Exploration is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. It is a combination of many characteristics: curiosity about our boundaries, the courage to step into the unknown, passion and perseverance in the face of impossible odds and finally, the creativity to find new solutions to help us go further.
Timekeeping is an essential part of an explorer’s needs. Up in the air or far down below sea level, time is of the essence and precision timekeeping is often crucial for human survival. Frequently, the name most associated with these expeditions has been the Rolex Explorer.
The word ‘expedition’ stems from the Latin verb ‘expedire’, which means ‘to make useful’. To some extent that is true. Without the British Joint Himalayan Committee led by Sir John Hunt, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary would never have found their way to Everest’s peak. That led scientists to follow in their footsteps, to study glaciers such as the Gangotri, Yamunotri and Khumbu, which supply nearly a quarter of the global population with drinking water.
Likewise, expeditions into the deep sea have not only allowed us to satiate our curiosity about lifeforms that can live in the crushing pressure of the deep. It has also helped the scientific community gain insight into everything from marine ecosystems to life in extreme environments, and even medical care. These successes started with the Rolex Explorer, and continue to this day
TO CROWN IT ALL
Just under 90 years ago, in 1933, Rolex decided to partner the Mount Everest Committee (later renamed the British Joint Himalayan Committee). During the 1920s and 1930s, the watchmaker had embarked on and achieved numerous successes, from excellent waterproofing to automatic winding. But Rolex’s founder, Hans Wilsdorf, wanted more vigorous, real-life testing for his watches.
The agreement was simple: Rolex would develop and equip timekeepers for mountaineers ascending Everest, and in return they would provide feedback and information on the performance of the watches. This collaboration lasted over 20 years and 17 expeditions. On the 14th expedition, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay summited Everest on 29 May 1953 in their second attempt during that ascent. Over the next two years, Rolex Explorers would summit three eight-thousanders, as they are known, to conquer four of the five highest peaks in the world.
These may be the best-known stories of Rolex’s affiliation with exploration, but far from the only ones. When the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research decided to approve pioneering female mountaineer Annelies Lohner’s request to explore the Gangotri mountain range, Rolex provided each climber an automatic, waterproof Oyster Perpetual to support their efforts. Expedition guide André Roch would later remark that “the Rolex watches that we are each wearing keep surprisingly accurate time”.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
THE CONVERSATION: CAUSE CELEBRE
WOW Singapore and Thailand editors voice their thoughts on the long-running biennial charity watch auction programme known as Only Watch
CHANEL’s introduction of its latest watch collection reflects the coming of age for the brand
The issue of transparency in watchmaking is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, thanks to a focus by younger collectors on sustainability. Yet the lack of standards is worrying. We look at the issues, and propose a modest compromise WORDS
Interview with recently appointed President of Seiko Watch Corporation, Akio Naito WORDS
ROOT OF EXCELLENCE
Micro Artist Studio, home of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches
Christie’s Asia Pacific Vice President and Head of Watches gives us a hint of what to expect in the auction scenes
There are lots of ways watch firms are doing their part for the world, even if these are often not quantifiable. Blancpain takes the lead with its Ocean Commitment initiatives '
THE PERSISTENCE OF MEMORY
This online exhibition is a rare treat for anyone who loves beautiful watch macro photography
The lack of clear guidelines in the sustainability conversation hurts brands and consumers. Fortunately, there is a standard that could work, and it already exists…
Once the new metal of watchmaking - the vanguard of the superleggera timepiece - titanium has become a staple. Its properties are still winning fans, but today its biocompatibility is emerging as an important feature. Not only will we never be allergic to titanium, it might also be self-cleaning…
THE RIGHT MEDICINE
When covid treatments are politicized, science loses.
SWEET AND LOWDOWN
The hidden suffering behind America’s sugar habit
HEALING REQUIRES TRUTH
A modern civil rights project seeks to reexamine hundreds of Jim Crow–era murders, and help families move forward.
New immigrant students had the most to gain at Virginia’s Justice High—and the most to lose once the pandemic hit.
FIELD OF TREES
The case for bringing foliage back to the Corn Belt
In Virginia, right-wingers who face down anti-racist demonstrators with AR-15s have earned an official stamp of approval.
Photographer Matt Black’s epic work of “critical cartography”
Forests have always migrated to survive. But now they need our help to outrun climate catastrophe.
The WHISKEY COCKTAIL Revival
From classic Old Fashioneds to more elaborate concoctions, here’s how to drink whiskey now
WHO YOU GONNA CALL?
After Oakland cops drew guns on an accident survivor, a new kind of emergency responder rushed to the scene.