Geneva, Nov 04, 2023

LOT 245


CHF 20,000 - 40,000

EUR 21,100 - 42,100 / USD 22,200 - 44,300 / HKD 174,000 - 348,000

Sold: CHF 56,250

A fine, historically important, self-winding stainless steel wristwatch given to Dr. Gabriel Chevalley upon his return from his 1952 Swiss Everest Expedition

Grading System
Case: 3-8


Slightly scratched

Movement: 3 *
Dial: 2-54-01-05

Very good

Service dial

HANDS Original

HANDS Luminous material reapplied

Brand Rolex, Switzerland

Model Oyster Perpetual

Reference 6098

Year 1951

Movement No. 22852

Case No. 846218

Bracelet leather with a stainless steel Rolex buckle

Diameter 36 mm.

Caliber 775, 25 jewels

Signature Dial, case (with engraving) and movement signed

Accessories Rolex letter dated 1953 confirming the return of the 2 watches worn during the expedition and the gift of the present watch, Dr. Chevalley's spectacles, wooden transport crate, 2 pickaxes, crampons, bonnet, thermal underwear and jacket, maps, photos, newspaper clippings, invitation letters, expedition budget, various letters, signed book featuring all the members of the expedition including Tanzing Norgay


Dr. Gabriel Chevalley (1918-1990)

Born in Bex in 1918, son of the director of the salt mines (Salines de Bex), his passion for mountain climbing started early as by age fifteen he was already climbing the "Bloc Monstre" and the "Pierre Bessa" not far from his family home as well as the Dents de Morcle (2969m). After studying at the college de Saint Maurice during which he became very close friends with the author Maurice Chappaz, he joins the Swiss army during the Second World War serving 509 days combining his medical studies and mountain climbing (he climbs the Weisshorn, Bietschorn among many others and most notably in 1950 he accomplishes his first Himalayan expedition by conquering the Abi Garmin (7355m) with Dittert, Tissieres and Berril)

In 1948, he joins the CICR (ICRC International Committee for the Red Cross) working as a doctor in Lebanon then in Pakistan.

He joins both Swiss Everest Expeditions in 1952 as the doctor also in the second attempt as the leader. Amongst the amazing achievements made by the team (see below), one other extraordinary event mentioned in his diary was the operation at 6000m of the Sherpa Ang Norbu who was suffering from a neck tumor. Creating an operating table with 6 crates, he was sedated and Dr Chevalley proceeded to open his neck, remove the tumor and close the wound. The next day the Sherpa was already back on his feet.

After the expedition, he works at various hospitals (Loeche les Bains, Hospital Nestle and Lavey-les Bains. In 1958 he sets up his own practice in Bex where he served and lived until his retirement.

The 1952 Swiss Everest Expedition

Just like all explorers, the dream to conquer the impossible was always at the top of the list. The Everest culminating at 8'848m would naturally attract some of the most extreme explorers as the earth's highest peak. Unavailable to foreign climbers until 1951, in 1952 the Tibetan government gave the Swiss the opportunity to attempt its climb to the top. The first fall ascent led by Edouard Wyss-Dunant would consist of 9 climbers (including Dr. Chevalley, Tanzing Norgay, Raymond Lambert). After spending a gruelling night at 8'400 meters, Norgay and Lambert attempted the final climb (with effectively non working oxygen masks) only to have to stop at 8'595m setting the record for the highest ascent. The discoveries made in terms of new routes, conditions at high altitudes and equipment would ultimately qualify this attempt as successful and opened the path for the future.

Following that first attempt, a new Fall expedition was quickly organised this time led by Dr. Gabriel Chevalley but the extreme winds and cold prevented them making it to the summit. Importantly it was thanks to the maps and passages discovered by the Swiss team and the Sherpas that allowed the 1953 British expedition to conquer the Everest led by Hillary and Norgay. The Telegram sent by the British to the Swiss team after their conquest clearly gives credit to their exploits with this now legendary phrase " To you goes half the glory".

Rolex Ref. 6098, serial 846218

According to a Rolex advertisement in the Swiss foundation for Alpine Research published in 1953 (accompanied with the watch), Rolex equipped the 3 early 1952 Everest attempts by English, French and Swiss expeditions with 15 Rolex chronometer's that we now know to be references 6098 as confirmed by the Rolex letter. With no traces of any other expeditions other than the Swiss, it seems more than likely that all 15 (maybe less) 6098's were given to climbers only and not all team members wore them. We now know that most climbers wore 2 watches one on each wrist to test them during the expedition (as shown in some of the photos), we now know from talking with former family members that Rolex had equipped their wristwatches with 2 different types of oil to be tested under extreme conditions.
Amazingly the family conserved the letter they received from Rolex in 1953 confirming the return of both watches used during the expedition, as agreed (stamped on the back A7 and B7, we know that Norman Dyrenfurth, film maker of the 1952 fall expedition, had example B6) and the gift of the present watch in exchange.


Property of the original Swiss family