Nepal 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa friend Tenzig Norgay set out to conquer the world’s tallest mountain region, Sagarmatha. On his wrist there was no electronic GPS, no Suunto Core, but a mechanical watch. It was the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and this was to become one of the most iconic watches ever made. You see the Oyster Perpetual was about to do the impossible. It was about to reach the highest point in the world, Mount Everest. This was a defining moment in history that set the bar high, and I mean really high – 29,000 feet to be precise. Sir Edmund had worn the Oyster Perpetual through the snow-capped mountains of the Himalayas, and all the way to the top of Sagarmatha (Everest).
We all love an adventure – whether it’s trekking our way through the muddy puddles in this concrete jungle that most of live in, or enjoying a weekend hike through the Scottish highlands – either way I’m certainly partial to an off the beaten track experience, equipped with my beat up Indiana Jones bag and analogue camera strapped around my neck. I like to believe I am ready for anything, and for me the Oyster Perpetual just finishes off the ensemble nicely.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a pioneers watch. It’s a timepiece to mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts comparable to what the Submariner is to divers – it’s a tool watch for everyday explorers. It says: “I like simplicity, minimalist design.” It says: “Stick a roll of film into your Leica camera and go shoot!” It’s everything that the now Rolex Explorer has aspired to be.
You see, the Rolex Explorer is essentially a great bit of marketing that has worked incredibly well. Even those amongst us who hate marketing gimmicks and labels love it. The successful advertising campaign has managed to mould itself into the very labelled, consumerist world that we live in today, and the watch has thus become an icon. Sure, it has the reputation, the simplicity and the practicality – all the things that the Oyster Perpetual has, but it just doesn’t have the provenance.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is its antithesis. It is not a ‘fictional’ character, it’s not a label, and certainly not a gimmick. It is not a the ‘wannabe’ that the Rolex Explorer is – on the contrary, the Oyster Perpetual has what all other watches want – the pure provenance that it did actually make it to the top and back down again.
Unfortunately, we live in a digital world full of megapixels and electric cars a la quartz crisis worming its way into the car industry. Gone are the days where mountaineers would wear a mechanical timepiece on an expedition, nowadays they would opt for a battery powered altimeter and a GPS. However, for those of us who want to hark back to era of pure simplicity then the Rolex oyster is the perfect watch. It has that simplistic design, the simple three hander and is classic in appearance, making it a tool watch that just works and gets the required job done.
This is a watch that you can wear all year round. Certainly as winter approaches and the soundtrack changes from car horns to crackling fires, strap that Oyster on, throw on a woolly roll neck, sit around that fire, fling on an old LP and sip on that glass of port as you stroke that beard, and within seconds you will find yourself craving your next adventure – as the saying goes, “for those who know, just know”.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual