Rolex’s affinity with the film industry is one that speaks to the brand’s pursuit of excellence and creativity
Rolex has occupied a hallowed space in cinema since the golden age of Hollywood, being synonymous with both sophistication and power, and has been intimately involved with the silver screen’s momentous milestones.
In 1926, Rolex achieved a historical breakthrough in watchmaking with the Oyster. Featuring a hermetically sealed case, it was the world’s first waterproof and dust‑proof wristwatch. Less than a year later in 1927, cinema, too, enjoyed a breakthrough by way of The Jazz Singer, the world’s first talkie, marking the end of the silent movie era.
Watchmaking history saw its next chapter written in 1931 with the birth of the Perpetual movement, making the Oyster the world’s first waterproof automatic-winding wristwatch. Cinema soon followed with its own triumph in 1932: thanks to innovation by Technicolor, Disney’s animated short, Flowers and Trees, treated viewers to scenes in glorious hues; colour filmmaking had arrived.
In 2016, Rolex officially cemented its relationship with cinema, with the brand designing and hosting the very first Greenroom at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Academy Awards—a collaboration that continues to this day. For its decor this year, the brand took inspiration from Hollywood and film studios, furnishing the backstage lounge with art deco‑style wall panels that feature iconic elements of Rolex watches—indexes, hands and fluted bezels—arranged to form colourful mosaics that depict the Los Angeles skyline. Also on display were visuals and the script from the brand’s latest campaign film The Path, which paid tribute to the filmmaker’s art.
Rolex further deepened its ties with the academy in 2017 by becoming the exclusive watch of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as well as the sponsor of its Oscars awards show. In 2018, it cemented the relationship by becoming the exclusive sponsor of the academy’s Governors Awards, a trio of awards that marks the beginning of the Oscar season and presented only to the greatest names in cinema to honour remarkable lifetime achievements.
Outside of these, Rolex is a founding supporter of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opened in Los Angeles in September last year. In a nod to the brand, the 28,000‑square‑metre museum with more than 4,500 square metres of gallery space features a Rolex Gallery on the third floor. The star of the show at the permanent exhibition space? The Cosmograph Daytona that once belonged to Paul Newman, gifted to the screen legend, who was as passionate about racing as he was about acting, by his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, right before his debut on the race track; engraved on the case back are the loving words, “drive carefully me”.
Going above and beyond its work with the academy, Rolex’s support for the arts continues in its Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Established in 2002, it has since brought together 58 mentor‑protégé pairs, of which eight have been in film. It counts the legendary director Martin Scorsese—who, like fellow filmmaking great James Cameron, is a Rolex Testimonee—and big names such as Zhang Yimou, Spike Lee and Mira Nair among the participating mentors from the film industry.
3 iconic Rolex moments in film history
Rolex Submariner in Dr. No (1962)
James Bond has as many watches as he has girls, but the only brand Bond creator, Ian Fleming, mentioned by name in his books is Rolex. Sean Connery wore a Rolex Submariner with a black dial in the first Bond movie, Dr. No.
Rolex Datejust in The Color of Money (1986)
Paul Newman forwent his signature Daytona for the Rolex Datejust in his turn as a nine‑ball pool master in The Color of Money that won him his first Oscar.
Rolex Day-Date in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
The Rolex Day-Date is also affectionately known as “the president’s watch” to collectors because it was reportedly the timepiece of choice of American president Lyndon B. Johnson. It certainly befits Blake, a hard‑nosed real estate agent played by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross.