Patek Philippe. A unique and historically important 18ct gold open face centre seconds pocket watch especially made for Capt. H.H.Shufeldt USN (Ret.) and used by John Larsen Chief Navigator, as the master time piece in the worlds first polar orbital flight, made by the jet 707  “Operation Polecat” 14th-17th November, 1965. Together with original Bulletin De Marche and with specially made Patek Philippe fitted presentation box Ref: 813, Case No.2601312, Movement No.880803, Sold August 27th 1959
Lot 57
Patek Philippe. A unique and historically important 18ct gold open face centre seconds pocket watch especially made for Capt. H.H.Shufeldt USN (Ret.) and used by John Larsen Chief Navigator, as the master time piece in the worlds first polar orbital flight, made by the jet 707 “Operation Polecat” 14th-17th November, 1965. Together with original Bulletin De Marche and with specially made Patek Philippe fitted presentation box Ref: 813, Case No.2601312, Movement No.880803, Sold August 27th 1959
Sold for £31,200 (US$ 52,441) inc. premium
Lot Details
Patek Philippe. A unique and historically important 18ct gold open face centre seconds pocket watch especially made for Capt. H.H.Shufeldt USN (Ret.) and used by John Larsen Chief Navigator, as the master time piece in the worlds first polar orbital flight, made by the jet 707 “Operation Polecat” 14th-17th November, 1965. Together with original Bulletin De Marche and with specially made Patek Philippe fitted presentation box
Ref: 813, Case No.2601312, Movement No.880803, Sold August 27th 1959
19-jewel nickel finished movement jewelled to the centre and adjusted to heat, cold, isochronsim and 5 positions, lever escapement, cut and compensated balance, swan neck micro-regulation, silvered dial with applied gold Breguet numerals, dial signed Patek Philippe Geneve, Specially Made for Capt.H.H.Shufeldt. the black centre second hand and outer seconds graduation, polished case with snap on bezel, plain cuvette and hinged cover, together with the original Bulletin De Marche, Extract from Archives and a specially made Patek Philippe leather covered box protective box, case, dial and movement signed 45mm.

Footnotes

  • Henry H Shufeldt (1898-1985)

    Henry H. Shufeldt was born in 1898. During World War I, he served in an Army intelligence unit. Between the wars, he took up the career of a Yacht broker, and was involved in the founding of two well-known yacht-building companies, The Pearson Yacht Corporation and The Bristol Yacht Corporation. He was on the board of directors of the Bristol Yacht Corporation for many years.

    He was commissioned in the U.S.Navy in 1942 and served until 1954. During the war he served as navigator of a carrier and commanded two logistics ships, an ammunition ship and a repair ship. His last command was the converted yacht, ‘Saluda’ which served as a patrol vessel in the Atlantic fleet.

    Henry Shufeldt retired from the navy as Captain and became an associate with the Weems System of Navigation, where he worked extensively in the field of celestial navigation. One of his most notable contributions was the field study of the acquisition of skill in the use of the sextant at sea. A long series of tests (conducted under contract to the Office of Naval Research) demonstrated that practitioners continued to improve their skill with the sextant, even after as many as a thousand sights. Captain Shufeldt is probably best known as the author of the 12th edition of ‘Dutton’s Navigation and Piloting.’ More recently, he developed programs for pocket calculators to be used in all aspects of navigation.

    Operation Polecat:
    Fred Austin and Harrison Finch, pilots for Operation Polecat (also known as the Rockwell Polar Flight), were the first men to fly around the world via the Poles. In 1964, Fred Austin and his TWA associate Harrison Finch attended an Explorers Club meeting. It was here where they came up with the idea of flying over both Poles and flying around the world without refuelling. The project was to be called Operation Polecat, and Austin and Finch worked for a year to gather money and supplies. Bob Prescott, owner of the Flying Tiger line of airplanes, leased the men a 707B, the latest model of the 707 at the time. Scientific experimentation was of interest to Austin and Finch. The pilots carried 27 experiments on the flight, one of which was the first inertial navigation system sponsored by the Litton Corporation. Other experiments included atmospheric composition studied by Navy Captain Newt Laurent, head of the United States Weather Bureau, cosmic radiation studied by Dr. Serge Korff, Chief Scientist for the flight and specialist in cosmic radiation at Ormby University, and celestial navigation for the use of astronauts in space studied by Loren DeGroot.

    John Larsen of TWA was the chief navigator for the historic flight, and was a close associate of Capt. Shufeldt. He used this Patek Philippe pocket watch as the master timepiece for the duration of the flight, and found it to be extremely accurate and reliable. The flight circled the South Pole four times, and then flew on to Christchurch, New Zealand. Bernt Balchen, who had flown over the South Pole years before was on board as a passenger and was brought into the cockpit during their circling pattern to repeat the experience. Admiral Fred Bacudas, the then current Commanding Officer of the Antarctic, met the flight at Christchurch. The flight then returned to Honolulu to complete it’s around the world record trip.

    Flight Records:
    First Plane to Fly Round-the-World over both Poles
    Round the World Speed Record
    First Jet to fly over the South Pole
    Set speed record for flying between the North and South Poles.

    Provenance:

    Captain Henry Shufeldt gave his pocket watch to his great nephew, the current vendor in the early 1970’s along with a sextant. He told him that with a good chronometer and a Plath sextant he could get anywhere. He had taught him to navigate in his early teens and by his early twenties he was sailing long distances and ocean racing in earnest. He was also invited to join the crew of the French yacht ‘Kriter’, for one leg of the very 1st Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1973/74. He was the only Englishman among the otherwise entirely French crew of twelve and he raced her from Sydney, around Cape Horn to Rio de Janiero, a distance of eight and a half thousand miles. It is one of the most travelled pocket watches known to exist and is a testament to the precision and qualities of Patek Philippe manufacture.
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