Mercedes Gleitze Crosses English Channel Wearing Rolex Oyster in 1927

12:10 PM

On October 7, 1927, Mercedes Gleitze became the first Englishwoman to swim across the English Channel unaided. After several failed attempts, the typist was heralded across the globe for her athleticism. 

Unfortunately, the English Channel Swimming Association refused to recognize her accomplishment due to lack of witnesses, though some would argue that they doubted the validity of her claim based on her gender. Unfazed, the athlete set out to swim the channel once again in what would be known as a vindication swim.

Word's First Waterproof Watch Case
Rolex Oyster, 1927

The year before her swim, Rolex had released its first waterproof wristwatch - the Oyster. Capitalizing off of the media coverage of the vindication swim, Hans Wilsdorf saw an opportunity to prove to the world that the Rolex Oyster could withstand the raging waters and live up to its promise. 

Mercedes Gleitze agreed to swim the channel with a gold Oyster hanging from her neck. She also agreed to write a testimony about her experience in exchange for the timepiece. After 10 hours of battling fatigue, jellyfish stings and strong currents, she emerged from the water victorious, with the watch still ticking. 

A triumph for Gleitze and the fledgling Rolex brand, the company took out a full page ad in The Daily Mail commemorating the swim and putting Rolex's innovation on the map. 

Daily Mail Ad Rolex Oyster Mercedes Geitze
Full Page Ad by Rolex in 1927 Commemorating Mercedes Gleitze's Swim

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