Thursday, September 05, 2019

Scott Crossfield: A New Chapter In the History of the GMT-Master has been discovered....

The Complete History Of The Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex X-Files

...Rolex Supersonic Coolness...

Scott Crossfield

Record Setting U.S. Navy Test-Pilot

The Right Stuff

First Pilot To Fly @ 
Twice The Speed Of Sound 

Rolex GMT-Master

With this story, another previously undocumented chapter is being added to The Complete History of The Rolex GMT-Master.  I have been working on this story for many years, and I am so excited to finally publish it. This story is of particular significance as it provides yet another previously missing piece of the Rolex GMT-Master History Puzzle in the role it played in Rolex's Conquest of Space, as we see on Scott Crossfield's wrist in the photo below.

Scott Crossfield was an American Naval Officer and test pilot and was the first of twelve pilots who would fly the North American X-15, which was an experimental spaceship that was cooperated by NASA and The United States Air Force.  In 1953 he became the first to fly at twice the speed of sound. Ironically he passed away in a crash at the age of 84.

Albert Scott Crossfield was born on October 2, 1921 in Berkeley, California. Scott served in the U.S. Navy as a fighter pilot and flight instructor during World War II. After the war he attended the University of Washington's where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1949, and in 1950 gained his Master degree in Aeronautical Engineering. Scott Crossfield was the first of twelve X-15 Pilots and  In the photo below we see Scott standing in front of his X-15.

Scott Crossfield joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) High-Speed Flight station as an aeronautical research pilot. NACA was later renamed 'NASA Dryden Research Center', and today is named the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

Crossfield flew many different experimental aircraft in tests at Edwards Air Force Base including the X-1, XF-92, X-4, X-5, Douglass D-558-I Skystreak as well as the Douglass D-558-II Skyrocket.

Chuck Yeager

In order to understand Scott Crossfield's achievements let's put things in perspective by taking a look at the context surrounding his world. We must begin by looking at General Chuck Yeager who was the first man to break the speed of sound barrier in 1947.

The photo below shows Chuck Yeager in his X-1 Airplane when he flew into the history books as the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, and he was wearing his trusted Rolex Oyster when he set this remarkable record.

The photo above is cropped from the photo below which is mind-boggling if you click on it and check out the detail. It was taken in 1947 and is a photo of Chuck Yeager haulin' in his X-1.

Chuck Yeager was a big Rolex fan and he sent in the photo below to Rolex in Geneva in 1954.

First Pilot to Break Break Mach 2

Scott Crossfield was the first pilot fo break the record for flying at twice the speed of sound back in 1953. 

In the photo below we see Scott Crossfield with the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket (front, center), with his support team: two North American F-86 Sabre chase planes and the Boeing P2B-1S Super-fortress mothership, at the NACA High Speed Flight Station, Edwards Air Force Base, California, 1 January 1954. 

In the zoomed in version below I think I see Chuck Yeager is standing closest to the Skyrocket. You are seeing the precursor to NASA which was NACA.

Scott Crossfield is picture below on November 20, 1953 just after he flew his Douglass D-558-2 Skyrocket into the history books when he flew it twice as fast as the speed of sound.

The video footage below showcases Scott Crossfield record setting Skyrocket flight in 1953.

North American X-15

As previously mentioned, Scott Crossfield was the first of a dozen X-15 test pilots. He was also the Chief Engineering test pilot for North American and played a huge role in the development and design of the North American X-15. Crossfield flew a total of 14 of 199 total X-15 flight tests and he reached Mach 3 (2,290 MPH). 

"I am an aeronautical engineer, an aerodynamicist and a designer. My flying was only primarily because I felt it was essential to designing and building better airplanes for pilots to fly."

—Scott Crossfield

Scott Crossfield designed the X-15 along with many of its innovative features. He first flew the X-15 on June 8, 1959, which featured an unpowered glide from 37,550 feet and he then landed it successfully. The X-15 was unusual as it featured skis in the back as part of the landing gear.

In the next photo below discovered by Nick Gould we see Scott Crossfield attending an event for the Society of Experimental Test Pilots on October 8, 1959, and notice he is wearing his Rolex GMT-Master.

In the video below shot on September 17, 1959 we witness Scott Crossfield's second X-15 flight, which was the first powered X-15 test flight.

Scott Crossfield's Number 2 X-15 is pictured above and below on November 5, 1959 after it cracked in half during an emergency landing at Rosamond Dry Lake, which is approximately 10 miles (16 Kilometers) southwest of Edwards Air Force Base in California. At the time of the crash the X-15 was still partially loaded with propellant fuel. 

Neil Armstrong

Scott Crossfield is pictured below on February 9, 1961 at Edwards Air Force Base with two other famous X-15 pilots: On the far right we see noted X-15 pilot Neil Armstrong who would go on to become the first man to set foot on the moon aboard Apollo 11, in 1969. In the middle we see U.S. Air Force Pilot, Major Robert White. Just 2 days prior, on February 7, 1961 Robert White has set a new record in the X-15 of 2,275 MPH.

The next two photos show Scott Crossfield recieving the Harmon Trophy Award from President Kennedy at the White House in Washington D.C. on December 1st, 1961.

Below is a U.S. Air Force 1960 X-15 Annual Report video presentation given by Scott Crossfield on September 15, 1961 which is absolutely fascinating. Notice Scott Crossfield is wearing Rolex GMT-Master in the video presentation!!!  

Pete Knight

The second man we need to explore in order to best understand Scott Crossfield's achievements is X-15 Pilot, William J. "Pete" Knight who is pictured below in front on an X-15.

I first became aware of Scott Crossfield more than a decade ago when I was researching my seminal story I wrote on Supersonic Speed King, Pete Knight. Notice in the third paragraph of the letter below, Rolex U.S.A. President, Rene Paul Dentan mentioned Scott Crossfield.

Former Rolex U.S.A. President, Rene-Paul Dentan is pictured below in a photo from 1980, which appears courtesy of S3C Private Collection.

Pete Knight to this day holds the speed record for level flight when he flew into the history books in 1967 when he piloted his X-15 at Mach 6.7. Pete Knight's X-15 he set the all-time record in was painted with a special abatement white to keep the spaceship cooler when it reentered the earths atmosphere. The X-15 was the precursor to the Space Shuttle.

Pete Knight wore his Pepsi Rolex GMT-Master when he set the all-time speed record for level flight, and we see it pictured above in an exclusive photo. Today, this watch resides in Rolex's Private Museum Collection in Geneva. Pete Knight is pictured below in his later years wearing his beloved Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master which he wore his entire life.

The Right Stuff

Scott Crossfield was one of the key characters in the 1983 movie, The Right Stuff and was played by Scott Wilson.

Special Thanks to Nick Gould (@niccoloy) and Philip from Moon Watch Universe for their invaluable contributions to this story.