Some time ago a nice guy from Sweden came into contact with me, who wanted to know more about his Sherpa Graph watch. We had a nice talk, especially over the hands of his Sherpa Graph MK Ia which had no lume back then. He serviced the watch and the watchmaker filled the hands with lume. Today we know that skeleton hands are totally correct for the watch. More on that topic you can find here: Lume or no lume – that is the question!
Beginning of the year he contacted me again to tell me more about the history of his watch. The watch belonged to his father in law Bengt Ohrelius. If you are Swedish you may have allready heard the name . For all the others, Bengt was part of the Vasa salvation in 1961, the famous Swedish Kings ship that sunk in 1628. Bengt was the PR-manager of that mission and later author of several books about the salvage and former commander in the Swedish Navy.
The interesting fact about the watch and him is how he got it. As much as he maybe liked the watch, he didn’t needed to buy it on his own. Enicar supported the salvation with watches and used the project for their promotion (more on that topic later). Enicar gifted this Sherpa Graph Ref. 1308 BaNCH to him, together with an Enicar Sherpa Dive. Unfortunately the Sherpa Dive was lost over time at the bench of a Swedish watchmaker, but I am pretty sure it’s similar to the Sherpa Dive model of Bo Cassel, who worked as a diver for the vasa salvage too. Bo’s watch was sold in 2015 by Kaplans (see auction description here).
The Vasa salvation was a huge project in Sweden and some compare it with the American Moon Program:
“Some have called it Sweden’s Apollo Program, a dramatic and complex technical effort over several years to do something few thought possible: raise an intact 17th-century warship from the bottom of the sea. Even today, many still remember where they were when Vasa finally rose from the deep after 333 years in darkness.” (Vasa Museet)
The Vasa was the flagship of the Swedish king. It was build from 1626 to 1628. The tragedy about the ship was its fast sinking on its maiden voyage on August 10th, 1628. The ship just sailed around 1.300m and after 20min it kissed the ground of the sea close to Stockholm. The main problem was the instability of the ship, caused by the high center of gravity.
On early attempts close after the sinking, the Swedishs managed to salvage 64 of the expensive and valuable canons from the ground. Time flew by and the exact spot were the wrack was located was forgotten.
The archeolgist Anders Franzén started to search for the ship again, beginning in 1951. In 1956 he finally had success and found a piece of wood of the Vasa when drilling the ground. Professional diver and later lead of the project Per Edvin Fälting confirmed that Anders Franzén found the famous ship. Soon they managed to get funds and a team to start preparations for the salvage of the ship.
Five years after they found the ship it was V-day. On April 24th, 1961 the Vasa surfaced from the sea. This was a huge happening in Sweden, accompanied by the media, thousands of bystanders and even the Swedish Royal family. The Vasa found a new place in the especially build Vasa Museum in Stockholm, where the ship is still visible and worth a visit.
But lets come back to watches. Initially I told you that Enicar supported the project with some of their items. After looking at hundreds of pictures from the salvage (a great source is the Swedish Digital Museum!) I have to say, I didn’t find a proof. The project lead Per Edvin Fälting had a Rolex Submariner on it’s wrist during the recovery. Two of the following pictures clearly shows that (the Submariner was sold in 2011 by Kaplans also and you can find the auction description here).
Even more interesting is the fact, that when he or his collegues dived, no one had a watch on the wrist. I am not a diver, but the only explanation for me is, that they had a steady connection to the men on the ships, so a watch wasn’t necessary. In case of an emergency or loss of the connection, maybe they had a watch under the big gloves. If anyone can explain this, I would be happy to hear.
Speaking of happy. Bengt Ohrelius, the owner of the fantastic Sherpa Graph from the beginning left something great for us Enicaristi. Among Bengt’s belongings, his son in law found the following pic.
This again is Per Edving Fälting, the project lead of the Vasa salvage showing us a nice Sherpa Dive on his wrist. Some of you maybe recognize this pic. Enicar used a similar one for several of its promotion campaigns. You can find it in booklets, newspaper ads and their catalogs. The shown watch is a Sherpa Dive Ref. 100/224 BaANXS with Aluminium bezel and without (!) red ring. The bezel maybe has small lume dots at 3, 6 and 9. Its highly possible that this is the same watch that Bo Cassel used and was mentioned earlier.
Especially in Sweden Enicar used the motive with diver Fälting long into the late 1960s and advertised their watches with the successfull salvage of the famous Kings Ship.
Bengt by the way started a second career as an actor ;-). He appeared in the movie, that the Vasa museum showed to the visitors about the Ship’s history and its recovery. What a perfect way to end such a big project.