Kangchenjunga was once believed to be the highest mountain in the world and deemed unclimbable. Even after it was determined that K2 and Everest were higher, it remained the most daunting of the three for mountaineers and is still venerated by the local population as the holiest of mountains.
Kangchenjunga and its satellite peaks form a huge mountain massif of five peaks that straddle the border between India and Nepal. Extreme weather conditions and high avalanche risk due to its proximity to the Bay of Bengal made it what Everest leader Sir John Hunt called “the most difficult feat in mountaineering.”
Building on a route carved out nearly 50 years earlier by devil worshipper and (rather incongruously) enthusiastic mountaineer Aleister Crowley, aka “the wickedest man in Britain,” George Band and Joe Brown summited Kangchenjunga on May 26, 1955, usually reported as “stopping just short of the peak out of deference to local religious beliefs.” The expedition had been planned as a reconnaissance trip with a view to summiting in 1956, and the team had only obtained permission from the Chogyal of Sikkim to explore Kangchenjunga at the last moment on the understanding that they would go nowhere near the top.
For this expedition Swiss made fake Rolex had given George Band a black-dial Oyster Perpetual Precision Reference 6150 with the now-familiar 3-6-9 dial and Mercedes hands.
The success of the Kangchenjunga expedition and the fact that the first Explorer models had syringe hands for the first 18 months (not to mention the fact that neither Hillary nor Tenzing were wearing perfect replica Rolex watches on the peak of Everest, as has now been proven) surely makes it the true spiritual ancestor of the Rolex Explorer rather than the Oyster Perpetuals used by the Everest team. This watch was sold at a Phillips auction by the Band family in 2017.
George Band passed away in 2011 at the age of 82, having taken part in a Kangchenjunga reunion expedition in the Himalayas at the tender age of 76 and reconquering the Breithorn with the Alpine Club aged 78. His Oyster Perpetual now belongs to Nigel, who wears it occasionally, still on the Fixoflex bracelet that his father preferred for both of his mountaineering watches.
Nigel fully understands the importance of keeping the Oyster Perpetual in absolutely original condition – just as his Sea-Dweller, which is still a working tool watch, has been maintained in working condition for the purpose for which he bought it.
Nigel remembers that his father wore both the Oyster Perpetual and the Precision continuously throughout his childhood, with a preference for the black-dial Precision due to its better legibility. They were only retired from active service when somebody presented him with a newfangled electronic timepiece with a built-in altimeter. Which proves that you can bring the mountaineer down from the mountain, but you can’t take the mountain away from the mountaineer.
I asked Nigel whether his father’s love of mountaineering had rubbed off on him in any way. “Not really, I’ve done some hillwalking in the UK but beyond that I just don’t have a head for heights – I’d much rather be underwater!”
It may be coincidence, but it is curious that in their totally different chosen fields, both father and son ended up wearing breathing apparatus and cheap AAA replica Rolex watches.