An attractive and historically important wristwatch with centre, seconds, black lacquer "explorer" dial and bracelet, worn on the 1955 Kanchenjunga Expedition by George Band

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  • Manufacturer: Rolex
    Year: Circa 1953
    Reference No: 6150
    Movement No: 27'161
    Case No: 945'021
    Model Name: Explorer
    Material: Stainless steel
    Calibre: Automatic, cal. A296, 17 jewels
    Bracelet/Strap: Stainless steel expandable bracelet, max length 185mm.
    Dimensions: 35.5mm. Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial and movement signed, case back further signed KANGCHENJUNGA 1955 G.C BAND
    Accessories: Accompanied by Rolex pouch.

  • Catalogue Essay

    George Band OBE arguably first made his mark as the youngest climber on the first successful Mount Everest ascent in 1953. But this was just the beginning of his life as a climber, which he continued well into his later years.

    The long struggle to reach the top of the highest mountain in the world had of course captured the imagination of the world press. Perhaps even more so was that George Band was at this time still just a rangy 23 year old Cambridge Geology student.

    The 1953 British Mount Everest expedition was the ninth mountaineering expedition to attempt the first ascent of Mount Everest, and the first confirmed to have succeeded when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit on Friday, 29 May 1953 with a Rolex "Explorer" straped on their wrist. It was led by Colonel John Hunt, with George Band as one of the youngest members of the team. News of the expedition's success reached London in time to be released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II Coronation on the 2nd of June.

    Back home, the "Everesters" were feted as heroes and George Band returned to Cambridge for his final year, but with mountaineering in the blood he was soon thinking of the next challenge: Kangchenjunga. The ascent of Kangchenjunga was a hugely significant climb, particularly as it still remained unconquered despite numerous attempts that had been made through the centuries.

    It is well documented that Rolex supplied the wristwatches to all the team members for the first successful ascent of Everest and George Band himself was given a Reference 6098 Rolex Oyster perpetual.

    We also know that it could only be Rolex wristwatches that would travel with the climbers on the expedition up Kangchenjunga. This expedition was fully expected to fail; nobody had ever reached further than two thirds of the way. So many fatal accidents had given the mountain a reputation for particular danger and difficulty and the expeditions stopped during the 1930’s. It was every bit as dangerous, if not more so, than the ascent of Everest as it was until this point almost entirely unexplored.

    The 1955 British expedition of Kangchenjunga under the Patronage of the Royal Geographical and The Alpine Society of London, was led by Charles Evans and George Band.

    There are three letters in existence regarding the supply of the British Kanchenjunga expedition with Rolex watches. In these letters it shows Charles Evans, writing back to the London head of the Baume, to say that he had received Baume's offer to supply the expedition with chronometers but that he regretfully had to decline the offer "to regard them as exclusive suppliers" as Rolex had already agreed to supply reference 6150 watches for the climb. These watches such as the present example were each engraved, ‘Kanchenjunga, 1955’ and the climber’s name.

    Band and his climbing partner Joe Brown successfully and triumphantly completed the ascent on the 25th of May 1955, stopping just a few metres short of the peak in deference to the sacred religious significance of the very top. After the success of this expedition, which undoubtedly confirmed George Band as one of the top alpinists in the world, he went onto work for Shell Petroleum but still immersed himself in climbing clubs such as the Alpine Club, the British Mountaineering Council and the Royal Geographical Society.

    When the Alpine Club celebrated its 150th anniversary in Zermatt in 2007, George Band was one their celebrity guests who made a mass ascent of the Breithorn, a 4,164m snow summit. Having climbed it in 1963 during the club's centenary celebrations, 50 years later he reached the summit again at the grand age of 78. This was a testimony to George Band's love and enthusiasm for the mountains and this Rolex was his trusted timekeeper throughout 53 years of climbing.

    We are privileged to be entrusted by the Band family to handle the sale of this important watch.

  • Maker Bio

    Rolex

    Swiss • 1905

    Founded in 1905 England by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis as Wilsdorf & Davis, it soon became known as the Rolex Watch Company in 1915, moving its headquarters to Geneva in 1919. Like no other company, the success of the wristwatch can be attributed to many of Rolex's innovations that made them one of the most respected and well-known of all luxury brands. These innovations include their famous "Oyster" case — the world's first water resistant and dustproof watch case, invented in 1926 — and their "Perpetual" — the first reliable self-winding movement for wristwatches launched in 1933. They would form the foundation for Rolex's Datejust and Day-Date, respectively introduced in 1945 and 1956, but also importantly for their sports watches, such as the Explorer, Submariner and GMT-Master launched in the mid-1950s.

    One of its most famous models is the Cosmograph Daytona. Launched in 1963, these chronographs are without any doubt amongst the most iconic and coveted of all collectible wristwatches. Other key collectible models include their most complicated vintage watches, including references 8171 and 6062 with triple calendar and moon phase, "Jean Claude Killy" triple date chronograph models and the Submariner, including early "big-crown" models and military-issued variants.

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244

Rolex

Ref. 6150
An attractive and historically important wristwatch with centre, seconds, black lacquer "explorer" dial and bracelet, worn on the 1955 Kanchenjunga Expedition by George Band

Circa 1953
35.5mm. Diameter
Case, dial and movement signed, case back further signed KANGCHENJUNGA 1955 G.C BAND

Estimate
CHF50,000 - 80,000 
€43,200-69,100
$51,700-82,600

sold for CHF200,000

Contact Specialist
Alexandre Ghotbi
+41 22 317 81 89
aghotbi@phillips.com

The Geneva Watch Auction: SIX

Geneva Auctions 11 - 12 November 2017