By Jason Heaton
on 4.15.11

As Rolex moves further away from its tool watch roots with bigger, shinier version of its classics, there are still those in the watch community who are carrying forward the legacy that began in the 1950s with the Explorer and Submariner. A couple of years ago, a Dutch Rolex collector, Philipp Stahl, created a modified DeepSea Sea Dweller paying homage to the original Deep Sea that accompanied Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh on their fateful trip to the bottom of the ocean. Special packaging and literature accompanied the “Single Red DeepSea” and a limited number were sold at a special auction.

Mr. Stahl’s most recent project pays homage to another momentous historical expedition in which Rolex played a part. The limited edition Hillary Tenzing Explorer, commemorates the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, as part of a British expedition. Of course, Rolex was along for the journey (whether it was a Rolex or a Smiths that was on Sir Ed’s wrist is still up for debate). The Hillary Tenzing Explorer, a subtly modified 39mm Explorer, raises fetishistic Rolex tool watch packaging to new heights (29,028 feet to be exact), with wooden expedition crates as packaging and other unique ‘50s mountaineering paraphernalia. With Rolex’s release at BaselWorld 2011 of their new Explorer II, there is speculation that the HTE package will contain not one but two modified Rolexes, the two sibling Explorers.

Only 88 of these unique packages will be sold and surely the price will be up in the thin air (we’ve heard $40,000). The 88th and final package will have three watches – the HTE Explorer, an original Everest expedition Explorer and a vintage Explorer II. This one will be auctioned off and there’s no telling how stratospheric the price will go. But for the Rolex fanatic or mountaineering geek, no price could be too high.

The Hillary Tenzing Explorer Website is special on its own, with a slow reveal stretched out over weeks, in true expedition style. Check it out and keeping going back for updates as the project approaches its summit.

Estimated Price: $40,000 (€29,000)