Cover Formula One prodigy Max Verstappen pulls ahead at the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix. (Photo: Courtesy of Rolex)

Rolex’s ties with motorsport reach back to the 1930s, when an Oyster rode in Bluebird to a world land speed record, and have remained close ever since

The year is 1935 and Malcolm Campbell is smashing the land speed record, travelling at 445km/h along Florida’s Daytona Beach behind the wheel of his legendary Bluebird. On his wrist is a Rolex Oyster, which stands up effortlessly to the record breaking rigours it’s being put through.

“Rolex worn yesterday during record attempt still going splendidly notwithstanding rough usage received,” Campbell reported back to the brand in a telegram after breaking the record. From then on, Rolex and motorsport would always go hand in hand.

Daytona remains a place synonymous with speed, its long, firm stretch of sand having been transformed from a hub for land speed record attempts into a beach-road course before finally graduating in 1959 to become one of the most prestigious racing circuits in the world, the Daytona International Speedway.

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Of course, Rolex was there from the start, lending its support to endurance racing at the circuit from 1962, before formalising a partnership some 30 years later for the race to become the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And it’s not just in the US that Rolex has shown its support; the brand has been a big backer of motorsport at its very pinnacle, Formula One, since the days before legendary driver Jackie Stewart was dominating the field. Stewart became one of the first Rolex Testimonees in 1968, before he had won a single Formula One world championship. He would go on to win three world drivers’ championships, showing the kind of foresight the Swiss brand would display with its choice of ambassadors over the years to come.

Mark Webber is a modern day Rolex Testimonee whose passion for watches almost matches his skill behind the wheel. The Australian driver first came into contact with the brand after he’d won his first Grand Prix. “To finally win in Formula One was tremendous,” he said. “After that first victory, I bought my Rolex GMT-Master II. I’d been looking to buy a very personal and special gift for myself. After a win like that, you want to have something that symbolises the effort and sacrifice that you went through. I wanted to get something that was going to last forever.” Webber went on to win nine Grand Prix races in all, before changing disciplines to endurance racing and ultimately being crowned world endurance champion in 2015.

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The brand’s most recently acquired motor racing ambassador is German-Finnish driver Nico Rosberg. After clinching the Formula One world drivers’ championship in 2016 by unexpectedly and quite spectacularly beating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to the title by just a single point, the now retired Rosberg went on to link up with Rolex in 2018. “I have always admired Rolex’s prestigious history and involvement in sport,” he said at the time. “My life has revolved around timing and my racing has always come down to those final split seconds, so I am delighted to become a Rolex Testimonee and represent the brand on a global stage.”

And it’s not just through individuals that Rolex has shown its devotion to motorsport. As well as being the title sponsor of the Rolex 24 at Daytona since 1992, the brand has been the official timepiece of the 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001, Formula One since 2013 and the FIA World Endurance Championship since 2016. It is also a prominent backer of historic car and racing events, throwing its weight behind the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and Goodwood Revival, among many others over the years.

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