timefactors watches
Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 50 of 64

Thread: Smith's or Rolex - Which One Was the First Watch on Mt. Everest?

  1. #1
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Saratoga, CA
    Posts
    80

    Smith's or Rolex - Which One Was the First Watch on Mt. Everest?

    This historical detail has never been fully clarified even though Rolex has maximized on the accomplishment with its advertising of the 1016.

    Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay both made it to the top of Mt. Everest in 1953. Who was wearing what and which watch actually made it there first?
    Last edited by Bannon; 11th February 2018 at 20:19.

  2. #2
    Journeyman
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    St Albans
    Posts
    147
    I sometimes think this advert may have the answer? Maybe the Rolex was worn, while the Smith’s was just ‘carried’ (e.g., just stuffed in their kit, for marketing)?





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. #3

    Smith's or Rolex - Which One Was the First Watch on Mt. Everest?

    I seem to recall that the Explorer brand wasn't launched by Rolex until after the summit of Everest was reached and that the glory should go to the humble Rolex Oyster Perpetual worn by Sir Edmund Hillary.
    As such, the Explorer wouldn't feature at all in the Everest expedition - despite the marketing drive capitalising on the achievement.

    PS: I found the original Hodinkee article here: https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/fo...e-pics-details


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by adg31; 11th February 2018 at 20:32.

  4. #4
    Grand Master SimonK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Paris, France
    Posts
    16,804
    Pretty thorough discussion here, alas the Photobucket photos are no longer showing but plenty of text to chew on

    http://www.mwrforum.net/forums/showt...miths-and-mine

  5. #5
    Master Rocket Man's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    United Kingdom
    Posts
    1,639
    Quote Originally Posted by adg31 View Post
    https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/fo...e-pics-details

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    If Rolex ever started doing 'historical re-editions' then I'd be all over this one!

  6. #6
    Master aldfort's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Cardiff
    Posts
    8,855
    What is fairly well accepted is that Tenzing had a Rolex gifted to him by a climber after a previous summit attempt. He wore this when he summitted.
    Hillary would only say of the Smiths that he carried it to the summit. Rolex would like it to be thought he worn a Rolex but I have never seen conclusive proof.

  7. #7
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    Hilary wasn’t issued a Rolex for the ‘53 expedition as he had already been given one for Cho Oyu the year before. If he had one at the summit it would have been milked to death. There’s a long thread about it on MWR, see Simon’s earlier link.

  8. #8
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Unknown
    Posts
    920
    Only two people know.

  9. #9
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Jun 2015
    Location
    Birmingham
    Posts
    304
    Photo of the smiths in question I took a couple of years ago


  10. #10
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    North America
    Posts
    39
    Quote Originally Posted by marcus.furius View Post
    I sometimes think this advert may have the answer? Maybe the Rolex was worn, while the Smith’s was just ‘carried’ (e.g., just stuffed in their kit, for marketing)?


    Exactly right. Ten points to Gryffindor!




    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  11. #11
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Location
    North America
    Posts
    39
    Quote Originally Posted by adg31 View Post
    I seem to recall that the Explorer brand wasn't launched by Rolex until after the summit of Everest was reached and that the glory should go to the humble Rolex Oyster Perpetual worn by Sir Edmund Hillary.
    As such, the Explorer wouldn't feature at all in the Everest expedition - despite the marketing drive capitalising on the achievement.

    PS: I found the original Hodinkee article here: https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/fo...e-pics-details


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Rolex has never said he wore an Explorer. He wore a Perpetual, and the Explorer was created afterward (although the same year) as a version of the Perpetual designed for use in rough conditions. The marketing of the period states this quite clearly.

  12. #12

    Smith's or Rolex - Which One Was the First Watch on Mt. Everest?

    Quote Originally Posted by Boots View Post
    Rolex has never said he wore an Explorer. He wore a Perpetual, and the Explorer was created afterward (although the same year) as a version of the Perpetual designed for use in rough conditions. The marketing of the period states this quite clearly.
    I never said that they did and apologise if you got that impression.
    http://www.rolexmagazine.com/2010/05...onquering.html

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by adg31; 12th February 2018 at 09:47.

  13. #13
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Belfast
    Posts
    475
    Quote Originally Posted by Bannon View Post
    This historical detail has never been fully clarified even though Rolex has maximized on the accomplishment with its advertising of the 1016.

    Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay both made it to the top of Mt. Everest in 1953. Who was wearing what and which watch actually made it there first?
    Whatever he was wearing or carrying, Hillary made it first, discounting the extremely unlikely possibility that Mallory summited.

  14. #14
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    Quote Originally Posted by craggie View Post
    Whatever he was wearing or carrying, Hillary made it first, discounting the extremely unlikely possibility that Mallory summited.
    Indeed. The unlikely scenario would make the first watch at the summit a Borgel


  15. #15
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    France
    Posts
    285
    As I understand it for 30 years neither man stated who reached the top first, so I doubt we will ever really know. Tensings sons say he stated to them he did and after Tensings death Hillary stated it was him.
    A mystery the truth of which will ever only be known by two men.

    However on the watch front.....Smiths all the way.

  16. #16
    Master
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Between here, there and nowhere
    Posts
    2,783
    Does it really matter?

    I mean you have the:
    McQueen Monaco = never wore one except for a role in a film
    McQueen Exp-II = never wore one, it was a case of mistaken identity by an Italian magazine

    Just as a few of examples

    But, it matters not, people still want them because of the 'connection' even though there isn't one.

    An even more deluded example is the Newman Daytona.

    Massive premiums to buy a watch like the one some dead actor wore for a while, bonkers
    Last edited by nunya; 13th February 2018 at 09:27.

  17. #17
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    France
    Posts
    285
    Quote Originally Posted by nunya View Post
    Does it really matter?
    Oh gosh yes....terribly.

  18. #18
    Master snowman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Hampshire
    Posts
    8,863
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl.1 View Post
    Oh gosh yes....terribly.
    But probably not to Smiths owners

    M

  19. #19
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Tenzing wore both the Rolex from the 1952 Lambert expedition and the Smiths, one on each wrist. So the answer is either both or Smiths.

    Why is it unlikely that Mallory summited?

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/...s4.mainsection
    Last edited by M4tt; 13th February 2018 at 12:04.

  20. #20
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    France
    Posts
    285
    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    Tenzing wore both the Rolex from the 1952 Lambert expedition and the Smiths, one on each wrist. So the answer is either both or Smiths.

    Why is it unlikely that Mallory summited?
    But who remembers the 1952 expedition. It is all about what went up in 1953.

  21. #21
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl.1 View Post
    But who remembers the 1952 expedition. It is all about what went up in 1953.
    Indeed.

    What went up in '53 was a Rolex (given to Tenzing by Rolex, who sponsored the '52 expedition and kept as a momento) and two Smiths, given to both by Smiths who sponsored the '53 expedition. Hillary, Hunt et all were given a Rolex on their return (and cannily retained as Rolex ambassadors). Rolex may have backed the wrong horse in Lambert, but they caught up fast.

  22. #22
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    France
    Posts
    285
    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    Indeed.

    What went up in '53 was a Rolex (given to Tenzing by Rolex, who sponsored the '52 expedition and kept as a momento) and two Smiths, given to both by Smiths who sponsored the '53 expedition. Hillary, Hunt et all were given a Rolex on their return (and cannily retained as Rolex ambassadors). Rolex may have backed the wrong horse in Lambert, but they caught up fast.
    Supposition on your part or fact?

    I ask as Rolex do not seem to be stating this. Yet Smiths do via the advert seen below. A watch given a year before and kept as a momento, this does not mean he carried it a year later, or does it?
    It strikes me that Rolex would be shouting about this if they could verify it as Smiths do. So Smiths still has it.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl.1 View Post
    As I understand it for 30 years neither man stated who reached the top first, so I doubt we will ever really know. Tensings sons say he stated to them he did and after Tensings death Hillary stated it was him.
    A mystery the truth of which will ever only be known by two men.

    However on the watch front.....Smiths all the way.
    May I recommend Everest 1953: The Epic Story of the First Ascent by Mick Conefrey. This clears up in detail who was first to summit (it was Hillary) and why there was a great deal of politics and confusion which surrounded news of their achievement.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by marcus.furius View Post
    I sometimes think this advert may have the answer? Maybe the Rolex was worn, while the Smith’s was just ‘carried’ (e.g., just stuffed in their kit, for marketing)?





    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    I suspect that neither of them actually wore their watches on the peak due to the equipment that they would have been wearing so both watches would have been carried in their packs. I'm no expert though but a watch is the last thing I would be wearing if I was wearing big gauntlets and having to deal with a harness and rope.

    Sent from my [device_name] using TZ-UK mobile app

  25. #25
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    Quote Originally Posted by dylanbooth78 View Post
    I suspect that neither of them actually wore their watches on the peak due to the equipment that they would have been wearing so both watches would have been carried in their packs. I'm no expert though but a watch is the last thing I would be wearing if I was wearing big gauntlets and having to deal with a harness and rope.
    That's plausible and could explain Hillary's wording. Clearly having a hand-winding movement wasn't much of an issue on the expedition, it was important to avoid sweating into gloves so they would have been removed when temperatures allowed, such as inside the tent. There are numerous photographs showing the climbers without their gloves on, this one was supposedly taken at around 27,300 feet:




    And with a nice warm cuppa, no problem!


    Royal Geographic Society Images

  26. #26
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    The answer to that one is simply that they wore a watch on an extended strap outside of their jackets much as astronauts do. This is confirmed by all the references to extended straps.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    The answer to that one is simply that they wore a watch on an extended strap outside of their jackets much as astronauts do. This is confirmed by all the references to extended straps.
    That's an interesting thought, I have actually considered this myself whilst in the mountains but have always decided against it as you always need to take gloves off and change layers at different points of the climb, it would be a huge pain to have to take your watch off whenever you wanted to do this. That said I do tend to have my phone in a handy pocket if I need to check the time and my watch is under a few layers, a luxury they would not have had of course.

    Sent from my [device_name] using TZ-UK mobile app

  28. #28
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    France
    Posts
    285
    Quote Originally Posted by dkpw View Post
    May I recommend Everest 1953: The Epic Story of the First Ascent by Mick Conefrey. This clears up in detail who was first to summit (it was Hillary) and why there was a great deal of politics and confusion which surrounded news of their achievement.
    First published 2012. Not sure it does.

    I do not think we will ever know regardless now what people say.

  29. #29
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by dylanbooth78 View Post
    That's an interesting thought, I have actually considered this myself whilst in the mountains but have always decided against it as you always need to take gloves off and change layers at different points of the climb, it would be a huge pain to have to take your watch off whenever you wanted to do this. That said I do tend to have my phone in a handy pocket if I need to check the time and my watch is under a few layers, a luxury they would not have had of course.

    Sent from my [device_name] using TZ-UK mobile app

    Remember that they were not making a full ascent, but a final ascent from an advanced camp. As such, there would have been far less variation. I'm told that at that altitude, everything, even standing still, is flat out and that the variation is more a case of slowing down because you have no choice. This, I suspect, is very different to, say, Alpine climbing at lower levels when you tend to overheat on more extreme pitches and cool down rapidly while scrambling or while more passively waiting for the lead or second to complete a pitch.

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by dylanbooth78 View Post
    That's an interesting thought, I have actually considered this myself whilst in the mountains but have always decided against it as you always need to take gloves off and change layers at different points of the climb, it would be a huge pain to have to take your watch off whenever you wanted to do this. That said I do tend to have my phone in a handy pocket if I need to check the time and my watch is under a few layers, a luxury they would not have had of course.

    Sent from my [device_name] using TZ-UK mobile app

    Remember that they were not making a full ascent, but a final ascent from an advanced camp. As such, there would have been far less variation. I'm told that at that altitude, everything, even standing still, is flat out and that the variation is more a case of slowing down because you have no choice. This, I suspect, is very different to, say, Alpine climbing at lower levels when you tend to overheat on more extreme pitches and cool down rapidly while scrambling or while more passively waiting for the lead or second to complete a pitch.

  30. #30
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl.1 View Post
    Supposition on your part or fact?

    I ask as Rolex do not seem to be stating this. Yet Smiths do via the advert seen below. A watch given a year before and kept as a momento, this does not mean he carried it a year later, or does it?
    It strikes me that Rolex would be shouting about this if they could verify it as Smiths do. So Smiths still has it.
    Fact.

    As even a cursory google of past arguments about this will confirm, I'm profoundly cynical about Rolex's advertising department, acutely aware of what was given to whom and when and aware of what exists where. I'm also more of a Smiths fanboy than a Rolex one (if I had to choose).

    For example:

    http://forums.watchuseek.com/f23/mic...er-368221.html

    The overwhelming majority of watches mentioned by Rolex fans everywhere were late arrivals, rushed to Calcutta in time to meet the returning heroes (together with contracts for Hunt and Hillary) or later memorials. Rolex and Smiths both gave memorial watches to anyone vaguely involved. These are usually gold and heavily inscribed.

    The fact is that the only bit of reality that Rolex do have to work with is the Rolex given to Norgay. In fact, to be precise, the watch he wore in '53 was given to him by Lambert shortly after the '52 attempt. Norgay, as a mere 'subaltern' sherpa had to hand his '52 watch back for analysis. Lambert, aware of just how important ownership of such a watch was to Norgay* gave him another to replace the watch that had been taken. Norgay has been very clear that the watch he was given by Lambert in '52 was the other watch he wore on Everest in '53.

    However, to be fair there are at least three watches that can have a case made for them for being that watch. Presumably Rolex, who now have both a gold watch with engraving that says it was given by Lambert to Tenzing and Lambert's issued watch in their Geneva museum, together with other watches of a more memorial nature. However, for a couple of reasons, I suspect that the actual Rolex used was a slightly less exciting handwind model. I also think Rolex are fully aware of this.

    Speaking as a philosopher, the effort that Rolex go to to violate Paul Grice's maxims of conversational implicature are a masterpiece of, shall we call it ... advertising. The way they manage to say nothing whatsoever that is literally false while leading the reader wildly astray demonstrates a mastery of grammar, logic and the psychology of willing delusion that I wish I possessed but which, sadly, only Sir Humphrey Appleby actually has. At no point that I have read, do they claim unambiguously that Hillary wore a Rolex on Everest in 1953. However, the one thing that they do clearly claim is that a Rolex was worn on the summit. There's a reason for this.

    *the importance to him is discussed here:

    Tenzing's Two Wrist Watches: The Conquest of Everest and Late Imperial Culture in Britain 1921-1953

    Google around and a full PDF does exist on the open web.

  31. #31
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Saratoga, CA
    Posts
    80
    While the ascension of Mt. Everest was a major accomplishment, Rolex really blew it by flunking the NASA space tests. Can you imagine how far they would have milked this one? Fortunately, the Omega Speedmaster made the grade and created a legacy all its own.

  32. #32
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    France
    Posts
    285
    M4tt. Got it, so the Rolex went up there with Tensing.

    So it got me wondering. As neither of the two ...for 30 years.. did not declare which laid the first foot on the top, why did Smiths capitalise on the Event but not Rolex?

    Was it because Tensing was carrying a watch from a previous attempt but not officially given for this attempt in '53. Or was it just that Smiths were quicker off the mark and for Rolex to then claim an 'Everest ' watch as well would not have been taken well.

  33. #33
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Carl.1 View Post
    M4tt. Got it, so the Rolex went up there with Tensing.

    So it got me wondering. As neither of the two ...for 30 years.. did not declare which laid the first foot on the top, why did Smiths capitalise on the Event but not Rolex?

