In its 117-year history, Rolex has established itself as a champion of exploration. Its watches have been worn by intrepid explorers travelling to unchartered territory: scaling never-before-summited mountains, and diving into the depths of the world’s oceans. Its founder, Hans Wilsdorf, is known to have seen the great outdoors as a living laboratory, the perfect place to test the limits of his creations.
In the National Geographic Society, Rolex found a partner to explore the unknown corners of the world. The partnership, which began in 1954, has seen the magazine chronicle history-making moments, from Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay summiting Mt Everest, while Rolex lent its technical expertise and supplied the expedition with watches.
In 1960 Rolex played a part in the exploration of the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. An experimental Rolex Oyster watch was affixed to the exterior of bathyscaphe Trieste, piloted by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh to a record-breaking depth of 10,916 metres. Over half a century later, in 2012, Rolex's Deepsea Challenge––an experimental diver's watch––accompanied filmmaker James Cameron as he descended to 12,000 metres aboard the Deepsea Challenger.
Rolex has always set its sights on environmental conservation, exploring not only to discover, but also to protect. And in 2019, the brand launched the Perpetual Planet initiative, a program which comprises an enhanced collaboration with National Geographic on scientific research and climate data collection, as well as supporting organisations and individuals in science who are working to understand and solve the world's biggest environmental challenges. The Perpetual Planet initiative also supports the Rolex Awards for Enterprise—a programme that goes back 46 years––created for the recognition of, and to provide support to, individual innovators and leaders with the knowledge to help improve our knowledge of the world, protect the environment, and improve human well-being. Established on the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster watch—the world’s first waterproof timepiece—the awards support laureates who have created pioneering approaches to systemic global issues. Since the programme was launched, 155 men and women have been selected as laureates, with their initiatives, discoveries, explorations, conservation challenges and cutting-edge science benefiting an estimated five million people around the world.