The Major Charles Wylie’s 1953 Mt. Everest Expedition Rolex.

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Today I like to present to you the all original 1953 Mt Everest conquest Rolex of Major Charles Wylie. It’s one of only 13 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Ref 6098’s with chronometer OCC movement that where specially issued to the British Everest Expedition when Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay made it to the top…

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All these original “Everest” Rolex watches have some special features. The case back for instance has been engraved with “Everest 1953” and then the name of the expedition member, in this case: “Major C.G. Wylie”. They all come in a specific serial number batch. There are some interesting stories I’ve discovered in my earlier researches about these important Everest Rolex…

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The marvelous provenance letter by UK Rolex Director Henry Hudson pointing out to sell it to Rolex for their Genevan in-house ( to us secret) museum but instead it ended up with me after I’ve been busy for some years to convince the family to grant me the honor to have their dad’s 1953 Mt. Everest Rolex…

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And the hidden gravure “H2” for “Himalaya 2” added by Rolex. George Band’s is H6 and Michale Wards was H7…

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Everybody who is into vintage Rolex knows that after the Everest conquest, Rolex started to market their revolutionair “sport” models. The Explorer I & II, Submariner, Sea Dweller, GMT Master, TurnOGraph and Milgauss were all designed by the principle “if it can reach the top of the world it’s the perfect watch for any explorer, diver, pilot etc.”. The Everest tool watch finally became the world’s most sought after wanna-have. It started all when in 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary & Tenzing Norgay reached the top of Mt. Everest…
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Here you see the actual Everest Rolex of Major Charles Wylie on top of the add that Rolex spread around the world. Since 1933 the British have lead expeditions to the Himalaya’s. 20 Years later under a military regime led by John Hunt they finally reached the top. Tensing made an effort to reach the top 1 year before with the Swiss Team and almost reached the highest point. Rolex back then was sponsoring their national team and Hans Wilsdorf was convinced they would make it. History tells us it went differently.
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Members of the 1953 Everest Expedition in Snowdonia practicing together with Charles Wylie’s 1953 Mt.Everest Conquest Rolex Oyster Perpetual…

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All members of the 1953 where hardworking and humble, it’s their team effort that made it possible to conquest the highest mountain in the world. When the first attempt of Charles Evans & Tom Bourdillon  stranded only 200 meter from the top, they left their oxygen tanks  so Hillary & Tenzing could use them to “knock this bastard down”.

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Major Wylie staring at the top of Mt.Everest…

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The introduction which Sir Edmund Hillary wrote for Charles Wylie’s sketch book of the Great Everest Expedition: ” Eye on Everest” says it all..

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At home with the son of Charles Wylie there was a great display of 1953 Everest artifacts. From the undershirt to the icepicks..

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Mr Wylie designed the featherlight leather high altitude boots the Everest team used…

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Note the Dunlop stamp 😉

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The Rolex box and a gifted silver box by the tentmaker of the ’53 Everest Expedition…

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Charles Wylie and Tenzing Norgay have always been special friends. Not only due to the fact that Wylie was organising secretary for the expedition to Everest and looked after the 350 porters and 35 Sherpas of to the team in Nepal…

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Charles Wylie was a serving officer in a Ghurkha regiment of the British Army, and was fluent in Nepali.

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The 33-year-old also designed the high altitude boots used on the mountain.

I’d been climbing ever since I was seven years old, in the Alps or on the hills in Britain, and I’d always been interested in Mount Everest. At school my housemaster, Edwin Kempson, became an Everest climber himself. He went on the 1935 reconnaissance expedition and then the assault expedition of 1936.

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I think that he must have recommended me to Eric Shipton, who at that time was the leader designate of the 1953 expedition. There were two parties – one went by sea with the bulk of our equipment. I was in charge of that little group of six of us on a steamer going out to Bombay. There were various bits to do in India. We had to see All India Radio to get the weather broadcast fixed up properly, so I went to Calcutta to do that.

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Other members of the expedition went with the kit by train to the Nepal border and saw the equipment put onto the rope-railway as there was no road into Nepal from India at that time. We had to walk the whole way from Kathmandu – I think it’s 170 miles [274 km] – and with heavily laden porters that took us nearly three weeks.

One of the main points for John Hunt’s plan for climbing the mountain was that a really effective support base should be established on the South Col, so that the climbers who attempted to climb to the top would have the necessary support quite close behind. But I spent as little time as possible there – it is a very inhospitable place!

My role at that time was to make sure the large quantity of stores could be carried up to the South Col by the Sherpas. I felt very strongly that we couldn’t have climbed the mountain in the way we did without Sherpas.

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Amazement

I felt it was right and proper that John Hunt should have put Tenzing along with Ed Hilary in one of the summit pairs. I worked through Tenzing who was the “Sirdar”, or leader, of the Sherpas, and I formed a very close bond which existed until his death – and still exists with his family. We were amazed at the impact that the news about climbing Everest made. When we got back to the Kathmandu Valley, we were absolutely swamped by the local people who came up to meet us at the end of the track.

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Royal visit

I should really say they came out to meet Tenzing. Poor chap, he was absolutely mobbed. All we wanted to do after three weeks walking was have a jolly good glass of beer and a good wash. But we were prevented from doing anything like that by the thousands and thousands of people who came up.vI had to rescue Tenzing – who I regarded in a way as my protégé – and put him on some sort of transport back to Kathmandu. We then found ourselves in the King’s drawing room, which was quite amazing.

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1953 Christmas greeting by Prince Philip…

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“When we were walking back from Everest, Tenzing said he wanted to give me a present – a Lhasa Apso puppy. He bred Apsos in Darjeeling and this was a very tempting offer – I love dogs. But I couldn’t take one at that time, because there were so many other considerations. But later on, when I was posted to Kathmandu as military attaché at the embassy, I went over to Tenzing’s house in Darjeeling. He presented me with a lovely little puppy who became my close companion and shadow for about three years while I was in Kathmandu.

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Original Rolex invoice which I discovered at the archive of the RGS in London…The truth behind the story I found out, shows how humble the ’53 Everest team was. While Rolex prepared 13 of their chronometers, John Hunt send back 6 of them as those members that where already 1 year prior in the Himalaya’s already got their Rolex and so Hunt send them back, lol 😉
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The invoice above of 20th May 1953 with 13 Rolex and below the new invoice of 25th June 1953 for ‘only’ 7 Rolex. They made one hell of deal haha!!
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The son of Charles Wylie showed me that Mr Charles Evans was his godfather!
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MORE 1953 EVEREST ROLEX
  • Find below some pictures and info of an earlier Everest Rolex I got also directly from the son and godfather of Charles Wylie’s son. Both were close friends and looked after each other. We notice it has the same dial design and the typical blueish second hand…..
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The engraved caseback is showing you the same Everest engraving which got personalized Dr. R.C.Evans.
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Clearly visible, the “H6” engraving for “Himalaya 6″….

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Here you see the “secret gravure” H6 in the middle of the 1953 Everest Rolex from George Band. Each 1953 Everest got their own number….
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  • Following known Everest 1953 Rolex is the one from Alfred Gregory ( The Everest Photographer )…

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His Everest Rolex got offered for sale in 2010  by AQ. Note the different, linnen dial….
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Here I show the casebook engraving, which is in the same style as all others…
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 The same “Linnen dial with sunken index” in perfect condition of the Ref 6298 my wife was wearing during our UK trip…RPR_Ref6298_1953

Heading back home and leaving London behind. Many thanks again!

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I hope you enjoyed my RPReport.

Cheers Philipp🍺

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