason the NASA astronauts typically do. Because they are timing different things at the same time.
This next photo of Hillary (pictured on the left) shows him in the foothills with just one watch on a black leather strap.
Same with this next photo. One watch on his left wrist.