Rolex Explorer and Submariner Models Released in 1953

March 28, 2016

Rolex released many of the professional models that would go on to become their most popular in the 1950s. The world became intrigued by exploration, experimentation, aviation and diving in this decade. Hans Wilsdorf remained tapped into the zeitgeists of the time and made sure that Rolex wristwatches went along for the ride. 
picture of the first rolex explorer model 1953
First Rolex Explorer Model, 1953 (photo: Rolex)
The Explorer was the first of the professional models to be released in 1953. The watchmaker equipped Tenzing Norgay with an experimental Oyster Perpetual model when he reached the summit of Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. The information collected on that and many other prior expeditions would bring the Explorer model to life.

That same year, Rene-Paul Jeanneret, one of the directors of Rolex and an avid diver, suggested that they create a dive watch that was as elegant as it was useful underwater. Years prior, Rolex had worked on dive watches with Panerai, but had not come up with anything resembling the Submariner pictured below.

picture of the first rolex submariner from 1953
First Rolex Submariner Model, 1953 (photo: Rolex)
The first Submariner had straight, pencil shaped hour and minute hands that would later be replaced by the iconic Mercedes hands that are still used on today's model. This was the first diver's watch that was water resistant up to 100 meters. 

The Submariner made its documentary film debut on Jacques Cousteau's wrist in The Silent World in 1956. It also took a plunge into the depths strapped onto the hull of Swiss physicist and explorer Auguste Piccard's Bathyscaphe Trieste submersible in 1953. The watch was still ticking upon its return to the surface, giving Hans Wilsdorf and Rolex reason to move forward in their horological exploration of land, air and sea.


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