Friday, July 09, 2021

Rolex Super Coolness: Chuck Yeager An Amazing Career...

How Chuck Yeager Became 

A Rolex Brand Ambassador

What can be said of a man after he has departed our world? Prince sang a profound song named Sometimes It Snows In April that has some really profound lines:

Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad
So bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending
But all good things, they say, never last
But all good things they say, never last
And love, it isn't love until it's past 

The line 'love, it isn't love until it's past' strikes me as being on-point for this story as I feel like I am beginning to understand and appreciate—on multiple levels—Chuck Yeager's significance in the history of Rolex and the GMT-Master & beyond. History, when watched in the rear view mirror of life often appears differently than when watching it out the front windshield or side windows. In other words, history doesn't seem like history when we are living though it.

Where Have You Gone
Chuck Yeager?

Also, the line in the Simon & Garfunkel song, Mr. Robinson, about Joe DiMaggio, seems like it could easily be replaced with Chuck Yeager:

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you
Woo, woo, woo
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson?
Jolting Joe has left and gone away
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

I've told Chuck Yeager's story many times and I tried to interview him many years ago, but his wife told me they were in talks with Rolex and I would have to wait until after they worked things out. That opportunity never presented itself, so everything I have discovered and showcased over the past decade and a half has come from research. I wish I had the chance to interview Yeager, but I now feel obligated since this profound new information seen below came in to perhaps complete his Rolex history puzzle. Basically, this new information has caused me to take apart and reconstruct or 'Overhaul' my Chuck Yeager story. When I feel his story is rebuilt & significantly enhanced in the next few days I will remove this notice.

This story covers the history of General Chuck Yeager and showcases much of his Rolex history. In early July of 2021, I received the most interesting insight from a reader of Jake's Rolex World who wrote it to share some super fascinating anecdotes regarding Yeager and Rolex:

I will let William Schrank share this story in his own words:

Hi Jake,

Being a pilot myself and very interested in flying and aviation I avidly read many articles about pilots and flying. I had read several about Gen Yeager and I would often see him wearing a Rolex.

At the time, as you well know, all of the high end magazines had Rolex watch advertisements in them. Usually they featured golf pros, sports figures, or airline pilots or scuba divers being spokespersons for Rolex. So I thought it would be cool if Rolex paid tribute to Gen Yeager by doing an advertisement about him. So I sent a letter proposing this to Rolex HQ. 

You will see the letter they sent back in the attachment (pictured above).

Interestingly enough, and in true Rolex fashion, two years later the ad I have included in the attachment showed up in AOPA Pilot magazine.
Guess the time wasn’t right when I wrote in, lol.

Take care and keep the Rolex information coming!!


Below is the first Rolex Chuck Yeager magazine advertisement that appeared on April of 1987 that William Schrank saw two years after his request letter to Rolex to nominate Chuck Yeager to become a Rolex Ambassador, which he saved and is sharing for this story.

Here is where the story gets even MORE interesting! 

Once again, I will share William Schrank's words:

Hi Jake,

I have always been impressed by Gen Yeager.  After buying and reading his first autobiography I wanted to get an autographed copy. So I took a chance and sent the book to him asking him to autograph it and a letter asking him about his Rolex wearing. I was amazed when some weeks later the signed book arrived and a little later the note arrived (pictured below). I have included a copy of the envelope the note came in. You will see it was dated November 17, 1992. I have always cherished the note and in fact I have it framed on my wall.

I was not lucky enough to know him other than that. However,  I did see him and talk to him briefly at the EAA airshow in Oshkosh WI years later (about 1996 or 1997). He was doing a forum with Bob Hoover. Later, my young son and I were walking around looking at planes and he happened to walk by. My son asked him for his autograph and Gen Yeager signed my sons T shirt and wrote on the back “kick me”. He was wearing a GMT-Master II at that time.

Bill Shrank

Chuck Yeager's Rolex letter to Bill Shrank is absolutely fascinating as it sheds substantial light on Yeager's previously undocumented relationship with Rolex. In particular, the Post Script below Yeager's signature where he says "I have been working with Rolex since 1946". This is profound as Chuck Yeager broke the speed of sound record in 1947, which was a YEAR AFTER he started 'working with Rolex'!?!!

Below is my original story on Chuck Yeager which I am working on significantly updating and expect to have it done in the next few days.:

The Complete History Of The Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex X-Files

...Rolex Supersonic Coolness...

