Six Missing Explorer's Watches

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Six Missing Explorer's Watches

Post by DBCooper » Tue Mar 01, 2016 3:44 pm

Six Missing Explorer's Watches Whose Fate We'd Love To Know
HODINKEE - Jack Forster - Tuesday March 01, 2016


Watches, like people, are born with certain traits, but are also, and often, the most interesting when they have led interesting lives. The 20th century was one in which technology innovations made it possible to explore the world around us in ways impossible in previous centuries and of course, watches were an essential part of any explorer's kit. Here are five that helped their owners make history, and which have disappeared from view – and whose fate we'd love to know.

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Mortuus Fakeuus

Re: Six Missing Explorer's Watches

Post by Mortuus Fakeuus » Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:10 pm

An excellent read, DB.

However, IMHO, there really should be a seventh watch added to that list, one that was missing -- but finally located -- after 75 years, but is still, I think, very deserving of an honorable mention within the text of this important list: a Swiss, trench-style watch by Borgel, owned by Everest expeditioner, George Mallory, 37, who, together with his climbing partner, Andrew "Sandy" Irvine, 24, went missing in July of 1924 during an attempt (Mallory's third) to become the first men to reach the summit of Mount Everest, which was back then a part of 'Nationalist' China.

Mallory's body was eventually located in 1999, but the remains of Irvine, an expert in the construction and maintenance of oxygen tanks for climbers, as well as an amateur photographer, still have yet to be found. Given that the two climbers were last seen just 85 vertical (and about 290 horizontal) meters from the summit (which is itself at 29,029 ft.), the altitude at which Mallory's remains were found (27,000 ft.) is seen as evidence that he and "Sandy" Irvine might have actually made it to the summit, recorded the event with Sandy's camera and then began the long, slow return to their nearest base camp. Not long after this, the men, who were tethered to each other, were killed in some sort of fall, presumably as the result of an avalanche.

There remains some hope -- and quite a bit of speculation -- that Irvine might have been able to take pictures of himself and Mallory at the summit, but the only way to prove this would be to locate Irvine's camera, which, it is assumed, is still with its owner's remains. The only other 'proof' would be a photograph of Mallory's wife, Ruth, which he had said he would leave at the summit if he and Irvine were successful in reaching it. Interestingly, there was no sign of the picture on or in the area surrounding Mallory's body, but, if he had been able to leave it at the summit, it was long gone by the time Sir Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa climbing partner, Tenzing Norgay, arrived there some 29 years later, in 1953, and were credited with the first successful climb of Mt. Everest. (Both Hillary and Norgay did conduct a search for the photograph, but were unable to locate it during the very limited time they were able to remain at the summit.)

This is the picture of George Mallory's wife, Ruth,
that was to have been left at the summit of Everest upon
George and Sandy's successful completion of the long climb.

As is customary (and, of course, when altitude and weather conditions permit), Mallory's body was buried under a cairn of stones where it had lain for 75 years, and a small plaque was affixed to the site a few months later as a tribute to the famous climber. Prior to the burial, what was thought to be a brass altimeter, a stag-handled lambsfoot pocket knife (with leather slip-case) and an unbroken pair of snow-goggles were recovered from Mallory's corpse, along with his identification papers and a clothing label with his name on it. His watch was thought to have gone missing during his more than 2000-foot fall and slide down the side of the mountain.



However, a closer look at the 'altimeter' revealed that it was in fact Mallory's trench-style watch, a two-hand Swiss military design produced by the Borgel firm. Because the hands and crystal were missing, it had been assumed that it was Mallory's personal altimeter, which used a watch case of similar size, and could be attached to a wrist-worn strap for quick reading. Given the relative rareness of wristwatches in the early 1920's, such a mistake is certainly understandable.

George Mallory's Borgel 'trench watch.'

George and Ruth Mallory, circa 1923.

And such an amazing find after 75 years deserves an honorable mention, don't you think? 8)
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