Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Celebrity timepieces

Luxury watch brands spend millions getting celebrities and sporting heroes to wear their products so they no doubt get excited when the timepieces make it into the general news. Last week saw plenty of coverage of the proposed sale of Sir Edmund Hillary's Rolex Oyster Perpetual watch. This was presented to the mountaineer after he scaled Everest in 1953 but is now stoking a bitter feud between his children and second wife, June. She wants to sell the watch, along with other items, but Hillary's two children claim it belongs to them. The explorer, who subsequently became the advertising face of Rolex, wore the watch during a 1957 expedition where he led a tractor team across Antarctica to the South Pole.

Another famous timepiece to come on the market is Lieutenant Don Walsh's specially-made Rolex that went with him all the way to the deepest part of the world's oceans in January 1960. Along with Jacques Piccard, Walsh descended seven miles to Mariana Trench in the Pacific in the Trieste, a specially built bathyscaphe. The explorer, 79, is auctioning the watch and it could fetch as much as £20,000 in New York.

To return to watch manufacturers sponsoring celebrities, Rolex all but invented the concept in 1927 when they persuaded a young woman called Mercedes Gleitze to wear one of their watches during one of her attempts to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. British Pathe footage of Gleitze can be seen here.

There, plenty more coverage for Rolex (and no, I'm not sponsored by them). Stories about all the above can be found in Those Who Dared.

1 comment:

  1. The endorsement of watches by explorers seems a natural, given the role of a chronometer in ascertaining location in those old pre-GPS days. Robert Peary used Waltham watches, manufactured in the Massachusetts town of the same name, and his name was used in their advertisements, although I'm not sure they had his permission.