    Was it because Tensing was carrying a watch from a previous attempt but not officially given for this attempt in '53. Or was it just that Smiths were quicker off the mark and for Rolex to then claim an 'Everest ' watch as well would not have been taken well.
    I think that the point that is implied throughout the attached article is most likely. At the time it wouldn’t have made good copy for Tenzing to carry a gifted Rolex as that would have played into a common racist narrative of the time.

    Rolex had been involved with Everest since before Smiths made a watch capable of going there and had already made models called Everest. They had every reason and right to make an Everest model. However, having missed that boat, there were other frontiers and Explorer was generic enough to cover all of them.

    Say what you like about Wilsdorf but he knew all about the psychology of product placement to make aspirational statements to his target market. Don’t forget Rolex were founded in London and Wilsdorf was an Anglophone Anglophile who married into the English upper middle class. He knew us better than we did. That’s why there was never a Bond Rolex...

    However, whisper it quietly, but Rolex in the fifties were a relatively small company who were yet to make their millionth watch. Smiths were, and still are, a vast instrument maker who made all the instruments for the expedition, not just a few watches. One reason vintage Rolex are so pricy is that there are not many of them. Smiths, on the other hand built most of the instruments for uk military aircraft, many cars and so on as well as rather a lot of watches and They still do:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smiths_Group

  34. #34
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    Rolex supplied seven watches to the Hunt expedition, which was a team of thirteen plus two sherpas. The six members who had already received an Oyster Perpetual the year before for the Cho Oyu expedition (which included Hillary) were excluded, apparently at Hunt's request. Unsurprisingly for the era, the sherpas were excluded as well, Tensing's Rolex that he wore during the ascent was gifted to him after his participation in the Swiss Everest expedition in '52. It is reported that Hillary stated that he left his Cho Oyu Rolex at Base Camp in '53.




  35. #35
    Grand Master Raffe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Lëtzebuerg
    Posts
    12,762
    ^ Interesting document.

    Stupid question: If one watch cost £61.10, why were 7 of them £430.10?
    #Basta

  36. #36
    Grand Master SimonK's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Paris, France
    Posts
    16,804
    Sixty one pounds and ten shillings, i.e. £61.50.

  37. #37
    Grand Master Raffe's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Lëtzebuerg
    Posts
    12,762
    Quote Originally Posted by SimonK View Post
    Sixty one pounds and ten shillings, i.e. £61.50.
    I knew it was a stupid question. Thank you for the explanation.
    #Basta

  38. #38
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    597
    Post deleted. Already answered by SimonK above.
    Last edited by Tiny; 15th February 2018 at 09:11.

  39. #39
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Curta View Post
    Rolex supplied seven watches to the Hunt expedition, which was a team of thirteen plus two sherpas. The six members who had already received an Oyster Perpetual the year before for the Cho Oyu expedition (which included Hillary) were excluded, apparently at Hunt's request. Unsurprisingly for the era, the sherpas were excluded as well, Tensing's Rolex that he wore during the ascent was gifted to him after his participation in the Swiss Everest expedition in '52. It is reported that Hillary stated that he left his Cho Oyu Rolex at Base Camp in '53.




    As I said, Rolex had the watches waiting for them when they returned. The letter above clearly adds support to that chronology as it is dated the 25th of June 1953. Everest, of course, was conquered on the 29th of May 1953. The watch given to Hillary by Rolex in Calcutta was to be auctioned in 2010, but the family blocked the sale:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/ukne...o-be-sold.html

    I admit that this

    It is reported that Hillary stated that he left his Cho Oyu Rolex at Base Camp in '53.
    Is news to me. I'd be delighted to discover where it is reported.

  40. #40
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    I admit that this
    It is reported that Hillary stated that he left his Cho Oyu Rolex at Base Camp in '53.
    Is news to me. I'd be delighted to discover where it is reported.
    I was cautious with the wording because there are numerous articles, often with conflicting details depending on the agenda of the author. Some of the purported statements could well have been fabricated as often they only appear in a single report without references. I would love to find out a bit more about the assertion here: https://horahalus.com/2016/06/24/the...mount-everest/

    "While Edmund Hillary did, in fact, take his Rolex Oyster Perpetual during the 1953 expedition, it has been verified with various sources, including an account from the man himself, that he left his Rolex back at the base camp before making his ascent up the final stretch."

    The subsequent paragraph is definitely inaccurate, so maybe the vague 'various sources' can be taken with a large pinch of salt.

    Of course the Rolex watches could have been issued to the expedition prior to a revised invoice being issued; the initial invoice for thirteen watches was dated 20 May 1953.

    We'll never know the full and exact story but at least there is one statement directly attributed to Hillary regarding carrying a watch to the summit.
    Last edited by Mr Curta; 15th February 2018 at 14:30.

  41. #41
    Craftsman
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Belfast
    Posts
    475
    You could make an arguement that Everest was never really climbed until Messner and Habeler made the first oxygen free ascent in 1978; bottled oxygen having the effect of lowering the altitude of the peak. I believe they both wore Oysterquartz watches.

  42. #42
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Curta View Post
    I was cautious with the wording because there are numerous articles, often with conflicting details depending on the agenda of the author. Some of the purported statements could well have been fabricated as often they only appear in a single report without references. I would love to find out a bit more about the assertion here: https://horahalus.com/2016/06/24/the...mount-everest/

    "While Edmund Hillary did, in fact, take his Rolex Oyster Perpetual during the 1953 expedition, it has been verified with various sources, including an account from the man himself, that he left his Rolex back at the base camp before making his ascent up the final stretch."

