The prototype for the Rolex Explorer was sent out on a whale of a mission: To conquer Mount Everest. In the first 31 years of exploration, no one was able to reach the 29,029ft summit. Making matters worse, no one was allowed to travel to the south ridge through Nepal, and most of the summit attempts coming from the North failed.
The British made attempt after attempt through the lands of Tibet (from the North), however; the highest elevation ever reached was 27,000ft in the year 1922. This was the first year that bottled oxygen was used to aid the climbers in their ascent. That expedition suffered a horrific fate when a party induced avalanche lost 7 members.
Two years later in 1924 an expedition set out to summit Mount Everest, but the party disappeared during their scheduled summit. Stories and folk lore of the expedition began to circulate that this particular party did reach the summit of Everest. In the end there would be no proof of this claim and the impossible task would remain for a number of years.
Exploring with the Rolex Explorer
Enter the Swiss expedition of 1953. With access to Nepal, the South East ridge of the mountain was officially available to climb. Two of the party members had on their persons Rolex Explorer prototypes (model 6098) which were the explorer watches, however; the word “explorer” had not yet appeared. These watches also carried a much larger bubble back in comparison to the modern Rolex Explorer watches of today.
The watch carried large Arabic Numerals (3, 6, and 9) making the watch easy to read. Clearly defining these numbers made telling time at a glance very simple. The metal case and oyster back was engineered to be more resistant to the elements then previous watch models. Cold weather, water, snow, and the physical abuse of climbing all tested the Rolex watch and it’s durability. It was clear that a new era of watches had arrived.
Since this historic climb, Rolex has been putting on a clinic for other mechanical watch makers to follow. Rolex’s ability to make a precision time piece that can withstand the most intolerable elements is phenomenal. We look forward to seeing what the leader in luxury watch manufacturing comes up with next.