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Rolex and Cinema: Writing History Side by Side

6 October 2022

By Charmian Leong

The impact films have had on our collective consciousness has been significant. More than just entertainment, they have ignited imaginations, embodied ideals and pushed the boundaries of creativity. It is storytelling of the grandest scale, encapsulating a perpetual movement that brings history to life as well as explores every possible future.

A Rolex watch is very much the same as cinema, capturing our memories and ambitions, witnessing our endeavours and aspirations. More than simply 24 frames per second, or 24 hours a day, both Rolex and cinema embody the essence of our emotions. Both have even shared momentous milestones, writing history side by side.

In 1926, Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf invented the world’s first waterproof watch, the Oyster, forever changing the face of haute horlogerie. Only months later, The Jazz Singer became the first feature-length movie with spoken dialogue, thus closing the chapter of silent films and marking the new age of “talkies”.

The first waterproof watch in the world, the Rolex Oyster from 1926

In 1931, Rolex made headlines once more with the release of the visionary Oyster Perpetual — an evolution of the original Oyster that places a self-winding movement inside a waterproof case for the first time. Cinema would also make a major breakthrough that year, delivering color on the big screen for the first time ever.

The Technicolor company, responsible for making the process of colouring films accessible to Hollywood in the early 20th century, had discovered a new dye-transfer method to use in three-colour films that created the most dynamic colours the silver screen had ever seen.

These parallel journeys of achievements would soon intertwine, as Rolex watches started to guest star in some of Hollywood’s most memorable films, including The Fugitive Kind (1960), Frantic (1988) Apollo 13 (1995), and The Usual Suspects (1995), as well as numerous James Bond flicks. And it was always the actors and directors themselves that made the call, knowing that a Rolex watch automatically adds an air of authority, confidence and prestige to the character wearing it.

The Fugitive Kind (1960), Marlon Brando and Joanne Woodward; MGM

Apollo 13 (1995); Universal

The Usual Suspects (1995), Gabriel Byrne; Paramount/MGM

Frantic (1988), Harrison Ford and Betty Buckley; Warner Brothers

But Rolex’s crossed destiny with cinema goes beyond appearing on the big screen.

In 2017, its commitment to preserving and perpetuating the cinematic arts was cemented by two major events. The first was to have legendary director Martin Scorsese joining James Cameron as a Rolex Testimonee, and the second was to become a partner of the film industry’s highest authority, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

This partnership has led to the continued sponsorship of the Oscars Greenroom, a luxurious antechamber for the award show’s nominees and presenters to lounge in before they step onto the stage.

Each year, Rolex creates an immersive experience and themed decor for the room, from polar landscapes and underwater worlds to walls dressed in the brand’s colours of green and gold. The 2022 edition paid tribute to Hollywood itself using stylised landmarks and images from iconic films and a mosaic of the Los Angeles skyline.

Not only is Rolex the Proud Sponsor of the Oscars and Exclusive Sponsor of the Governors Awards, it is also a Founding Supporter of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which was inaugurated in September 2021.

The glass dome and 28,000 sq m building designed and renovated by Pritzker Prize winner Renzo Piano is the largest museum dedicated to filmmaking in the US, and there is even a dedicated Rolex Gallery on the third floor with three exhibitions that celebrate the stories, technology and art that goes into making movie magic.

Further partnerships in the world of filmmaking include the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative with Rolex inviting rising directors to shadow cinematic giants the likes of Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Spike Lee, Alfonso Cuarón, Stephen Frears, Mira Nair, Zhang Yimou, Walter Murch, and Martin Scorsese on set.

In this program, these mentors share the wisdom of their experience and pass down the science and secrets of cinema.

Mentor Spike Lee and Protégé Kyle Bell

Mentor Zhang Yimou and Protégé Annemarie Jacir

Rolex also assists in the perpetuation of the art of cinema through its support of The Film Foundation. This non-profit organisation founded by Rolex Testimonee Martin Scorsese is dedicated to protecting and preserving motion picture history. Since its establishment in 1990, it has been responsible for the restoration and conservation of over 900 films.

By forging a common path together, Rolex and cinema are bound together by a shared pursuit of excellence, innovation and progress. Each personifying a movement perpetual, both moving ahead with the times.

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