General Chuck Yeager
Record Setting U.S. Air Force Test-Pilot

Belongs To The Ages

The Right Stuff

First Pilot To Break The Speed Of Sound

8 Decades Wearing Nothing But Rolex

Chuck Yeager was one of the greatest pilots that ever lived, and is most famous for being the first to break the speed of sound barrier in level flight in 1947. Chuck passed away today at age 97. The superb GMT-Master Rolex ad below features Chuck wearing a his Pepsi GMT-Master and appears courtesy of One could easily argue Chuck Yeager was the living embodiment and personification of the Rolex GMT-Master.

The photo below shows Chuck Yeager, Commander of the 1ST Fighter Day Squadron at George Air-Force Base in 1958 climbing into the cockpit of his F-100 Super Sabre. This is the earliest documented image of him wearing a Rolex GMT-Master which brings many questions to mind. In particular, what if any was his role in developing the GMT-Master with Rolex?

Nick Gould, the super-talented horological journalist and researcher was the first to identify Yeager wearing a GMT-Master in the photo below which shows Chuck Yeager in 1962 wearing a previously undocumented Rolex GMT-Master Reference 6542 with no crown guards and a bakelite bezel insert!!! 

The supreme irony is I had previously published the photo below of Chuck Yeager wearing the same watch in 1962, but I had mistaken it as a Submariner as he had also worn a big crown Submariner which we will examine later in this fascinating story. 

The discovery of Yeager wearing a GMT-Master back in 1958 lends significant potential credence to the idea he was the leader of The Right Stuff and influenced many other test pilots and Astronauts to wear Pepsi GMT-Master models, including Scott Crossfield who was a pioneering U.S. Navy Test Pilot who was the first pilot to fly at twice the speed of sound, and I was able to document him wearing a GMT-Master back in 1959.

In the photo below we see CBS News Anchor, Walter Cronkite interviewing then Colonel Chuck Yeager at Edwards Air Force Base in California on September 24, 1962 and again we see Chuck rocking a GMT-Master, but this time it features pointed crown guards.

In this next photo from 1986 we see Chuck Yeager wearing his Pepsi GMT-Master.

Was Chuck Yeager Involved

with the GMT-Master Design?

All Original 1955 Rolex Pepsi GMT-Master Courtesy of John Goldberger

The GMT-Master is one of Rolex's most iconic watches, but where exactly did it come from? What was its impetus?

1955 Rolex GMT-Master Advertisement 

When I work on these detailed Rolex history stories for decades, sometimes we discover fascinating puzzle pieces that were hiding in plain sight the whole time. One example of this is the question:

 GMT-Master Development

1953 to 1954 Timeframe

How was Chuck Yeager involved in the original design of the Rolex GMT-Master if at all? Let's hop in the Rolex Time Machine and travel back to 1953 and take a look around. According to the best historical record, Rolex launched the Rolex Submariner in 1953 at Basel Fair in Switzerland. Rolex had been testing Rolex Submariner prototypes with legendary explorer, Jacques-Yves Cousteau beginning in early 1953. In my opinion, based on all the evidence I have seen to date, Jacques-Yves Cousteau was not only the living manifestation and living embodiment of the Rolex Submariner but clearly worked with Rolex in the development of the super-iconic diving tool watch.  

Chuck Yeager is pictured below in 1958 rocking his "Big-Crown" Rolex Submariner, which is interesting. One detail nobody ever talks about—which I believe is worth considering—is the link between the Submariner and the GMT-Master. Essentially, they are remarkably similar watches, and the GMT-Master is clearly derivative of the Submariner as it was developed and came to market a year later.

In the photo below we see a super-high-resolution close-up of Chuck Yeager's 'Big-Crown' Submariner [Reference 6538], which is the same Rolex Submariner model Elvis Presley wore in Girls, Girls, Girls (1962), and Sean Connery wore in Dr. No (1963).

Nick Gould and I were recently discussing this story and had a huge epiphany when we did some basic math. Look at the 1953 signed photo below from Chuck Yeager to Rolex Founder, Hans Wilsdorf and it shows Yeager standing in front of the Bell X-1A which he flew at Mach 2 which reads:

 "To: Hans Wilsdorf. 


If you should build airplanes, they 


would be the FASTEST in the world!"


—Charles E. Yeager, 


Lt/Col U.S.A.

