Around Alone, 50 Years On: Sir Francis Chichester’s Rolex Oyster Perpetual

Sir Francis Chichester was 66 and already profoundly accomplished adrift when he embarked on The Clipper Route in 1966.

The Clipper Route is so named on the grounds that it was the way followed by the significant distance cruising clippers in the eighteenth century. The route starts in Europe and travels down the west shoreline of Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, across the Indian Ocean, past Australia’s Cape Leeuwin, at that point across the Pacific, rounding Cape Horn in the Southern Ocean to turn north and head up the Atlantic back to Europe. Before the launch of the Panama Canal, it was the quickest route around the world. Yet, it accompanied a great arrangement of risk, particularly the stretch through the supposed “Roaring 40s” around the lower part of South America. Incalculable boats and sailors have been lost over the years in that treacherous stretch of frigid ocean, with immense waves and high breezes.

Despite the difficulties, Chichester made it, cruising the entire Clipper Route without anyone else in his 54-foot ketch, Gipsy Moth IV, requiring 226 days to cover the 28,500 miles from and back to England, making just one stop in Australia. One piece of fundamental gear he took with him was his 1965 Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch, in all probability a ref. 1003 or 1007, which was no mere ornamentation. Chichester utilized the watch as a route instrument related to his sextant. So satisfied was he with its performance that he sent a basic telegram to a Rolex retailer in Singapore on the day he returned to England:

“Arrived Plymouth 2203 today. Have worn my Rolex Oyster Perpetual throughout journey around the world – Chichester”

Chichester’s boat may have required repairs, yet he noticed that his Rolex was doing just fine.

As a former Royal Air Force man who pioneered navigational procedures during World War II, Chichester would have seen the incentive in an accurate watch and Rolex was popular with the British military in the postwar years. Rolex’s legendary waterproof cases, alongside their chronometer certification settled on them natural decisions for serious cruising adventures. It’s some way or another charming that he picked a more dressy Oyster Perpetual, worn on a Jubilee bracelet even, for this hardest of journeys. Interestingly, on a photograph dated only seven days before his departure in 1966, Chichester hand writes a thank you to Rolex for providing him with a GMT-Master, a watch that would appear to be better appropriate for his requirements. Another photograph shows him dockside, fitting out his yacht with the GMT-Master on one wrist and an Oyster bracelet watch on the other. However all photographs from his journey show just his own Oyster Perpetual on his wrist. Perhaps the GMT-Master was too enormous and gaudy for Chichester, even in his own company, for a very long time adrift. After all, he was a 66-year old British honorable man known for his eccentricity and stiff upper lip.

But this little watch, with its dauphine hands, applied markers, and motor turned bezel, held up fine, even through some harrowing minutes. In one photograph, we see Chichester, drill close by, Rolex on wrist, making repairs to the harmed gunwale of his boat. Scrawled in the upper corner, he has written, “Wanderer Moth IV requirements repairs after inverting in the Tasman Sea, however the Rolex ticks on cheerfully.” It is 50 years precursor to the Instagram wristshot, hashtags not included. 

It’s conspicuous that a sturdy, waterproof watch was required for this sort of trip, yet one that was rugged AND accurate was considerably more significant. The idea of the deck watch returns to the nineteenth century. Most timekeeping lovers at this point know the story of the advancement of the marine chronometer , which opened up route by permitting sailors to at last determine longitude. Marine chronometers were commonly utilized right up through the 1970s, when LORAN (long range route) opened up past military use.

A photograph of Chichester wearing both a Rolex GMT-Master and another watch on an Oyster bracelet.

But a marine chronometer, however accurate and important as it seems to be, is anything but a decent decision for the salt-sprayed deck of a pitching boat, so it normally remained careful in the chart room or pilothouse. A deck watch would be set against the marine chronometer and afterward utilized on deck to time sextant readings, the accuracy of which rely greatly upon knowing the specific time. Until the early 1900s, deck watches were pocketwatches, carried in the coat of the navigator and carefully counseled during sun shots. Be that as it may, in 1914, the Kew Observatory in England awarded a “Class A” chronometer certificate to a wristwatch for the very first time. That watch was, of course, a Rolex.

Rolex’s chronometer-certified accuracy, and the later improvement of the Oyster case and screw-down crown, amounted to a pretty perfect sailor’s watch. Presently in lieu, or notwithstanding, a marine chronometer, a straightforward wrist-worn watch could be depended on for navigational timekeeping, even in the stormiest oceans. Chichester would have utilized his Rolex to take his day by day sextant readings, carefully noticing the specific time and comparing his sun point to a reference book and his charts to determine where on the planet he was. Of his watch, he wrote in a letter in 1968:

“During my journey around the world in Gipsy Moth IV, my Rolex Watch was knocked off my wrist multiple times without being harmed. I can’t envision a hardier watch. When utilizing [it] for sextant work and working the foredeck, it was frequently slammed, additionally splashed by waves coming aboard; yet it never appeared to mind all this.”

The Gipsy Moth IV, Chichester’s vessel.

Upon his triumphant return to England in May 1967, Chichester was given a hero’s welcome, with a huge number of boats, boats, and aircraft escorting the Gipsy Moth IV into Plymouth harbor. He was later knighted for his accomplishments and his independent circumnavigation inspired the popular Golden Globe race the next year, which would up Chichester’s bet by requiring the round-the-world journey to be done relentless and entirely unassisted. A certain GMT-Master would figured into that adventure too, however we’ll leave that for a future story. Tragically, Sir Francis Chichester passed on of cellular breakdown in the lungs just a brief time after his historic adventure.

Chichester’s watch is one more chapter in the broad lore that makes Rolex so interminably interesting and a favorite brand among watch fans. Alongside the endeavors of Hillary and Messner on Everest, Yeager in the sky, and endless explorers and military divers under the ocean, large numbers of the great exploration accomplishments of the twentieth century were finished with Rolexes on wrists. These stories additionally remind us that individuals once did great things without electronics or over the top online media refreshes, utilizing just their smarts, their fortitude, and, of course, a trusty mechanical watch.