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    Rolex, The Julian Nott Collection Ref. 16760 GMT-Master II with Unique Dial, Issued and Used During 1980 Record Breaking Elevation of 55,134 ft in Longmont Colorado, Circa 1983 (by serial # dating)
    Case: 40 mm, stainless steel, three body case with screw down caseback and rotating 24 hour bezel, No. 8463214
    Dial: black dial with applied tritium hour markers and dark grey minute track and script, luminous skeleton hands
    Movement: Rolex Cal. 3085, self-winding, rhodium finished, 27 jewels, monometallic balance, adjusted to five positions, chronometer
    Band: Rolex signed Oyster bracelet with flip lock clasp
    Signed: Rolex on case, dial, movement

    Longmont, Colorado. Ref. 16760 GMT MASTER II "UNIQUE DIAL"

    They say that records are made to be broken, but the human spirit is not. For five years, Julian Nott's journey to 45,000 feet above central India held sway as the manned balloon elevation record, but in 1979 an American by the name of Chauncey Dunn rose to a new mark of 53,206 above the corn fields of Iowa, knocking Nott from his lofty perch. Like Muhammad Ali stepping through the ring ropes at Kinshasa, Zaire to face the terrifying George Foreman in "The Rumble in the Jungle," Mr. Nott saw no other option but to face this most daunting challenge head-on and reclaim the title he had lost.

    For thirteen months, Nott and his team of engineers hunched over blueprints and mathematical calculations in an attempt to conjure a craft capable of carrying the brave aviator beyond what Dunn had done, keeping detailed notes in a personal journal included in this lot. In the early hours of Halloween 1980, Nott watched the Colorado landscape shrink away beneath him. Seventy minutes after dropping his tethers, Nott was once again the king of the ballooning world, at a new elevation record of 55,134 feet.

    The world cheered this death-defying display of courage and engineering, no voice louder than the marketing staff of Rolex, who set about creating a print media sequel to the advertisement they had produced for Nott's flight above India six years earlier. Both the man and the Rolex GMT-Master II model he wore to that record height are pictured, as well as a graphic charting the progression of the ballooning altitude record. The advertisement would be translated to many languages and released worldwide.

    Nott's personal quotation served as the ultimate endorsement of Rolex engineering: "It came under the same close scrutiny as everything else, but, personal preferences aside, its inclusion was never really in doubt."

    Beyond the obvious appeal of its participation in this record-setting flight, the offered timepiece is extraordinarily significant as one of the earliest incarnations of its format known, the 1980 presentation to Nott predating by three years the model's official retail launch. Eagle-eyed experts will also be struck by the prototype dial which features dark text rather than the flat white of production models. We are aware of no other specimens bearing this subtle variation.

    Finally, it bears mentioning that the engineering that made this October 31, 1980 record flight possible would bear even more fruit over three decades later, as Mr. Nott teamed with skydiver Alan Eustace, who would plummet faster than the speed of sound from a jointly-designed balloon perched at the upper edge of the stratosphere in October 2014. That twenty-five-mile plunge remains a world record to this day.


    The Julian Nott Collection

    A month before Neil Armstrong placed the first human footprint into the powder coating of the Moon, another leading pioneer of aviation was just beginning his own romance with the skies, chartering a hot air balloon ride to impress a young lady who had struck his fancy. Mesmerized by the peaceful silence and scenic views of that inaugural flight in June 1969, Julian Nott realized he had found true love--not in the comely companion who shared his wicker basket, but in the gentle nullification of gravity and the scientific principles that made it possible.

    For the next half century, there would be no greater name in the field of ballooning than Julian Nott, who would compile a collection of nearly eighty world records in his dangerous profession, innovating pressurized cabins and solar heating mechanisms to soar to unprecedented altitudes and historic crossings of the Sahara Desert and the Australian continent. Sadly, Nott's long and beautiful dance with death would come to its conclusion in March of this year, a crash landing on a mountainside in Warner Springs, California. He was seventy-four years old.

    Biographical accounts have tended to stress the physical bravery of the world's aeronautical pioneers--from Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight to Sikorsky's treacherous early experiments with helicopters to the various Apollo missions--and certainly Nott was always fully cognizant of the possibility that his life might end in the manner that it did. But Nott was first and foremost a man of science, a highly skilled and innovative engineer whose contributions to the advancement of high-altitude travel lives on in the machinery he invented. His immortality in the field has long been assured by a voluminous folder of patents.

    Was it his daring or his intellect that brought him to the attention of horology's most celebrated commercial brand? The answer is almost certainly both. In retrospect, the partnership between Rolex and Julian Nott seems a match made in heaven--each dedicated to precision engineering and elite achievement in fields an unsentimental type might consider obsolete in an age of jet planes and cell phones tethered to atomic clocks. There is an inherent pragmatism in any form of science or engineering, but both the man and the brand have been fueled by a passion that transcends the practical.

    The clientele of Heritage Auctions is intimately familiar with this form of passion, and any serious collector of the Rolex brand will understand the enormous significance of the wristwatches that populate The Julian Nott Collection we proudly offer in the pages that follow, and the long tradition they represent. Rolex famously equipped Mercedes Gleitze with a newly-innovated Rolex Oyster in 1927 for her ten-hour swim across the English Channel to showcase its waterproof case. In 1953, Mount Everest was conquered for the first time by a British climbing team equipped with another version of that classic Rolex format. Julian Nott served as the perfect heir to that tradition of intrepid visionaries of the Rolex family, appearing in an array of print ads in the 1980's commissioned by Madison Avenue executives anxious to continue the branding of its watches as favored by the world's most accomplished and compelling pioneers.

    The wristwatches that comprise The Julian Nott Collection are the very ones issued to the renowned balloonist by Rolex during the period of Nott's endorsement, worn on some of his most important and treacherous flights. As such, there is no hyperbole in characterizing these examples to be among the most significant Rolex wristwatches ever to appear upon the auction block. Many have theorized that Nott himself was involved in some design aspects thereof, but the answer to that question will surely remain unspoken by the luxury brand's famously tight-lipped public face.

    But this much is certain--for the most sophisticated collectors of post-war horology, these personal keepsakes of the valiant aviator represent the pinnacle of Rolex intrigue. These are wristwatches that will fascinate and inspire their new owners, and, as such, serve as the perfect remembrance of the man who wore them with bravery and distinction in representation of the legendary Swiss makers.


    Condition Report*: Type: Rolex, The Julian Nott Collection Ref. 16760 GMT-Master II with Unique Dial, Issued and Used During 1980 Record Breaking Elevation of 55,134 ft in Longmont Colorado, Circa 1983 (by serial # dating)
    Signed: rolex on case, dial, movement
    Model: Ref. 16760
    Dial: black dial with applied tritium hour markers and dark grey minute track and script
    Hands: luminous skeleton hands
    Metal: stainless steel
    Case: #No. 8463214
    Case Info: three body case with screw down caseback and rotating 24 hour bezel
    Case Width: 40 mm
    Crystal: sapphire
    Watch Movement: Rolex Cal. 3085, self-winding, rhodium finished, 27 jewels, monometallic balance, adjusted to five positions, chronometer
    Band: Rolex signed Oyster bracelet with flip lock clasp
    Circa: 1983
    *Heritage Auctions strongly encourages in-person inspection of items by the bidder. Statements by Heritage regarding the condition of objects are for guidance only and should not be relied upon as statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty, or assumption of liability by Heritage. All lots offered are sold "AS IS".

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2019
    10th Tuesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 17
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,688

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