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In today’s blog entry, we are going to be learning more about one of the world’s most truly majestic places – Mount Everest. While many people know Mount Everest by virtue of the fact that it is the tallest mountain in the world, standing at 29,031.7 feet, many people are not aware of the fact that Mount Everest has an interesting and unique connection with the world of horology as well.
With all of that in mind, we will begin by taking some time to learn more about Mount Everest itself, and then further explore the ways in which this special location and the craft of watchmaking are connected.
A Brief History of Mount Everest
Mount Everest, or Sagarmatha in Nepalese, is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet, which means it is overseen by both Nepalese and Chinese authorities. Its English name comes from Sir George Everest, who was a British geographer and surveyor who served as the Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843.
Interestingly enough, shortly after the peak’s discovery, Everest initially asked that his name not be used by the Royal Geographical Society for the mountain, as he played no part in its discovery or exploration, and also believed that his name was easily written or pronounced in Hindi, which showed him to be forward-thinking for a man of his time.
What Rolex did Edmund Hillary wear?
In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Tenzing Norgay scaled Mount Everest. That year, Rolex sponsored the expedition and supplied Edmund Hillary with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Watch. At the time the watch did not bear the Explorer name it’s known by today, in fact, the inspiration for the watch’s name came from that expedition.
The first successful ascent of Mount Everest occurred in 1953 and was completed by the pair of Tenzing Norgay, a Nepali Sherpa and climber, and Edmund Hillary, an accomplished mountaineer and explorer from New Zealand. This would prove to be a historically significant event, and would generate a lot of press soon afterward.
Generally speaking, it takes between six to nine weeks, or around two months, on average, to successfully scale Mount Everest. The reason it takes so long to successfully ascend the mountain is because of safety concerns, as oxygen deprivation and other forms of illness are common at those altitudes.
These safety concerns are not without precedent or cause either. As of 2019, over 300 people have died attempting to scale Mount Everest, and because of the difficulty of removing bodies from the mountain, many of them remain there to this day. As of 2022, it is estimated that about 4,000 people have successfully summited the mountain.
Another thing that many people do not take into account is the cost of climbing the mountain as well, as it is not cheap by any means. As of last year, the average cost of attempting a climb is $44,500, meaning that this is truly a climb that should be undertaken by those who are physically fit enough and financially equipped for the undertaking.
How Are Mount Everest and Horology Connected?
It may not come as a total surprise to know that the most famous connection between these two worlds occurs via Rolex. You might be familiar with the fact that Rolex gave the members of Norgay and Hillary’s expedition watches, but this only occurred after they successfully made their ascent.
While it is commonly believed that there was a Rolex watch being used on that expedition, this is actually not the case. The reason for this confusion is because of some very sly advertising on the part of Rolex, who advertised very heavily about their connection to the two now world-famous mountaineers after gifting them some of their timepieces.
However, the watches that were used by Hillary and Norgay were actually made by Smith’s, which is now known today primarily as an engineering firm. However, for several decades, they were a highly respected watchmaker in England, though their watchmaking division would formally close in the 1970’s.
Though Rolex has successfully taken advantage of this confusion for several years in their advertising, some cursory research is definitely able to put the myth to rest once and for all. The reason for this is that the actual watch that Hillary used during the expedition is currently on display at the Science Museum in London, England.
It is worth noting that, the year prior, Norgay was involved in an unsuccessful Swiss expedition of the mountain, and Rolex wound up giving him a Rolex Datejust as a thank you for his involvement in the expedition. This watch has generated some press coverage over the years and has no doubt helped to fuel the confusion over what watches were actually being worn during the 1953 climb.
Today, there are several other watches that have a connection to the mountain, such as the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time Prototype, which was specially made for American photographer Cory Richards, who has climbed the mountain two times.
The Bremont Supermarine S300 accompanied notable mountaineer Nirmal Purja as he successfully climbed all 14 mountains that were over 8,000 meters tall, He was also part of the first team to successfully summit Mount Everest in 48 hours.
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