    The subsequent paragraph is definitely inaccurate, so maybe the vague 'various sources' can be taken with a large pinch of salt.

    Of course the Rolex watches could have been issued to the expedition prior to a revised invoice being issued; the initial invoice for thirteen watches was dated 20 May 1953.

    We'll never know the full and exact story but at least there is one statement directly attributed to Hillary regarding carrying a watch to the summit.
    I confess that I'm constantly bemused by the way fact, fiction and fallacy are utterly intertwined in even the most authoritative accounts. This would be bad enough, but the incestuousness of sourcing premises means that the any pretence of scholarship has roots as sound as Birnam Wood. It doesn't help that Bosecks of Calcutta also gave watches to (at least) Hillary, Hunt and Tenzing independently, and in addition to, any given directly by Rolex directly. It also doesn't help that Rolex also retained Hunt and Hillary, ensuring that they got decent copy while Smiths got faint praise. The whole mess is further confused by the profusion of watches subsequently showered on Hillary and Tenzing.
    However, there are facts of the matter and, in this case, actual museum exhibits and auction catalogues, especially those with detailed photographs, start to give a shape to who had what when. There are far fewer photographs that clearly identify a particular watch let alone at a particular time and place and any smoking guns are apparently lacking.

    It would be a right pain of a job but the fact is that there are less than thirty people to track and, once you got going, cross referencing works. I did a bit a few years ago while involved in a particularly protracted row over on watchuseek (that I can't seem to find now). Sadly it's a word file and half the links have changed which is a pain, but there were a slew of auctions that actually gave detailed photographs of watches. Sadly, Rolex serial numbers don't usually feature as they are hidden away on the lugs, at least they are on all of mine that are not Dennison cased.

    I'm quite convinced that some enterprising souls have had access to watches central to that debate and I'm sure some have reported accurately, but my faith in enterprising souls whose characters are not directly known to me is less than stellar as a matter of bitter experience, so I just don't know which.

    If only there were more hours in the day...

  43. #43
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by craggie View Post
    You could make an arguement that Everest was never really climbed until Messner and Habeler made the first oxygen free ascent in 1978; bottled oxygen having the effect of lowering the altitude of the peak. I believe they both wore Oysterquartz watches.
    I'm not sure you could, because that's a nice example of a well known informal logical fallacy :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_true_Scotsman


    Of course they climbed it, with oxygen. For sure add the caveat, but that doesn't mean that they didn't do it. The problem is that when you start adding caveats that disallow a particular tool then you open the floodgates to disallowing other tools, like clothes. I'm not hanging out for the first unaided naked ascent, not least because they wouldn't be wearing any watches at all.

    /pedant.

  44. #44
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    I'm not hanging out for the first unaided naked ascent, not least because they wouldn't be wearing any watches at all.
    Not much hanging out at those temperatures

    Presumably they could carry a watch though

  45. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by M4tt View Post
    I confess that I'm constantly bemused by the way fact, fiction and fallacy are utterly intertwined in even the most authoritative accounts.
    Just to say, I've thoroughly enjoyed this thread, and in particular your contributions. Cheers.

    It's very true - the more you delve into topics such as these, often it's like an initial, seemingly clear pond that then becomes progressively more muddied/opaque as you wade into the water & disturb the silt of information. But I'm more informed than before, which is the aim of the game.

  46. #46
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Stringer View Post
    Just to say, I've thoroughly enjoyed this thread, and in particular your contributions. Cheers.

    It's very true - the more you delve into topics such as these, often it's like an initial, seemingly clear pond that then becomes progressively more muddied/opaque as you wade into the water & disturb the silt of information. But I'm more informed than before, which is the aim of the game.

    That's very kind of you. Would you like an encore?


    Here we go...

    To start, let's consider this fine article offered by The Rolex Passion Report:

    http://rolexpassionreport.com/907/my...edition-quest/

    The mystery that is 'solved' here concerns the fact that there are two different Rolex invoices for different numbers of watches. Personally, the mystery that I'd be more interested in is why one of the receipts is dated just before Hillary summited and the other over a month later.

    The answer to the former mystery, apparently, is that the six climbers who had been involved in the Cho Oyu expedition already had Rolex watches from the year before and Hunt returned six watches. There's a curious lack of curiosity about the latter one.

    Today I got the missing info I like to share with you. After an intensive research in their family files, here’s the explanation:
    As you know Rolex in Geneva wanted a Rolex on the summit of Mt Everest and they supported the Swiss 1952 expeditions but they also sponsored the British 1952 Cho Oyu expedition as well. In 1953 Rolex again sponsored the British but John Hunt felt it was unfair (on the other expedition members or perhaps Rolex) that the Cho Oyu expedition members should get a second Rolex so only the 1953 members who had not already been issued with one got a Rolex in 1953. That explains the numbers of watches that Rolex sent to the British expedition in 1953.”
    So, the claim is based on a quote from someone in the Tenzing or Hillary family. it isn't clear which. This would be a pretty good source. It would be helpful to know which, but still, it's an interesting explanation.

