A Rolex watch that was worn during the first successful climb of Mount Everest in 1953 has been sold for a record sum at auction in Suffolk.
Collectors from around the world fought it out on telephone lines in the main saleroom of Martlesham auctioneers Lockdales as the price was pushed up to a world record £27,000.
A German bidder eventually won the battle for the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer. The exact final figure was £27,140. This includes buyers premium and other costs.
Bidding started at £5,000 in front of a packed audience for one of the most unusual lots ever to be sold by the company.
Auction manager James Sadler said: “This watch is truly ultra-rare. It is one of a rare batch that were designed to work perfectly at altitude.
“Rolex brought a very limited number out ahead of the epic climb by the party which saw Sir Edmund Hillary reach the summit with Tenzing Norgay.
“The 11 bidders are all dedicated specialists in their field.
“Many of them have told us that the previous high for an explorer watch like this was £17,000. So we are so proud of the staggering figure achieved on our premises.”
The successful climb of Everest took place in 1953. The team was led by Sir John (later Lord) Hunt, with Hillary and Norgay reaching the summit on May 29.
The news of the successful climb reached Britain four days later – on the morning of the Queen’s coronation.
There were 15 official members of the Everest team – who were also accompanied by The Times journalist James (now Jan) Morris.
But they used a further 360 Nepalese porters to make the ascent – so a total of almost 400 people were involved in the ascent.
Special equipment able to operate at very high altitude – like the Rolex watch – was supplied to team members because they were facing conditions no one had come across before.
The story of the conquest remains one of the great achievements of the 21st century.
New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary died at the age of 88 in 2008, Tenzing Norgay died at the age of 71 in 1986 and Lord Hunt died in 1998 at the age of 88.