Former property of….. by Antiquorum

Historical timepieces

In today’s auction market, the quest for proven and established provenance is all the more important. Not only is it a guarantee of security, but it is also a source of historical legitimacy. In many cases, these pieces bear witness to the courage and self-transcendence of extraordinary personalities. Today, Antiquorum is fortunate to be able to present in its next November auction in Geneva two fine and extremely rare wristwatches made unique thanks to their exceptional provenance : former property of Dr. Gabriel Chevalley and Mr. Dominique Appia.


Preview : November 1st – 5th

Opening hours : 10AM – 6PM

Antiquorum Genève SA

3 rue du Mont-Blanc

1201 Genève

Auction : November 5th

Sunday November 5th at 10AM – 1st session

Sunday November 5th at 2PM – 2nd session

Hôtel Beau-Rivage – Salon de l’Impératrice

13 Quai du Mont-Blanc

1201 Genève

Former property of Doctor Gabriel Chevalley (1918-1990)

Doctor Gabriel Chevalley

Gabriel Chevalley is one of those men who lived through almost a century, not just passing through it but shaping it by his actions.

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 was the Swiss doctor who accompanied the two expeditions to mount Everest in 1952. Both in spring and autumn. As a member of the team of climbers on the spring expedition, he risked his life to help evacuate the South Col. 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. As leader of the second expedition, he took on heavy responsibilities during the period of stubborn waiting in the middle of winter storms. He was awarded this Rolex ref. 6098 by the manufacture for his involvement in these historic journeys.

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.

We are delighted to be able to offer the watch for sale, together with the accessories he used on the two expeditions, such as ice axes, sleeping bags and mountain clothing, …. as well as a significant amount of documentation about both the exploit and the period.

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.


The 1952 Peruvian Andes Expedition

An international expedition to the Andes under the leadership of Piero Ghiglione, the well-known Italian climber carried out extensive mountain exploration in the Andes of Southern Peru in the summer of 1952 carried out in the company of the Austrian alpinist Mathias Rebitsch, the Swedish climber Anders Bolinder, the Peruvian geologist Alberto Parodi, and Felix Marx. The story of their climb is written in “The Mountain World” published in 1953 by the Swiss Foundation of Alpine Exploration (see below):

The southern part of Peru is still today an immense field for the explorer and mountaineer, since a quantity of virgin summits is to be found there, many of them exceeding 6,000 m. (c. 20,000 feet) in height. The best existing geographical maps show the better known giants, but they lack every indication as to a great number of other summits. I had the opportunity to ascertain this on my first expedition to the region in 1950, and it was for this reason that I wanted to return to southern Peru in 1952. As a result of the exploration done during the earlier year, I was certain that entire chains do not figure in the geographical maps of the country, even the most modern ones.
In the course of the expedition in question, we climbed two hitherto unclimbed giants, Solimana and Aussangate, as well as a virgin summit in the Coropuna group and two equally virgin summits in the absolutely unknown region of the Gayangate chain and of the Cordillera which stretches quite close to the great plain of the Amazonas, in a region equally unknown and never before traversed by white men. In this way we had been able to take a great step forward in the exploration of these wonderful Peruvian mountains, but great strides must still be made if we wish to come near to defining the orographic system of this marvelous territory.

From the summits attained during my climbs of 1950, I had several times observed various unexplored giants. However, the opportunity to climb them only came to me two years later, when with the help of two good comrades it was possible for me to make up a new expedition. These comrades were a young Swedish climber and engineer, Anders Bolinder, and the Austrian climber Mathias Rebitsch. I had got to know them at the Himalayan meeting at Munich at the end of September 1951.
At Lima we had the assistance of the representatives of our respective countries. On the other hand, the Peruvian Government departments had already been informed concerning our expedition; thus H.E. the Minister of the Interior, Don Manuel Callager, had announced our forthcoming arrival to the Perfects and Military Commanders of the two south Peruvian cities whence we should set out on our various expeditions, that is to say, Arequipa in the southwest and Cuzco in the south-east. The Italian Ambassador at Lima, Baron Enrico Bombieri, had assured us of all his support and so had the Director-General of the Peruvian railways, the engineer Romero Leith, the Director of the Geological Institute of Peru at Lima, Professor Jorge Broggi, and the Faucett Aviation Company. On 26th June Rebitsch and I left the island in a plane belonging to that company. Thanks to a fine clear morning, we were able to observe from close range the southern and western slopes of Solimana, and we drew from this the conclusion that it would be advisable to attempt the ascent of the mountain by the eastern slopes or, perhaps better still, from the north, where the snow-line would probably be higher. At Arequipa, at 7,500 feet, we met the geologist Alberto Parodi, a professor at the University there, with whom I had already been in correspondence from Europe. He willingly agreed to take part in the Solimana expedition, which rightly interested him because of its yet unknown geological structure.

