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The Rolex that climbed Mount Everest

Words by Rob Chilton

The first watch to scale the mighty mountain features in a new book about the storied Rolex brand

A watch worn next to the skin was no use to Edmund Hillary when attempting his historic scaling of Mount Everest in 1953. Deadly cold meant he couldn’t keep peeling back his clothing to check the time.

Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tensing Norgay

Rolex, therefore, designed an Oyster Perpetual watch (Ref. 6098) with an extra long leather strap that could be worn over the top of a bulky anorak. Hillary, a New Zealander, wore it on his historic climb on May 29, 1953, accompanied by his trusty Nepalese/Indian sherpa Tensing Norgay.

The Rolex automatic chronometer was one of dozens taken on Hillary’s successful summit of the 8,848 metre mountain. “It’s an historic piece and its value is inestimable,” says watch expert Romain Réa.

Hillary's Rolex features in a new book

The watch is a highlight of a new book by Fabienne Reybaud that charts the remarkable history of this legendary watch maker. Published by luxury arts company Assouline, the book’s 194 pages feature 200 images and comes in a luxury leather clamshell case with a metal plaque and is priced at AED 3,300.

The new book by Fabienne Reybaud

The book Rolex: The Impossible Collection by Fabienne Reybaud, charts the history of the brand from 1905 when its founder Hans Wilsdorf set up a company in London for the distribution of timepieces.

Rolex founder Hans Wildorf surveys his technicians

Many remarkable models are celebrated in the book, including the first wristwatch from the early 1900s, the first Oyster Perpetual from 1931, and the Submariner worn by actor George Lazenby in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

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