    To me, there seem to be several problems with this however. First, while I confess that I have never worked in retail, I'm pretty certain that returning an item doesn't lead to the production of another receipt for the sale, or in this case, gifting of the balance of the return.

    Secondly, Hunt was managing a vast expedition that was already throwing the kitchen sink at the problem in a way that Shipton felt was entirely inappropriate (which is at least one reason that Hunt became the leader after Shipton had done all the groundwork in '51 and '52 and turned down a leading position in Lambert's '52 attempt in favour of the '53 attempt). Hunt wouldn't have worried about sorting out the the late gifting of a few more watches. He was busy.

    Back in 1953, the team dribbled in by air, land and sea between late February and early March. Meeting at the British embassy in Kathmandu (as there were no hotels there at the time) Hunt found himself having to suddenly manage a wide range of issues, technical, organisational and relational. It didn't start well.

    However, they all left, on foot, on March the 11th. By the 20th of May they were making for the South Col and even finally reaching the top of a Rolex waiting list was probably less of a priority than usual.

    More to the point, whatever watches the team were using they all seem to be wearing the same watches (on short dark leather straps) from the arrival of the first members of the team in Kathmandu - as can be very clearly seen in the documentary made by Tom Stobart throughout the 1953 expedition.



    While his personal watch isn't clear in the film, you can see the side and lugs of the watch Gregory wore during the expedition in the auction catalogue picture to the left of the watch he allegedly wore. Anyone can recognise the way the classic Rolex lugs taper smoothly to a point, almost blending into the case, like so:



    while the Smiths ones stay almost parallel and quite abruptly in squared off ends like so:



    Yup, that's from the auction catalogue. Ironic isn't it.

    Now, go and spend an hour or so relaxing in Jacob Rees Mogg's vision of the future. It's a lovely film, like a very slow version of The Dambusters with no Lancasters and a lot of walking. The rule is, every time you see a frustratingly blurry picture of a watch you have to have a sip of something peaty. Here's a highlight:



    While the watch is pretty blurred and that's the best shot of Hunt's expedition watch watch which is just blurred enough that all you can see is the recessed subdial that catches the light just as the Smiths issued to the expedition and now unambiguously in the Science Museum would. I even took a blurry shot of it last month to emphasise the point:



    You will see the same watches (or at least watches that all seem pretty identical to me) feature prominently (if indistinctly) from the British Embassy in Kathmandu right up to Hillary and Tenzing setting off from base camp. Tenzing really does look like he's wearing the gold Rolex on a metal strap for the final assault (and nothing else. I was wrong). One other member of the expedition is clearly wearing two watches, one of which looks like a Smiths and the other very clearly a Rolex. Enjoy!

    However, getting back to the Passion article, there's a second argument, which initially looks pretty solid. The author introduces a well known discrepancy in serial numbers and points out what looks like an interesting correlation: There were two groups within the Everest expedition:

    Tom Bourdillon, Charles Evans, Alfred Gregory, Edmund Hillary, George Lowe and Gryffith Pugh had taken part in Cho oyu in '52

    George Band, John Hunt, Wilfred Noyce, Tom Stobart, Michael Ward, Michael Wesmacott and George Wylie had not.

    As such, he argues that:

    13 x Rolex in 1953 minus the 6 already given in 1952 makes a total of 7 delivered for British Mt.Everest Expedition. This also explains the big difference in serial numbers we see when we compare these Rolex in detail.
    For instance, Sir E Hillary’s Rolex at Beyer Museum has 726.xxx serial, Gregory’s Rolex that got auctioned last year had also 726.xxx, only 2 numbers away from each other! But George Bands Rolex (He was NOT at ’52 Cho Oyu Expedition) has serial 916.xxx. Michael Phelps Ward was also 916.xxx!


    Now that really is an interesting claim, and one that can be easily verified, because the auction results and data are still available on the internet. Here it is:

    https://catalog.antiquorum.swiss/en/lots/rolex-lot-242-621?page=31

    So yes, it is clear that Gregory's Rolex is indeed a 6098 with the serial number 726182. What is less clear, is whether the Rolex in the Beyer museum has the serial number 726180 or 726184. Now that's an empirical question with a determinate answer. The internet doesn't seem to know, but it sets up an interesting dilemma: Either the two watches rolled off the production line with one watch between them or they didn't. If they did then the story is definitely false, for reasons that I will explain in a moment, and if the two watches are different then the story is entirely unsupported as the two sources are both undermined by the fact that they are different. Given that one is a chronometer and the other isn't, I'm no too optimistic frankly.

    So, let's return to the photographs on the auction site and consider the date of manufacture that Rolex kindly stamped on the caseback: 1.53. This tells us that the watch was manufactured during the first quarter, that is between January and April 1953. That's a fairly problematic date for a watch that needed to be completed, converted, poised, regulated, tested, (and, in the case of Hillary's putative watch) put in for chronometer testing at an external facility (as became mandatory in 1951 and took a minimum of two weeks to complete) then returned, recased, tested again and then rushed to Kathmandu by the 20th of February 1953, but it's flat impossible for a watch that needed to be in Jaynagar in March 1952. Thus, we can be absolutely certain that neither Hillary's nor Alfred Gregory's Rolex was issued as part of the equipment of the 1952 Cho Oyu attempt and pretty certain that it was pushing it to be in time for the 1953 expedition.

    Either way Gregory's Rolex looked like this:




    While the one that Hodinkee breathlessly describe as being "One of the most important wristwatches of all time"

    https://www.hodinkee.com/articles/fo...e-pics-details



    Looks like this, chronometer rating and all. It's remarkable how rapidly Rolex models changed at this time...

    In fact, there's no evidence I'm aware of that any watches were issued to the Cho Oyu expedition, except perhaps for the watch in Beyer's museum. However, I can't find any photographs of the caseback, let alone the inner case or movement. Actually, I'll be frank; allegedly, Beyer's Rolex came directly from Rolex themselves after being returned to them by a grateful Hillary at some point after ascending Everest. Given this, I find the fact that its provenance is a torn scrap from an undated New Zealand parcel with Hillary's return address on it slightly less than convincing. This lack of credibility is enhanced by the slight lack of Rolex using that particular watch endlessly for advertising purposes and instead apparently consigning it to the basement of an, admittedly very nice, jewellery shop in the wrong Canton.

    However, that's the least of the problems. The fact is that Gregory's Rolex does something really useful, it gives us a snapshot of the precise date that the serial number 726182 was used: quarter one of 1953. So now we have the interesting question of how long it would take Rolex to reach the serial numbers found on the watches we know were given to other members of the Everest expedition (and not sent back to Rolex in brown paper parcels, oddly...) We already know that George Wylie, George Band and Michael Ward all had Rolex with a 916.xxx serial number as the internet tells us so (with varying degrees of reliability). More to the point, unlike Hillary's alleged watch and Gregory's confirmed watch, all of these 916 xxx watches are actually identical examples (of a Rolex 6098 with alpha hands) rather as you would expect when everyone is getting a watch at once. Just to confuse matters, the Rolex given to Hillary by Bosecks after he returned to Calcutta was also made in quarter 1 of 1953 and had the serial number 878xxx

    http://images.antiquorum.com/242/full/620.jpg

    All of this strongly suggests that the 916xxx serialed Rolexes simply couldn't have been ready to be used on Everest, but were ready to be handed out to the returning climbers along with contracts for the key players.
    Last edited by M4tt; 18th February 2018 at 09:56.

  47. #47
    Master Mr Curta's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Bogotá, Colombia
    Posts
    7,110
    A comment from Hillary regarding him wearing a Rolex on Cho Oyu was used in subsequent advertising.




    And also remarks from Hunt regarding Everest in '53, but the mention of a Rolex at the summit is conspicuous by it's absence.




    If Hillary was prepared to comment so positively about a Rolex after Cho Oyu then surely he would have been happy to do so after Everest if he'd have had it or another model with him. He was well known for his integrity. That's evidence enough for me that he only had a Smiths at the summit. But then I would say that, because I'm not immune to a bit of bias myself


  48. #48
    Master aldfort's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Cardiff
    Posts
    8,855
    Well argued both.

    My own answer in my "tribute" collection is to have:
    A Smiths Everest (fail!)
    The "wrong" Rolex (fail!)
    ...and Eddies excellent Smiths Everest. (This amuses me for reasons that should be obvious.)

  49. #49
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Curta View Post
    A comment from Hillary regarding him wearing a Rolex on Cho Oyu was used in subsequent advertising.




    And also remarks from Hunt regarding Everest in '53, but the mention of a Rolex at the summit is conspicuous by it's absence.




    If Hillary was prepared to comment so positively about a Rolex after Cho Oyu then surely he would have been happy to do so after Everest if he'd have had it or another model with him. He was well known for his integrity. That's evidence enough for me that he only had a Smiths at the summit. But then I would say that, because I'm not immune to a bit of bias myself


    I absolutely agree with the latter paragraph, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to use my training in a quick analysis of the two adverts.

    Hillary's is pretty well what you would expect from a non WIS who, it must be remembered, had been plucked from almost total obscurity, outside of the NZ mountaineering community, by Eric Shipton the year before and had rapidly made his name as an exceptional and likable climber. I'm not arguing that Hillary wasn't given a Rolex prior to Cho Oyu, however, as I have argued before elsewhere, his statement is only evidence that he was given a Rolex, not that the every member of the expedition was given a Rolex, or indeed sponsored by Rolex.

    In fact, there's no evidence I'm aware of that any watches were issued to the Cho Oyu expedition, except perhaps for the watch in Beyer's museum. However, I can't find any photographs of the caseback, let alone the inner case or movement.
    I agree that Hillary is about as reliable source as is available here, but it's equally clear that his words were gratifyingly authentic. It's equally clear that he uses the word 'I' throughout when talking about the watch. This juxtaposes nicely with his use of 'we' to describe the team. It's evidence that he received a watch - not of team sponsorship. However, his final sentence: 'I count your watch amongst my most treasured possessions' is unexpected. It's certainly not the words of someone who is returning a prototype they have been testing as it's in the wrong tense. His choice of words clearly implies that he still has the watch. This undermines the Beyer case that the watch was returned to Rolex and raises the question quite where one of Hillary's most treasured possessions ended up? It certainly doesn't feature in the Antiquorum auction collection of all of his treasured Rolex or any of the ill tempered legal wrangling surrounding it. Depending on the serial numbers on the watch in the Beyer Museum (and frankly, it looks like an earlier model to me...) the watch there could be the Cho Oyu watch, but then why didn't Rolex keep it or at least give Bayer better provenance than a scrap of parcel. The bottom line is that Hillary wasn't wearing it on Everest.

