Cover A member of the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expedition at Khumbu Icefall at Mount Everest

Can the campaign preserve and protect this fragile planet of ours? It might, but it will require everybody's efforts too.

You might have noticed that Malaysia Tatler along with Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia embarked on a digital campaign with Swiss watchmaker Rolex for the last couple of weeks. Every Thursday, we publish a story reporting on a different facet of the brand's global Perpetual Planet campaign, an initiative focusing on the marque's efforts to use science and technology to solve the existing sustainability and environmental conservation problems Earth faces.

A story a week doesn't sound much but each piece represents something even more significant—in a way, it's Tatler Asia's means of contributing to this noble cause of saving our planet. And this little project has been months in the making, starting from the moment the writer made the trip to Washington D.C. to witness and report on the unveiling of the five Laureates of the Rolex Awards for Enterprise in June this year.

This is his story...

Three months on, I have learnt a lot about the campaign and its objectives. I salute Rolex for taking the initiative and spending the effort and resources on this campaign to raise awareness of what we as individuals can and should do to protect this fragile planet we call home. These are the six key takeaways—some more personal than the others—I have gathered from the campaign. 

1. Rolex Laureates do their bit to protect the planet

Since it was established in 1976 as a way to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the iconic Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof watch, the biennial Rolex Awards for Enterprise has been supporting enterprising individuals who are initiating exceptional projects to conserve our cultural heritage and protect the environment—all in a bid to make planet Earth a better place to live in. 

This year, Brazilian fisheries biologist João Campos-Silva, Ugandan IT specialist Brian Gitta, Canadian entrepreneur and molecular biologist Miranda Wang, Indian scientist and conservationist Krithi Karanth, as well as French medical scientist Grégoire Courtine are the final five Laureates and have secured funding of approximately CHF200,000 for their projects. Importantly, they have earned the opportunity to meet and interact with the brilliant minds of the Rolex Awards community, which comprises past awardees, mentors and members of the science, research and environmental conservation circles.

When I met and spoke to the five of them in Washington, their passion and commitment towards their projects—and consequently, protecting the environment—cannot be faulted. They are driven and committed to their causes, and I'm truly impressed.  

2. Exploration is in Rolex's blood

This year’s Rolex Awards for Enterprise forms an integral part in the watchmaker’s global Perpetual Planet campaign. The word “perpetual” holds a special place in the vocabulary of the brand. After all, it is inscribed on the dial of every Oyster watch that rolls off the production line of Rolex’s manufactures in Switzerland—a reminder of the high performance one can expect from a Rolex timepiece. Perpetual, or never‑ending by definition, is also the vision that the watchmaker has for Earth.

Since the 1930s, brand founder Hans Wilsdorf has supported explorers on their ventures into the most extreme of places on Earth to discover more about the world. Rolex watches have always accompanied these brave souls on such challenging expeditions and served as reliable tools. As time evolved, the premise behind such exploratory journeys changed with explorers and scientists going into the unknown to unearth new means to preserve the natural world. As such, the Perpetual Planet campaign is Rolex’s way of continuing Wilsdorf’s legacy. Or making the planet perpetual, if you will.

Also read: How Rolex Testimonee Sylvia Earle plans to save the ocean

3. Rolex strengthens ties with National Geographic Society

As part of Perpetual Planet, Rolex will also collaborate with the National Geographic Society on a larger scale—both organisations will plan the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expeditions to collect data on climate change in extreme environments. The first expedition took place from April to June 2019 with an interdisciplinary team heading to Mount Everest led by National Geographic and Tribhuvan University in Nepal. This enhanced alliance between the two organisations was also why the Rolex Awards for Enterprise ceremony was held in Washington and the closing act for the week-long National Geographic Explorers Festival.

4. Rolex dives deep with Mission Blue

Rolex’s Perpetual Planet campaign also takes the form of veteran marine conservationist Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative, which safeguards the oceans through designated areas called “Hope Spots”. With the support of Rolex since 2014, the number of Hope Spots has increased from 50 to 112. This way, marine species are preserved, rare or endangered animals saved, and local communities, which rely on the oceans for survival, can have a stable livelihood.

5. A Pragmatic Approach to Environmental Conservation

While the responsibility to protect the planet lies solely on the shoulders on us human beings, there is no need to take a radical stand on environmental conservation. Steps such as adopting a fully vegan diet (and enforcing it on your friends and family) and placing a blanket ban on straws and single-use plastics may come across as too drastic to certain communities of people. Instead, think about what you can do to make a difference. I'm particularly inspired by what Earle said at the Rolex Perpetual Planet Symposium held at National Gallery Singapore in August this year. 

"The power is with every individual, and it is up to you to figure out what you personally can do. Everyone can make a difference: either through what you want to, or not want to do," she said. "We make the choices. The laws and policies are only here to guide us." It is true. The power lies in our own hands. If everyone can make the right decisions, we will help to contribute to making Earth a better place to live in. 

In case you missed it: 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise Laureates's the rest of the best

6. United As One

Am I impressed by the Rolex Perpetual Planet campaign? Yes, definitely. For a watchmaker to invest resources to support such an initiative doesn't quite make commercial sense. Simply put, it will not help it sell more watches and gain more market share from its competitors. But Rolex clearly sees and understands the urgency in doing its part to tackling these environmental problems. That is why it is all the more commendable for it to perpetuate what Wilsdorf did in the past—to back brave individuals to go into extreme locations to find solutions and answers to solving some of the most challenging issues found on our planet. 

Will the campaign alone reverse global warming? Or will it prevent endangered species from being extinct? My guess is no. Not because I don't have faith in Perpetual Planet. But because this fight against all the environmental and sustainability issues cannot just be the efforts of one company alone. We, the entire human race, need to band together and make a concerted effort to reset the system.

What Rolex is doing with the campaign gives a major boost to what we have all already been doing. If every one of us chips in with a small contribution—no matter how small—the planet will be greener, the plants will thrive, and the animals and other living creatures will co-exist in a better environment.

After all, as Rolex CEO, Jean-Frederic Dufour, mentioned during his speech at the Rolex Awards for Enterprise ceremony, "for the last 43 years, the laureates have unearthed historical sites, preserved vanishing countries and planted 18 million trees". Saving our planet and keeping it perpetual is possible and within reach. We just need to do it as one. 

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