The following morning, 10th July, we left our camp at an early hour, climbing not without effort, having regard to the altitude— and even more because this was the beginning of our expedition— the slopes of scree above the camp, and then slopes of snow. After crossing the first glacier, which was covered with pyramids of pinnacle ice, we were involved in a long ice-ridge which took us to a height of about 18,400 feet immediately below the very steep final face of Solimana. We were on a small plateau. After taking some nourishment we took a direct line up the face which rose above us for about 2,300 ft. at an angle in places of as much as 50 degrees. This face, which was partly of ice and partly snow, presented its greatest difficulties in its latter part, very steep and all of smooth ice; it was there, too, that we were at grips with a violent wind, which was the more difficult because we were now in shadow. At last, at half-past three, after having accomplished some acrobatic climbing, and having surmounted the only rock buttress (andesite) in the whole face, we emerged upon the north summit, that is to say the final spur, which was so thin that we had to move along it astride. The altimeter recorded 20,588 feet, and the thermometer 21.6° below freezing.

Alberto Parodi (1907-1999)

Alberto Parodi was born in 1907 in Puno, a town on Lake Titicaca in Peru, located at an altitude of 3,812 m. above sea level where Father Costantino with his family had moved. Alberto studied in Puno at the “San Carlos” college and at the age of 20 he returned to Italy to study geology at the Milan Polytechnic.
After graduating he stayed in Italy as a valid geologist, he was hired by S.A.P.I.E. on 14 October 1937 with an open-ended contract, he arrived in Jubdo (Ethiopia) on 06 January 1938 and assumed command of the geo-mining exploration. At the same column and under his guidance, was assigned the young graduate Alfredo Pollini,who arrived with him in Africa, who joined him in geological and mining research.

Alberto and Alfredo worked on the alluvial prospecting of the Kapi hill and on the reactivation of the abandoned mine of Tullu Kapi.
They carried out alluvial exploration of the Bir-Bir river basin and its left tributaries near Jubdo and similar exploration was carried out from the column in the catchment basin of the Uva and Kobara rivers right tributaries of the Bir-Bir.
In the Alaltù area, Alberto Parodi excavated about 400 wells and explored the plateau on the left of the Didessa valley, studying its geological aspectsOn 15 October 1939 he was recalled to the officers’ school in Addis Ababa for military instruction which, for various reasons of study and work, he had not been able to complete.Therefore he had to leave the field service with column No. 4, not without problems for him and the mining company. After completing the officer cadet course, he was called back to war as Second Lieutenant of the mountain artillery in the 140th battery of the LXXth Colonial Artillery Group under the 70th Brigade (139th and 140th batteries).
He made the Somaliland campaign and in March 1941 he began the retreat with his unit, first on Harar, then in Galla and Sidama, passing south of Addis Ababa. Reduced to the bone by the desertions of the colored troops (the Group had only 70 men left), they had to surrender earlier.
Alberto was captured on April 19, 1941 in Dire Dawa and imprisoned in Eldoret (Camp 356) in Kenya, (P.O.W. 9592), with his colleagues Alfredo Pollini, Mario Maschio, Pasquale Zugno and Giuseppe Puliga.
It seems that, released after the end of the war, he had to wait for his repatriation to Italy, at the port of Mombasa, for about a year. Returning home at the end of 1946 he married Professor Eugenia Tamini (biologist at the University of Milan), his fiancée, who had been waiting for him.
In 1947, due to the employment crisis in post-war Italy, he decided to move back to Peru where he became a university professor at the San Agustín University in Arequipa.
He specialized in Structural Geology and Volcanology and in this university he was Director of the school of Geology. Alberto’s wife also taught in the same university in the chair of Comparative Anatomy and Microbiology. The Italian Republic awarded Alberto, on 02 June 1965, with the signatures of Saragat and Moro, the honor of Official Knight of Merit of the Italian Republic. Alberto Parodi was a good mountaineer; between 1955 and 1965, together with Italian mountaineers (Piero Gillon and Mario Fantin), he made several ascents on at least 20 volcanoes above 5,800 m. above sea level In particular he studied “El Misti”, volcano of Arequipa, writing several scientific notes.
He also wrote about the astronomical observatory of Carmen Alto, recounting that while in captivity in Kenya, he read a book that spoke of the discovery, made from that very site by the astronomer William Pikering in 1898, of a new satellite of Saturn (Phoebe).
Finally, almost blind, he wrote a work on Lake Titicaca on whose shores (Puno) he was born.
He was an international consultant for several hydroelectric projects and Peruvian representative at the Smithsonian Institute of Vulcanology, presenting many projects on geothermal energy, until his death in 1999.