    We know that Hillary set off for the summit with one (and only one) watch on his wrist as this can be seen very clearly from the film I posted, as can multiple iterations of a watch that looks both the same as the one seen at the ultimate camp and the same as the watch worn by all the other members. Had that watch been a Rolex, we'd surely know all about it.

    The reason is very clear. As soon as Hillary returned to his base, he was retained by Rolex as what would now be called a brand ambassador. Despite this, he gave Smiths grudging press copy faintly praising it and stating that he carried it to the summit. He also returned the Smiths that he wore to the summit back to Smiths who subsequently gave it to the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers for their collection, now housed in the Science Museum.

    It simply isn't believable that, had Hillary worn a Rolex on Everest, let alone to the summit, that Rolex wouldn't have got grateful copy and extensive details and praise for the watch he wore. Which brings us to Hunt's copy.

    The Hunt copy is indeed much less straightforward. There are several reasons to question whether Hunt actually wrote it, or merely signed off on it. The first, and most glaring, is this:

    The Rolex Oyster perpetual watches ... again proved their dependability on Everest.
    Hunt, while Indian born and no stranger to the Himalayas before the war, had never been on Everest before. He'd applied to go on the 1933 expedition but had been turned down due to heart arrhythmia. Since then, he'd had nothing to do with anything in Rolex's roll of honour as he'd been rather impressively active as a soldier and training soldiers. That makes his praise of Rolex's connection with Everest look a little odd.

    Hunt was not an obvious choice to run the Everest expedition. However, after Shipton made it uncomfortably clear that he was unhappy with the brute force and logistics approach that the '53 expedition was increasingly lumbered with, the Royal Geographical Society asked Hunt, then a planner at SHAEF, to lead the expedition precisely because he was an expert at running and organising complex operations in the middle of nowhere, due to his extensive military experience doing just that with the Commandos.

    Secondly, there is the simple fact that one of the few things that is actually quite clear from the film (at 24:05 to 24:11 in my version) is that Hunt was wearing a watch with a subdial. A shiny subdial...

    Thirdly there really are dozens of fairly close shots of the watches with which the entire team are clearly equipped, for example at:14:35 - 15:05, 26:33 - 26:51, 31:51 - 32:15 and so on, none of them are absolutely clear and unambiguously Smiths or Rolex. However, the whole team was clearly equipped with light dialled watches of around 35mm on short dark leather straps . One member wore two watches and Tenzing wore a gold coloured watch on a metal strap. Pugh can be seen (at 8:29) wearing an Omega 2451 or, to be precise, a robust chronograph with the typical Lemania three sunken subdial layout and a splodge precisely where you would expect the Omega logo... This is before setting off however.

    The point is that the whole expedition were equipped with a single style of watch which they all wore. There are clear indications - Gregory's lugs, Hunt's subdial and an awful lot of straight looking lugs poking out from white blotches, rather than the characteristic taper of Rolex lugs - that they are Smiths, but the real smoking gun is the simple fact that we know that Hillary wore his Smiths on the summit of Everest and only one watch can be seen on his wrist immediately prior to his attempt. As has been pointed out endlessly, the fact that Rolex don't ever claim to have been worn by Hillary on the summit and merely implies it mercilessly rather supports this position.

    Hunt's letter contains several statements that are ambiguous, but ultimately really does suggest that the expedition were equipped with Rolex and used Rolex throughout. However, we know that Smiths sponsored the expedition and provided not just watches but altimeters, oxygen meters and so on, together with technical support. We also know that Hillary carried a Smiths to the summit and that he was wearing one watch, a watch that was identical to the watch everyone else wore. We also know that Rolex are quite literally the masters of squeezing every little drop of publicity from an event and were waiting for them at the bottom with watches and contracts. Had the watch on his wrist been a Rolex, We'd know about it. Hunt's letter has to be seen in this context. The letter also goes into very specific technical detail in the way that one usually associates with WIS and give Rolex near perfect copy on the aspects of their watches that they would have wanted a focus on - self winding and the genuinely peerless Oyster case.

    Given what was happening at the time, the short time spent in Kathmandu on the return and the celebratory atmosphere, I find it hard to believe he sat down and typed perfect copy, free of errors, that so perfectly met Rolex's needs. As I noted above, it's copy that referred to an expectation that he simply wouldn't have had as he hadn't been involved in Himalayan adventuring since before Rolex became involved in it. As such, one good explanation was that he signed it but he didn't write it. I don't think this would have been the first or last time a brand ambassador approved copy rather than writing it.

    The astonishing thing is that, for all the film and photography out there there's nothing that undeniably settles the issue of what the watch the whole team wore was. It's all terribly suggestive, but that's not good enough really.

  50. #50
    Master
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Sussex
    Posts
    5,009
    Quote Originally Posted by aldfort View Post
    Well argued both.

    My own answer in my "tribute" collection is to have:
    A Smiths Everest (fail!)
    The "wrong" Rolex (fail!)
    ...and Eddies excellent Smiths Everest. (This amuses me for reasons that should be obvious.)

    I'm delighted to say that I do indeed possess all of the watches you suggest. I'm still playing it safe!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •