Cover 2014 Rolex Awards laureate Francesco Sauro explores deep caves in the table-top mountains of Amazonia to find clues to the evolution of life

The Perpetual Planet initiative is born out of Rolex's commitment to protecting Earth, improving lives and building a better future

The health of Earth is deteriorating—and fast—while climate change is a pressing issue. These are facts that have been placed in the international spotlight in recent years and remain important topics for educating the public so that there can be a shift in mindset and behaviour among people to affect change. Legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and famed marine photographer David Doubilet, who are also Rolex Testimonees, have reiterated on their recent visit to Singapore that daily actions can make a big difference. The science and research community, on the other hand, is doing its own part to save the planet. Take the team of scientists and explorers, which conducted a scientific expedition to Mount Everest earlier this year as part of the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition, for instance. They will be analysing data and information collected during the arduous three-month project and distilling it into findings, which can potentially help and save the lives of the large group of communities living around the Mount Everest area. 

Most of what Earle, Doubilet and the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition team did have been strongly supported by Swiss watchmaker Rolex as part of its Perpetual Planet initiative, which is made up of three pillars. These include a renewed and expanded partnership between Rolex and National Geographic Society; Earle’s Mission Blue project to safeguard the oceans through a network of marine protected “Hope Spots”; and the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, a biennial initiative to support enterprising individuals helming exceptional projects to conserve our cultural heritage and protect the environment. 

Why is a storied watch brand like Rolex so interested in environmental conservation and sustainability? While such efforts are commendable and worthy of respect, the truth is, it will not benefit the company financially in terms of profit margins or the increment of sales figures. So instead of spending on, say movement development, why is the watchmaker investing so much time, effort and resources into the Rolex Perpetual Planet initiative? To that end, we received some insight at the Rolex Awards for Enterprise ceremony held this June in Washington. Here are three reasons why the brand is so invested in making a difference and saving our fragile planet.  

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The true meaning of 'perpetual'

"Perpetual" is a word that is important to Rolex because of the company's history. Not only is it inscribed on the Oyster watches, because it never needs winding but it goes to the heart of a philosophy that has driven the company since it was launched more than a century ago by a remarkable man called Hans Wilsdorf. His vision and values continue to shape the company today. Particularly, his insistence on always taking the long-term view. In the 1930s, Hans wanted to test his watches in real conditions and started to supply them to explorers. This involvement led to a fascination and commitment to exploration that has never faltered. It was also the origin of our relationship with National Geographic, that can be traced back to the first ascent of Mount Everest. The two organisations are now collaborating on a series of new expedition to track climate change in extreme places. This partnership with National Geographic is part of the Perpetual Planet initiative, in which Rolex is supporting individuals and organisations trying to find solutions to the problems the world is facing.

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Making a real difference

Tatler Asia
The endangered Siberian Tiger that 2012 Rolex Awards laureate Sergui Bereznuk strives to save
Above The endangered Siberian Tiger that 2012 Rolex Awards laureate Sergui Bereznuk strives to save

The Rolex Awards was set up in 1976 because the company wanted to find a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster timepiece. The Rolex Awards are the conviction that the company had the responsibility to take an active interest in improving life on the planet. Now 43 years later, the achievements of this program are here to see: an estimated five million people have benefited from the work of the Rolex laureates. Hundreds of places have been discovered, dozens of ecosystem protected; laureates have unearthed historical sites, preserved vanishing cultures, and planted 18 million trees.

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One for the future

It is evident that sustainable development forms an integral part of the brand's activities. This engagement extends well beyond its watches which are built to last and transcends all aspects of the company. From the traceability of raw materials to the environmental impact, Rolex ensures the wise and responsible management of its buildings, its industrial equipment and the energy it uses. The new 2019 laureates set a fine example to demonstrate how innovative thinking mixed with enterprise can create stunning solutions. They are people from all over the world who get up in the morning with a dream and make it happen. They are people who provide inspiration and are representative of hope for the future."

Tatler Asia
Acacia trees act as a barrier against the encroaching Sahara desert, says 2016 Rolex Awards laureate Sarah Toumi
Above Acacia trees act as a barrier against the encroaching Sahara desert, says 2016 Rolex Awards laureate Sarah Toumi