Rolex and sports: When luxury met resilience

Rolex has been a brand that offers a status symbol and prestige. The world of Rolex as they state in their own words is about accompanying explorers and achievers around the world. From the highest mountains to the deepest oceans, Rolex designs are about resilience, durability, and accomplishments.

Today when we speak of Rolex, we immediately are reminded of either elite sports personalities or the world of sports at large. In the present day, you sure cannot miss the presence of Rolex in events like golf, sailing, tennis, motor sports and at many equestrian tournaments. The brand explorations have garnered them a unique customer base, one that is lasting, all thanks to the brands focus on overall culture globally, science and sports.

For over a century, Rolex watches have accompanied explorers and achievers around the world, from the top of the highest mountains to the deepest reaches of the ocean.

How Rolex began..
Wilsdorf and Davis is what Rolex was originally known as. This name came from its co-founders, Hans Wilsdrof and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. They imported high-end and high-quality parts for watches from Switzerland to London and supplied them to other jewelers who added their own brand names to the pieces to sell further. Over the next few years, Wilsdorf envisioned a wristwatch which would be reliable, stable and also stylish. In 1905, when Wilsdrof started to build on this dream, he coined the brand as Rolex – a name that would be easy to remember in any language. The name was registered in 1908 and opened their first office in Switzerland (La Chaux-de-Fonds). The logo is known to be also designed by founders Wilsdorf and Davis and trademarked in1925.

When Rolex came into the picture, brands like Longines and Cartier were already in operation. The Swiss were known to have spent centuries to have finetuned their skill in the craft of timekeeping and this helped Rolex ensure that the word ‘Swiss made’ on a watch signified high-end quality. Since the co-founders were already known for their supplied parts in Switzerland to the Aegler family, this gave them another stamp of prestige. By 1910, Rolex became the first wristwatch makers to be independently certified as chronometrically precise – what it meant was basically being a perfect and superb timekeeper. This certification aided more sales for Rolex. By 1914, the gold -coloured, small faced and narrow-banded Rolex watch became the first wristwatch to be awarded a Class A precision certification by the Key Observatory. The watch was called ‘Keyless Crystal 11-Ligne Bracelet Rolex’.

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What was next?
Well, the brand already produced a watch that remained accurate during a 45-day test in harsh weather conditions – this included ice-cold weather, blazing-hot temperatures to ambient ones. What was next was to build durability to ensure long-term accuracy and efficiency in their overall functioning. What the brand focused on was curating generational pieces.

The early stages of Rolex’s engagement with the world of sports and athletes..
Rolex designed, pioneered, patented and released the Oyster in 1926. Oyster is the world’s first waterproof watch case. With this product, Wilsdrof requested the then famous English swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, to wear the watch around her neck as she attempted to swim the English Channel in 1927. This gave the world their first waterproof watch that lasted 10+ hours in the water, stayed in good shape with accurate time and did not allow a single drop of water into the casing of the watch.

This is how the first original influencer for Rolex was introduced to the world, the swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze. Their use of this experiment with swimmers popularized the brand globally. With further innovations, Rolex introduced the world to Oyster Perpetual in 1931 – what is known to have become a household name in Europe, this watch was waterproof and dustproof.

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Rolex and sports engagement..
Golf is one sport where Rolex has a knee deep engagement and how. It started with their partnership with Arnold Palmer in 1967 who had won 5 tournaments before the age of 40. This further evolved for Rolex with new partnerships with Golf players – the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. These three collectively were popular as ‘The Big Three’ in the world of golf across the 1960’s. Not only this became a partnership for Rolex with top golf players, but a lasting partnership with the sport of Golf.

Today, you can see the Swiss wristwatch regularly on the wrists of champions like Jordan Speith, Tiger Woods and many others. By 2019, Rolex had already sponsored 3 of the 4 major tournaments of the year, one of them being their oldest partnership with the oldest golf tournament – The Open Championship. They have also sponsored several amateur tournaments and the Ladies Professional Golf Association since the 1960s.

Equestrianism and Rolex have also shared a long relationship of engagement via sponsored events. As a sport that is thought of as one with prestige and style, Rolex’s partnership with equestrian activities is no brainer. Rodrigo Pessoa, Scott Brash and event riders like Zara Tindall are all sponsored showjumpers by the Swiss watchmaker. The brand has been associated with horse shows, competitive horse racing and event sponsorships like the Royal Windsor Horse Show, Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, CSIO Roma and others.

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Tennis and Rolex share a close bond as well. This partnership of close to 40 years is one that is known to be on a perpetual quest for excellence, unwavering effort and pushing beyond personal limits, and a strong desire for technical precision. From being the professional timekeeper of the ATP tours to being partners with four Grand Slam tournaments, all – men’s and women’s game and leading competition – Rolex is there. Roger Federer, the recently retired Swiss tennis player, is another sports icon from the world of Tennis that has had a long-lasting relationship with the Swiss brand and is seen sporting their iconic watches many times.

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We can surely see that Rolex has always enjoyed a special relationship with the world of sports and champions – redefining powerful transformations of athletes. Rolex slowly and steadily made their connection with all the sport’s elite events globally.

The Swiss watchmaker perfected the art of efficient timekeeping, protection from environmental conditions be that deep waters to changing weather and automatic winding. With this the brand was smart to find their way into the world of sports to prove their excellence and started to be more associated with recognized athletes, entertainers, and sportsmen. This combination itself became their prime marketing tactic and has been a potent force for many sports personalities to engage in long term association with the brand.

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Author: Mankiran