Rolex Explorer
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Rolex Explorer

“It was 11:30 and we were on top of Everest.”

The day was May 29, 1953, and Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay stood on top of the world.

The expedition that Hillary and Norgay took part in was the ninth to make the attempt. They were just two in a team of 400 people, including over three hundred porters and twenty Sherpa guides to insure that they made their way safely up the treacherous slopes. Once the party had reached 23,000 feet, the group’s leader—Colonel John Hunt—selected two pairs of climbers to make the last push toward the summit.

The first pair, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, came within 300 feet of the top, but had to turn back, exhausted, their oxygen depleted. Up next were Edmund Hillary and his climbing partner, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. They set out on May 27, after waking to find that their boots had frozen solid in the punishing cold.

Their climb was slow going, up an ice slope that—until then—man had never before touched.

Hillary wrote: “I continued on, cutting steadily and surmounting bump after bump and cornice after cornice looking eagerly for the summit. It seemed impossible to pick it and time was running out. Finally I cut around the back of an extra large lump and then on a tight rope from Tenzing I climbed up a gentle snow ridge to its top. Immediately it was obvious that we had reached our objective.”

They spent fifteen minutes at the summit, taking photographs and burying offerings in the snow: chocolate for Norgay’s Sherpa ancestors, a cross for Hillary. Then they turned and made their laborious way back down to Base Camp. Upon reaching camp, Hillary told his friend, George Lowe, “Well, George, we knocked the bastard off.”

Rolex had been a sponsor of British Everest Expeditions since the 1930s, and several members of the successful 1953 Expedition wore Rolex Oyster Precisions. One of them, Tom Bourdillon, wore a watch with a black dial and prominent luminous (Radium) Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9. Later in 1953, Rolex would rechristen it the Explorer after Hillary and Norgay’s achievement.

The watch that Bourdillon wore was most likely a Reference 6150, the watch we offer here.

Released in the early 1950s, it was the first proto-Explorer to feature Mercedes hands. Rolex went on to produce the Explorer for five decades (and counting, since it’s still in production), but as is the case with most Rolex sports models, earlier versions like the Reference 6150 tend to be the best-looking. The triumph of the 1953 expedition and spirit of adventure and exploration that the Explorer represents can be felt when this watch is strapped to your wrist.

With gorgeous (Radium!) lume and a heavy patina to the dial (not to mention an amazing case-back inscription), it’s a memento of man’s ability to conquer the world through hard work, grit and determination—plus, timeless style and panache.

Details

SKU: AS02106

Available exclusively at Marshall Pierce.

Stainless steel Oyster case is 36mm (excluding crown). Rolex Explorer Reference 6150. A296 Self-Winding Movement. Circa early 1950s.

Overall Condition: Stainless steel Oyster case is in very good condition with moderate signs of use and wear in keeping with its age. Black dial is in excellent condition with fine overall patina, particularly to the luminescent elements of the hour markers and hands. Rolex crown. Rolex case back has engraving: "To the best doctor in the world, from a grateful patient.

Includes one 20mm stainless steel multi-link bracelet with straight end links.

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