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A Rolex watch is one of the most delicate things to own that has a strong association with the history of exploration. The brand has been using the world as a laboratory since the late 1920s, for proving its watches’ excellence and precision under the real-life conditions. The leading spirit instigated the Rolex timepieces to pilot many Himalayan expeditions. For example, in 1953, the reliable Rolex Oyster Perpetual accompanied Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to climb the Mount Everest. The observations in the harshest environments had an enormous impact on the quest for higher robustness, precision as well as reliability.
Over the years, the rugged watches of Rolex have been enticing to explorers and fanatics of extreme sports. Mercedes Gleitze, the British Swimmer, wore the futuristic Rolex Oyster watch on her wrist and crossed the British Channel in 1927. Not only in the water, but the Oyster also exhibited its excellence on other endeavours of endurance or explorations in the air and on the land. Rolex was also worn by Malcolm Campbell the ‘Speed King’ at the time of his speed record attempt in Bluebird. Rolex watches were favourite especially among the pilots, mountain climbers and deep-sea divers.
The journey from the Summit of Everest to Hollywood
With the support from the Royal Geographical Society and under John Hunt’s guidance in May 1953, the participants of the ninth British expedition to the peak of the Mount Everest assembled ahead of their voyage. With the first climbers’ team involuntarily retiring shortly before the top, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first individuals in history to reach the peak. At the icy heights, Hillary was accompanied by the reliable Oyster Perpetual that was used for calculating the correct time to depart. If he had got the time wrong then, it could have been deadly.
One of the sponsors of the 1953 Everest Expedition was Rolex, and the Nepalese government allowed just one expedition every year. Rolex manufactured this watch in 1950, and as a part of the sponsorship, Hillary was provided with this watch, not as a gift, but rather a timepiece for him to wear at the time of the expedition. He returned the timepiece to the manufacturer for extensive testing after his successful descent.
Celebrating the success, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer was launched in the same year that quickly gained cult status. However, the manufacturer expanded its range for accommodating other explorations with timepieces like the Submariner in 1953. The updated Oyster Perpetual Explorer II version was launched in 1971, featuring a large, orange 24-hour hand. This unique attribute was easily noticeable even in the darkest conditions, making it perfect for people who explore caves or Polar Regions with no sunlight. However, the American racer and actor, Steve McQueen made this Explorer watch so desirable to the watch collectors today.
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