The curios detail in the above singed photo is it was addressed to Rolex's founder, Hans Wilsdorf. The text suggests Yeager is complimenting Wilsdorf on his brilliant design and marketing acumen, which is highly suggestive that he is referring to the development of the GMT-Master.

Then we see this next signed photo from Chuck Yeager to Rolex which is dated May 27, 1954 which was first published on Jake's Rolex World.

More Than Just A Coincidence

What do the 1953 and 1954 hand-signed photos to Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex signify? According to the Rolex history record, the Rolex GMT-Master was introduced in 1954, which would loan a great deal of credence and direct evidence to suggest Chuck Yeager was involved with Rolex in the development of the GMT-Master.

Nick Gould said to me "I believe the Blue and Red GMT-Master bezel was based upon the instrumentation panel of the horizon indicator in airplanes.

Below is a photo of an Attitude Indicator (AI), which is one of the essential six basic instruments pilots rely upon in every aircraft. The Attitude Indicator communicates the aircraft's relation to the horizon, which looks remarkably similar to the GMT-Master Blue and Red bezel, or on the more recent 'Batman' GMT-Master which is Blue and Black.

Update: February 1, 2022: Paul Thorpe seems to have confirmed my hypothesis (above) about the GMT-Master bezel being based on the Attitude Indicator as he mentioned in a thread started by our Captain Danny on on the subject the amazing story he wrote on Pan Am SKYGODS which covered the early history of Pan AM and Rolex:  

     "Lovely piece Danny. I too have researched the background to Glycine Airman and 6542 GMT, and the Chrysler Tower meeting between Pan Am mgt and Rolex Mgt in 53/54. I was particularly interested in how the blue/red bezel came about and was informed by a lady who was there, that it was to mimic the AI (attitude indicator) of the DC6/7, used by Pan Am at the time." 

Notice the number on the tail of Chuck Yeager's is 6062, which is the same Reference Number as my favorite Rolex Moonphase [Reference 6062].

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.

In October 1947, at Edwards Air Force Test Center, Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager forever changed history, when he was the first pilot to fly faster than the Speed of Sound.

And, yes, you guessed it! Chuck Yeager was wearing his Rolex Oyster Perpetual wrist-watch. So what does this mean? What kind of man would wear a Rolex Oyster Perpetual in such an environment?

A few days prior to his record flight, Yeager was seriously injured in a horseback-riding accident and suffered two broken ribs. The injury would jeopardize his flight status resulting in the removal from the mission. Scared, he went to a veterinarian for treatment and only told his wife about the accident. He also told his friend and fellow project pilot, Jack Ridley about the accident.

Yeager, on the day of the record flight, had trouble manipulating the closure of the X-1's hatch, and could not seal it properly. His pal, Jack Ridley, improvised a clever leverage device made from a broom handle, to assist Yeager with sealing the hatch, thus, allowing him to break the "speed of sound" record.

Rolex Coolness: Chuck Yeager

Now & Then

Recently I have been going through the archive and I noticed how similar these two images of Chuck Yeager are. In the photo below taken in the early 1990s Chuck is wearing another Pepsi GMT-Master, but this time it's a Reference 1675.

Chuck is wearing a Coke GMT in the photo above and in the photo below taken more than a 60 years ago in 1958, he is wearing his big crown, no-crown-guard Submariner [Reference 6538] with the lollipop second hand and the orange triangle "carrot-top" bezel insert.

I have been wearing Rolex for more than thirty five years, but Chuck is going on at least his 71st year of wearing Rolex!!! DeBeer's slogan is "A Diamond Is Forever." Maybe Rolex should adopt a similar slogan!!! A Rolex Is Forever!?!?

I just stumbled upon this INCREDIBLE interview with General Yeager that I had never seen before and it not only offers tremendous insight into his brilliance but also give great understanding of his technical and mathematical genius. Enjoy!!

Chuck Yeager

Historical Background

To best understand Chuck Yeager's place in the history books, let's hop in the Rolex Time Machine and go back to explore his lifetime achievements.

Chuck Yeager is pictured below with then U.S. President Harry Truman in the oval office in the White House in Washington D.C. Chuck Yeager wore Rolex watches for 8 decades...interesting

Chuck Yeager wore Rolex watches up until 8 years before he passed away...

Where have you gone, Chuck Yeager?
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you
Woo, woo, woo
What's that you say, Glamorous Glennis?
The Right Stuff has left and gone away
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey