For the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, the world was like a living laboratory. He began to use it as a testing ground for his watches from the 1930s, sending them to the most extreme locations, supporting explorers who ventured into the unknown. But the world has changed.
As the 21st century unfolds, exploration for pure discovery has given way to exploration as a means to preserve the natural world. Rolex continues the legacy of its founder, supporting the explorers of today on their new mission: to make the planet perpetual.
Rolex watches have taken part in some of humanity’s greatest adventures. One such occasion was the 1953 expedition to Everest, led by Sir John Hunt, which saw Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay become the first to summit the world’s highest mountain. The same year, to honour this historic exploit, Rolex officially launched the Explorer model.
In 1960 a milestone for deep-sea exploration was established with an experimental Rolex watch, the Deep Sea Special. It was attached to the exterior of the bathyscaphe Trieste, piloted by Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard and American Navy Lieutenant Don Walsh descended to a then record depth of 10,916 metres in the Mariana Trench.
In 2012, film-maker and explorer James Cameron made the first solo dive to the deepest part of the oceans, the Mariana Trench. He navigated a specially designed DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible to a depth of 10, 908 metres (35,787 feet). Attached to the outside of the hull was an experimental Rolex Deepsea Challenge watch that functioned perfectly under extreme pressure.
Deepsea Under the Pole by Rolex, was a pioneering expedition undertaken in 2010 to learn more about the submerged side the Arctic. Of all the equipment used, only the Rolex Deepsea watches continued to function properly during the entire expedition. It was succeeded by Under The Pole III in 2017, exploring the water from the Arctic to the Antarctic, to better understand climate equilibrium, bioluminescence, improve underwater exploration techniques and encourage future generations to do the same.
For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers, pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour. With the Perpetual Planet initiative, launched in 2019, Rolex is committed for the long term to support the explorers in their quest to protect the environment.
To start with, this commitment focuses on the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and partnerships with the National Geographic Society and Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative. But that is just the beginning.
Rolex and National Geographic have been partners in exploration since 1954. Through The National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Expeditions, there is the opportunity to fuse the power of science, the fascination for discovery and the enthralment of storytelling to find and share fresh insights into a changing world.
Since 1976, we have encouraged the work of some of the world’s most inspiring individuals, through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. More than 140 Laureates have achieved outstanding feats of discovery, commitment and renewal in the fields of science, exploration, health, the environment and human culture. Their spirit of enterprise makes our world a better place.
An internationally renowned oceanographer and long-standing Rolex Testimonee Sylvia Earle is a pioneer of the deep. After more than 50 years of underwater exploration, she is a committed advocate of the oceans and their vulnerable ecosystems. Her initiative Mission Blue is igniting public support to safeguard the world’s oceans. Earle’s relationship with Rolex started in 1970, when she received her first Rolex.