Dominique Appia (1926-2017)

Rolex, ref. 18239, day-date, lapis dial

The “Day-Date” model was launched in 1956 and this specific reference 18239 in the late 1980’s . It is one of Rolex most coveted “classic” models – in opposition to the “sports” models.

Known as the wristwatch worn by presidents, hence its nickname “President”, it was the first water-resistant and self-winding chronometer wristwatch to offer a modern calendar with an instantaneous day display, spelt out in full in a window on the dial, in addition to the date.

Exclusively crafted in precious metals, very few watch models come close to the stature, eminence and timelessness of the Rolex “Day-Date”.

After a successful launch, the Rolex Day-Dates have been produced in a wide range of colour variations from lacquered, engraved or hard stone dials. Due to their high cost models with hard-stone dial, such as lapis, malachite or coral, are extremely rare. Indeed, due to the complexity of assembling wristwatches hard-stone dials, many examples encompass hairline cracks after being fitted to a watchcase.

A prestigious provenance

Dominique Appia is a Swiss artist born in Geneva on July 29th 1926. His artistic vocation ran in the family, since his great-uncle was Adolphe Appia (1862-1928) was a famous architect and theorist of stage lighting and décor.

After various jobs, from hotel bellboy to taxi driver, he learnt about photographic editing and printing, before persevering for 15 years as a draughtsman in an architect’s office, where he was confronted with the challenges of precision drawings and respect for proportions. He really started his artistic career at the age of 40, completely self-taught.

Fascinated by surrealism and the Renaissance, some of his most famous works can be found on the ceiling of the Victoria Hall in Geneva (1987) and at Rolex Geneva headquarters having designed some of the floors, murals and fountains, including 3 granit fountains, mosaic pool, 5 wall decorations (Phases de la Lune“, “Pendule de Foucault“, l'”Ecliptique“, “Plaisirs de la table“, et l'”Avenir de la tradition” (1994) and a granit floor labyrinth (1998) for which he was gifted this watch. The influence of Renaissance art is reflected in the taste for grandiose decorations and their integration into the architecture. From surrealism – he was greatly influenced by the Belgian Surrealists – an iconography suggesting dreamlike, oneiric, unusual and strange worlds.

He is also renowned for his work as an illustrator, a talent acquired during his years as an architectural drawer, whether for exhibitions or charities. In 1979, he won the Grand Prix de l’affiche française.

His work has been exhibited in the world’s greatest museums and fairs, notably the Rath museum in Geneva (1978 and 1979), the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1978, 1979, 1982 and 1988) and the FIAC, the International Contemporary Art Fair in Paris (2004).

A great lover of the city of Geneva, in 2013, he published Geneve : guide amoureux et sentimental pour les curieux (translation Geneva: a romantic and sentimental guide for the curious).

He pursued his artistic work up to the end stating in one of his last interview « Un artiste ne s’arrête jamais  » (translation : “an artist never stops”). He died on January 8th, 2017, leaving his mark on Geneva’s artistic life.

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