Blogs: All That Glitters / Watches

Book Delves Into World of Rolex—Including Watch That Climbed Everest


More than just a status symbol, Rolex timepieces are functional and technical above all else. The new book Rolex Philosophy illustrates the brand’s rich history—and all of the adventure that came with it—through 224 pages of photographs, testimonials, previously unpublished interviews, and archived materials.

One highlight: Edmund Hillary and sherpa Tenzing Norgay were wearing Rolex watches when they became the first two men to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain, on May 29, 1953. As cited in the book: “‘The Rolex Oyster Perpetual watches, with which members of the British team were equipped, again proved their dependability on Everest,’ wrote the leader of the expedition, Sir John Hunt, on his return. ‘We were delighted that they kept such accurate time. This ensured that synchronization of the time between the members of the team was maintained throughout…. They performed splendidly, and we have indeed come to look upon Rolex Oysters as an important part of high-climbing equipment.'”

Other models featured in Rolex Philosophy—which is written by jewelry expert Mara Cappelletti and published by ACC Art Books ($65)—are shown below, including the Explorer II, a later iteration of the Oyster Perpetuals that Hillary and Norgay wore. Insights on each watch are quoted from the book.

“In 1969, Rolex introduced a model equipped with a date function: the Submariner Date. Its water resistance, at the time guaranteed up to a depth of 200 meters, increased to 300 meters in 1979. The Submariner’s water resistance would also be brought to this depth from 1989 onward. Conceived as a professional tool for underwater exploration and diving, he Submariner became a symbol of practical and versatile masculine elegance, soon rising to the level of status symbol.”
The first version of the GMT-Master was represented by number 6542, whose Bakelite bezel rendered the model easily recognizable yet extremely fragile and thus it is incredibly difficult to find in its original condition.”
“In 1953, the Cyclops magnifying lens was added to the watch crystal, which made the date larger for easier reading.”
“An Explorer II accompanied the Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge in his conquest of the ‘three poles,’ crossing both poles on foot and climbing Mount Everest. The words ‘North Pole 1990, South Pole 1992-3, Mt Everest 1994’ are engraved on his Explorer II caseback.”
“Developed in the mid-1950s, the GMT-Master was the pioneer of the ‘dual-time’ function.”
“The application of a ceramic bezel came in 2013 and was even used in the first platinum version of the Daytona.”
“Introduced in 1957, the Lady-Datejust is the crown watchmaker’s first timepiece entirely dedicated to women.”

(Photos courtesy of ACC Art Books)

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By: Annie Davidson Watson

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