Friday, July 27, 2007

Part 5: Jacques Cousteau & The Aqua Lung: The Complete History Of The Rolex Submariner and SEA-DWELLER

The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER
Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean

Jacques-Yves Cousteau

 Emile Gagan 

& The Aqualung

I must begin this chapter by thanking four famous divers who are all Jacques-Yves Cousteau experts for their invaluable contributions to this story. I would like to thank my great pals: Jean-Michel and Henri-Germain Delauze in France, Dr. Phil Nuytten in Canada and Ryan Spence in the U.S.A.

Emile Gagnan was born in the French province of Burgoyne (Burgundy) in November 1900 and graduated from technical school in the early 1920s. After attending technical school Emile Gagnan went to work for the French company named L'aire Liquide where he developed an automobile engine that ran on cooking oils during World War II–since petroleum was scarce at the time.

Emile Gagnan is pictured below in 1930 and would go on co-invent the Aqua-Lung with French Navy Lieutenant, Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1942.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born in Saint-Andre-de-Cubzac, Gironde, France on June 11, 1910 and passed away 87 years later on June 25, 1997.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was commonly referred to as Commander Cousteau and his friends and family refer to him as Jeek. Jeek was based upon his initials of JYC.

It is interesting to note the year Jacques-Yves was born, the Rolex brand Hans Wilsdorf founded in London, England was only two years old.

In the past I wrote a detailed article on Jacques-Yves Cousteau's career achievements which you can read by clicking here.

To Live On The Land We Must Learn From The Sea

In my personal opinion, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was in a class by himself. I am going to go out-on-a-limb as I have done so many times before, and argue Jacques-Yves Cousteau inspired Rolex to create the Rolex Submariner. There!!! I said it!!! I just made a bold declarative statement and, yes, I said I believe Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his early career achievements inspired Rolex to bring the Rolex Submariner SCUBA-Diving wrist-watch to market.

Let's see if I can substantiate my bold claim!?!

As a small child Jacques-Yves Cousteau suffered from poor health, but he was nonetheless enchanted with the Ocean and swimming. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was born in 1910 and graduated from high-school in 1929 in Paris.

In 1930 Jacques-Yves entered the French Naval Academy (Ecole Navale) and he graduated from the French Naval Academy as a gunnery officer with the rank of Ensign.

During World War II, in 1942, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was fascinated with airplanes and intended to become a French Naval Aviator and started his flight training.

Cousteau was involved in a very serious automobile accident that ended his dream to become a Navy pilot. Instead he spent time at sea and focused on undersea photography, which was still in its infancy.

While serving on the French Naval ship, Le Condorcet, Jacques-Yves began his long and profound journey into the world of underwater diving. Jacques-Yves first diving equipment he borrowed from a French Navy friend.

"From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to the earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and his is free." –Jacques-Yves Cousteau

Young Jacques-Yves Cousteau Preparing To Dive

In the late 1930s Jacques-Yves worked for the French Navy Information Service and he toured the world and served in tours to the Soviet Union, Shanghai, China and Japan.

On July 12, 1937 Married Simone Melchior. Simone Melchior's father Henri Melchior and bother her grandfathers, Jules Melchior and Jean Caehme had served as French Naval Admirals.

In 1942 Simone's father provided the capital to her husband Jacques to start his company that would build the Aqua-Lung. Her father was on the board of Air Liquide and he introduced Jacques-Yves to Emile Gagnan.

Jacques-Yves and his close friends were diving fanatics and spear-fisherman that more than anything wanted to be free in the water. Jacques and his diving buddies like Frédéric Dumas experimented like crazy with different types of underwater breathing systems.

It seemed that no matter what, they were never quite satisfied with any of the existing primitive SCUBA systems which would only allow them to dive in shallow water, but they wanted the freedom to dive and explore much deeper into the sea.

SCUBA is the acronym of Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

The First Aqua-Lung Regulator Prototype 1943

In this next photo we see a young Jacques-Yves Cousteau in 1943 in the Marne River as he prepares his first test dive using his Aqua-Lung Regulator.

This next photo is of Jacques Cousteau's diving partner Frédéric Dumas and he is wearing a CG45 Prototype diving in Marseille, France.

The Pioneers Of DEEP-SEA Documentaries

In the summer of 1942 Jacques-Yves Cousteau directed and narrated his first underwater film named "Par 18 Metres de fond" which translated into English means "By 18 Meters Of Water."

In the photo below we see Jacques Cousteau standing in the rear boat with a mask in his hand next to Philippe Tailliez who is sitting with the t-shirt wrapped around his head. Raymond Garcy is standing on the far left and Frédéric Dumas is standing-up on the far right, holding his crossbow speargun he invented.

Jacques Cousteau in 1942 while filming: By 18 Meters Of Water

In 1943 Jacques-Yves Cousteau directed and narrated his second pioneering underwater film named Epaves which translated into English means Wrecks. Epaves is the first film to feature what would go on to become the Cousteau-Gagnam Aqua-Lung diving system. The film was shot of the coast of Marseille, France and they dove down to 200 Feet (62 Meters).

In the movie Epaves, they dive down to explore a famous shipwreck called "The Dalton."

Frédéric Dumas Filmed Underwater in the 1943 Movie named "Epaves"

This landmark historic film is in French, but it is easy to follow if you don't speak French. In is also important to recall the context in which this film was shot. At the time this film was shot, World War II was in full force and France was occupied by Germany, yet Jacques-Yves Cousteau was able to shoot this movie with his 3 close friends, Philippe Tailliez, Frédéric Dumas and Roger Garry.

In the early developmental years of the Aqua-Lung, Jacques-Yves Cousteau continued his Naval duties up until the end of World War II in 1945. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was involved in the French resistance which covertly fought the German NAZI regime through sabotage, and spy missions. One of Jacques-Yves duties was spying on the Italian Navy.

In Search Of The Answers To Questions Unknown

Jacques-Yves wife, Simone Cousteau's father was on the board of a French organization named L'aire Liquide. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was introduced in 1942, during the middle of World War II in France, to Emile Gagnan.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau is pictured above in the photo with his partner and co-developer of the Aqua-Lung Emile Gagnan.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau is pictured below in wearing an early Aqua-Lung.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau's first wife, Simone Melchior-Cousteau is pictured below in 1945. Henri-Germain Delauze, who founded the French dive company COMEX mentioned to me in an interview that when he was a diver on Jacques-Yves Cousteau's team in 1955 that all the divers loved Simone. Her nickname was "La Bergere" which when translated into English means "The Shepherdess."

Simone earned this beloved title by the Cousteau divers because Simone took such great care of them on filming expeditions. In effect she was very much like a den mother to the crew of the Cousteau.

SCUBA Diving was a family affair for the Cousteau's. In the photo below taken in 1945 we see Simone and Jacques-Yves with their small two boys Jean-Michel and Philippe diving together.

C'est Magnifique!!!!!

If you stop and think about it for a moment, you realize how profound this photo is. How many men in 1945 had their wife and two boys scuba-diving with them!?! None...Jacques Cousteau was always so far ahead of his time...Talk about Joie de Vivre!!!

The photo below of the French Naval GRS team, shot in 1947 shows Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the far left, Destroyer Quartermaster Georges, Philippe Tailliez, Destroyer Master Pinard, Frederic Dumas and Second Master Morandiere aboard the L'Elie Monnier as the prepare to dispatch the French FNRS2 Bathyscaphe for Professor Auguste Piccard who we will be examining in detail in the next chapter.

The Calypso
To Sail On A Dream On A Crystal Clear Ocean

In 1949 Jacques-Yves Cousteau officially retired from the French Navy. In 1950 Jacques Cousteau founded the French Oceanographic Campaigns (FOC) and leased a ship from Thomas Leol Guinness, the owner of the Guinness Brewing for one French Franc per year.

The Calpyso was originally a British World War II ship and it was retrofitted to become Jacques Cousteau's flaghip research vessel for filming and diving.

Papa 'Doc' Flash
DEEP-SEA Photography Revolution

Jacques-Yves Cousteau had an absolute commitment to excellence in everything he achieved and he realized in order to take his underwater photography to the next level he would have to seek out the best aquatic photographer in the world. Jacques Cousteau found such a man Harold "Doc" Edgerton in the United States at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton was a professor of electrical engineering at MIT who invented the stroboscope, also know as strobe-light which went on to become the electronic camera flash bulb. Harold Edgerton was a blue-blooded American whose ancestors came over on the Mayflower. Edgerton graduated from the MIT school of engineering in 1927.

Harold Edgerton worked with Jacques Cousteau and provided him with underwater stroboscopes to help him get crystal-clear images in the dark ocean. Jacques Cousteau nicknamed Harold Edgerton "Papa Flash." In the video footage below we see Jacques Cousteau swimming around in the MIT pool experimenting with a waterproof camera in 1952.

Harold "Papa Flash" Edgerton became an indispensable associate and close friend of Jacques Cousteau. He was an expedition member onboard the Calypso from 1953 to 1954 and is seen onboard the Calypso while filming The Silent World in 1954.

Harold Edgerton was a not only a photography pioneer, but really the father of modern deep-sea photography. In the following movie we meet Dr. Edgerton and learn all about his fascinating deep-sea photography technology. There are two standout points in this film.

First is the fact that Dr. Edgerton is wearing a stainless-steel Rolex Submariner and secondly, note that he talks about how he designed an deployed the photographic equipment to go down and photograph the U.S. Navy Nuclear Submarine that sank named the USS Thresher (SSN-593) in 1963. This will become significant in a future chapter in this series.

Dr. Harold Egerton took many, many great photographs onboard the Calypso that give us a photographic history of the expeditions. He took the following three photos of Jacques-Yves Cousteau & Emile Gagnan discussing the design of the next generation Aqua-Lung they are working on in 1953.

