Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Montblanc and Nirmal Purja
Nirmal Purja

Even if you can’t name all 14 of the highest peaks on the planet, you probably know the name Nirmal Purja, also known as Nimsdai. This Nepal-born British mountaineer broke all sorts of records by conquering the above in six months and six days – and without the need for supplementary oxygen. Naturally, you want to know all about the Montblanc watch he was wearing... and whether he has a good insurance plan.

If you’re catching up on Nirmal Purja’s mountain-climbing CV, just don’t do it pigging out on junk food in your sweats and ass planted deep on the sofa. (If so, a laundry list of existential questions on what you’ve been doing with your life thus far might pop up.) But we know you most probably did so in late-2021 – possibly under lockdown conditions – when a documentary named 14 Peaks: Nothing is Impossible debuted on Netflix. It chronicled the journey of a Nepal-born mountaineer affectionately known as Nimsdai, who banked his reputation, life, and life savings on being able to ascend 14 of the highest peaks in the world in record time. Spoiler alert: He did without breaking a sweat. And he didn’t just beat the previous record, the Gurkha soldier-turned-mountaineer obliterated it with years to spare. In comparison, the six months and six days he took to finish this series of climbs appears like he had no bathroom breaks in-between as the previous record holder completed it in just under eight years. And crazily enough, he did it all without supplementary oxygen (and prior training) too just in case you were thinking of breaking his record tomorrow. Since then, Nimsdai has only beaten more speed records – namely his own. Last May, he conquered Kangchenjunga, Mount Everest, and Lhotse consecutively without supplementary oxygen, taking just under nine days to do so. Thanks to his partnership with Montblanc, he gets to roadtest some of the coolest wristwatches around and in harsh environments you only see pictures of in National Geographic. His successful ascent up Mount Everest last May had his wrist clad with the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen as part of his tool kit. Montblanc developed this model to pay tribute to his superhuman feat in conquering peaks without supplemental oxygen, a characteristic that it embedded in these watches via a tight seal of its cases said to eliminate fogging and prevent oxidization. Take Nimsdai’s word for it as he did not experience any difficulties with this mechanical chronograph on any of his climbs. Naturally, this 44mm titanium watch with a handsome blue glacier dial and compass-like bezel sold out faster than one of his climbs. This year, Montblanc has released another new but limited batch of the 1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen affixed with the nickname The 8000 in reference to the minimum height of the tallest peaks. Like the previous version, the 44mm titanium case here is also devoid of oxygen within and is differentiated by a dark grey glacier pattern on the dial. There are other cool Easter eggs to take note of too, in particular one of the 3D turning globes on the dial that rep the Northern Hemisphere. There are 14 orange dots on it that mark the 8,000-metre peaks. Flip to the case back for a personal touch by Nimsdai. There is a laser-engraved art work that charts the 14 peaks as well as a decoration of colourful prayer flags that are a fixture across the Himalayas representing good omens. This particular graphic is the same one that the 40-year-old had inked on his back. And if you need immediate life lessons and motivational spiel, the case back is also engraved with a few gems from this mountain-conquering drill sergeant such as “Giving up is not an option” and “Don’t be afraid to dream big!” As they say: if it’s written on a good-looking watch, it must be true. We caught up with the man, the myth, the legend in Geneva as he detailed his personal watch and gave us motivational one-liners to remember for life.

MANIFESTO: You appear to have done it all. What is your motivation today?

NIRMAL PURJA: Being able to inspire the world and be inspired. Whatever contributions I can make to better this world keeps me going. The purpose in life is always bigger than myself. The documentary, 14 Peaks, is not about climbing mountains. It is about how we all have our personal mountains to climb and how we go about climbing them.

M: You risked everything – your job, your life savings, your time away from family, and essentially life – to climb those mountains. Looking back – and to know you’re alive and well – did you make the right choice?

NP: Absolutely. I’m someone who always puts everything on the line. I wasn’t playing politics or doing something fishy. At Annapurna, one out of four climbers die trying and I could have died. I have a bigger purpose and that gives me the strength to continue. I have 20 members in my family so when I resigned from the military to embark on this, the income stopped and everyone suffered with me.

M: Share with us what your family and friends thought about your idea to tackle the 14 peaks.

NP: They called me a psycho and that I lost my mind. Since then, I haven’t stopped. (Laughs)

M: And what’s your insurance coverage like?

NP Please don’t highlight that! (Laughs)

M: How did you get involved with Montblanc?

NP: When I did all 14 peaks to raise the profile of Nepali climbers, I was also lucky enough to get introduced to the Montblanc people by legendarymountaineer Reinhold Messner (he is also a fellow Montblanc ambassador). I got to be part of an amazing timepiece (1858 Geosphere Chronograph 0 Oxygen The 8000). If you look at the case back, it has a graphic of all the 14 peaks above 8,000 metres, which are referred to as the death zones. There are also the prayer flags depicted here that are personal to me. The most important part of this timepiece is that there is zero oxygen inside this, which means it won’t fog up.

M: Did you request certain features to be placed on this watch during its development?

NP: To me the most important part about this experience was the teamwork. Laurent Lecamp (global managing director of Montblanc) came up with this good idea for the watch. I would say my contribution is this Nimsdai-proof textile strap. (Laughs) This watch will be further tested on several upcoming climbs so I will be pushing it to its limits.

M: Having worked with Montblanc for some time now, what are some of the shared values you have with the company?

NP: I think the fairness, innovation, and ability to push our limits.

M: You’re a busy man it seems. What’s on your agenda?

NP:  Tomorrow I fly back to Nepal. As soon as I land, I will take an helicopter to base camp and catch up friends who have already started climbing. I will be above the death zone in a few days.

M: If it weren’t for this, would you still be in the military?

NP: No, I always plan everything. This is my destiny. Even what I’m going to do next is already planned.

M: What’s next for you, the moon?

NP: You have to stay tuned for that but listen, there’s a message I have for Elon Musk. There is a big mountain on Mars called Olympus Mons. It is way much bigger than Mount Everest. Send me to Mars someday and I will climb that and come back alive. (Laughs) And I’m serious.

M: Do you have advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?

NP: You have to be motivated and self-disciplined. Remember that success is not a coincidence.

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