When it comes to Ernest Hemingway, the average person will only see him as the writer of, “The Old Man and The Sea”. However, he was an incredibly complex person that traveled all around the world, went to parties, was an amateur boxer, and an alcohol connoisseur.
As is true with many artists and honest storytellers, Hemingway was a bit of a tortured soul. So many of his writings are incredibly interesting because they tell the stories that reflect the complicated and difficult nature of being human. He was a heavy drinker and lived a life of chaos much of the time. As he is also known for tragically ending his own life, it is easy to see that there were not many stable things in his life.
There were two things that were very consistent for Ernest Hemingway. The first was waking up and writing. He was known to write every morning as soon as he could. The other thing that was incredibly steady was his Rolex Oyster Perpetual. This was the watch that he wore almost every day. It was a classy steel watch that was the steady timekeeper for the man with a life that was all over the place.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is a beautiful steel watch (or "Oystersteel") with a stainless-steel band. However, Hemingway’s Rolex Oyster that he was often pictured with is from the 1950s and is 18 carat gold and has a leather band.
Hemingway admired the Rolex Oyster Perpetual so much that it found its way into his novel Across the River and Into the Trees when he compared the watch to the human heart:
"It’s just a muscle,” the Colonel said. “Only it is the main muscle. It works as perfectly as a Rolex Oyster Perpetual.
The trouble is you cannot send it to the Rolex representative when it goes wrong. When it stops, you just do not know the time. You’re dead.”
Here Hemingway is equating the accuracy of an Oyster Perpetual to the human heart. But in the case of a Rolex, it can be fixed if it needs to be repaired. This was not a product placement, Hemingway had a genuine fondness for Rolexes and wasn't afraid to show it.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual is one of the iconic watches of the 20th century. The "Oyster" refers to the proud water resistance heritage - indeed it was the first waterproof watch to be produced.
Rolex heavily marketed its waterproofing qualities after the first woman to successfully cross the English Channel, Mercedes Gleitze, wore an Oyster during her achievement. This proved to be a great endorsement and Rolex still uses this in their marketing material.
The Oyster Perpetual is Rolex's entry-level model. Its classic design doesn't come with features such as date or day and comes exclusively in stainless steel. This is a great watch if you're thinking of entering into the world of Rolex.
The modern-day 36mm Oyster has the following specs:
Ernest Hemingway has also been spotted wearing a Rolex Bubbleback. The Bubbleback was the pre-cursor to the Oyster Perpetual, and was one of the first automatic watches available when it launched in 1933. Getting its name from its distinctive protruding "bubbleback" case, Rolex decided to house the large auto-rotor movement in a larger case rather than increase the watch's overall size.
Hemingway's Bubbleback probably dates from the late 1940's.
While he was most commonly seen wearing his Rolexes, he also had several interesting pocket watches. This seems even more incredibly fitting for Hemingway, the cigar smoking, rum sipping, bull fighter. Nothing says, “intellectual writer”, like the Hamilton pocket watch that he was given by Ava Gardner for his 55th birthday. Obviously, there is no need to constantly check the time if you are in the depths of writing for the first half of the day and chasing experiences in the evening. That is why a classy old pocket watch would be perfect.
There are so many different things about Hemingway that you could dissect and try to understand. The complications are what made his work great, but also lead to his unfortunate end and his misery. One thing that he could count on was his steady Rolex Oyster Perpetual, but even that could not calm the tides for this old man and his internal sea.