The Silent World & Rolex Submariner Debut in 1954
Though We Are Strangers In Your Silent World

In 1953 Jacques-Yves Cousteau wrote a book named The Silent World: A Story Of Undersea Discovery & Adventure and in late 1953 and early 1954 Jacques Cousteau turned it into a movie named Le Monde Du Silence (The Silent World) which debuted in 1954 and went on to win an Academy Award in 1956 for Best Documentary.

Original 1954 Movie Poster for Le Monde Du Silence [The Silent World]

This revolutionary documentary was the first of its kind and was one of the first underwater documentaries to be shot in color. The Silent World was shot in the Mediterranean Sea as well as in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and in the Indian Ocean.

This next photo was taken on Calypso's bridge during the shooting of The Silent World with Captain Cousteau peering into the hood of a radar screen to locate a sunken ship located in the Red Sea. Calypso means "Water Nymph" and the ship was originally built in the United States during World War II in 1942 as a Minesweeper J-826 for the British Navy.

After much careful research, I believe the Rolex Submariner Jacques-Yves Cousteau is wearing in the photo above and below could be an early Rolex prototype Submariner [Reference 6204]. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was close friends with Rene-Paul Jeanerrete who in 1953 was the Director of Rolex Geneva.

Rene-Paul Jeanerret was the man at Rolex who came up with the idea of dedicated tool-watches. In 1954 Rolex introduced the Rolex Submariner at Basel Fair, but I believe Jacques-Yves Cousteau was testing an advanced prototype Submariner models aboard the Calypso for Rolex. I would go so far as to say, that in my personal opinion, I think it is likely that Jacques Cousteau's career achievements inspired Rolex to develop the Rolex Submariner diving watch model.

There are many shots of Jacques Cousteau onboard the Calypso during the filming of The Silent World wearing his Rolex Submariner, like in the photo below taken on the bridge with André Laban.

This next shot below is also from the map room/bridge and you see the Rolex Submariner on Jacques Cousteau's wrist. Jacques Cousteau wore his Rolex Submariner a little bit loose as you can tell in all the photos.

This next shot, below, was taken on the ocean floor of André Laban and notice he also is wearing a Rolex Submariner on an Oyster bracelet.

Note: I have encountered conflicting date information on the timeframe Jacques Cousteau shot The Silent World and I am looking into it further. As soon as I find out the truth, I will update it here.

To Light Up The Darkness And Show Us The Way

Jacques-Yves Cousteau brought both of his sons with him on the Calypso when he shot The Silent World. In the photo below taken in 1953 onboard the Calypso by Harold Eugene Edgerton we see a young Jean-Michel Cousteau, with Philippe Cousteau in between his Father, Jacques-Yves & brother Jean-Michel.

In this next image also taken in 1954 onboard the Calypso by Harold Edgerton we see Jacques-Yves with his younger son Philippe.

The Stories You Tell

We see Jacques-Yves Cousteau proudly standing in front of the poster at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology in 1954. Cousteau worked very closely with MIT for many decades.

The French Diving Revolution
Calypso Meets COMEX

The photo was taken in Southern France in Fontaine de Vaucluse in 1955 and it shows a young Jacques-Yves Cousteau at 45 years of age standing in front of a much younger Henri-Germain Delauze–at age 26–who would go on to found the revolutionary French diving company, COMEX. At the time Dalauze was a Cousteau team diver.

This image is so profound I decided to crop and zoom it in for you. What makes this image so profound? It is an image of two French revolutionaries. Two men who would forever change the world of diving. Jaques-Yves Cousteau co-invented the Aqua-lung which brought SCUBA Diving to life and Henri-Germain Delauze ended up being perhaps the greatest beneficiary of this technology.

French Diving Pioneers Jacques-Yves Cousteau & COMEX founder Henri-Germain Delauze in 1955

Emile Gagnan is pictured below (sitting down) with Jacques-Yves Cousteau in the late 1950s.

The Men Who Have Served You So Well

In this next photo we see Jacques-Yves Cousteau wearing an uncommon flip-back Mistral on his chest since it is far more comfortable.

Cousteau would frequently wear his regulator in this position because single state regulators worn on the back have a huge disadvantage of being difficult to breath from in the diving position due to the regulators membrane which is on the back. It appears André Laban (bald) is standing behind him.

Aye, Calypso, I Sing To Your Spirit

The very famous 1970s singer/songwriter John Denver was one of Jacques Cousteau's biggest fans. Not only did he write the fantastic song "Calypso" but he donated all the proceeds from the song to the Cousteau Society. John also performed concerts and donated the proceeds to the Cousteau Society.

So Long And So Well

I don't mean to skip ahead, because we are going to be looking at Jacques-Yves Cousteau in future chapters but I want to share this Cousteau documentary with you which gives you a detailed idea of Jacques-Yves Cousteau's documentary skills.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau is pictured below in 1989 in Papaua, New Guinea with his son Jean-Michel by his side. Jean-Michel produced all of his father's TV shows. Notice Jean-Michel is wearing his stainless steel Submariner.

The Complete History Of
The Rolex Submariner & SEA-DWELLER

Rolex's Conquest Of The Ocean

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