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Rolex and its Timeless Connection to the Cinema

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Rolex watches have played their own role on the wrists of legendary characters in numerous films, including multiple Oscar-winning masterpieces. And today, by its support of artistic and technical excellence in filmmaking, Rolex itself has become an acting participant in its own right.

By Andreas Arphan

Rolex, Oscar

For over a century, Rolex has accompanied explorers and achievers around the world. Today, the brand is present at the most prestigious events in golf, sailing, tennis, motor sport, and at equestrian tournaments while also making a unique and lasting contribution to global arts and culture, science and exploration.

 

One of the key partnerships within the arts and culture space is with the world of Cinema. They both share a similar vision: creating masterpieces. For one, masterpieces of timekeeping; for the other, cinematic masterpieces. On the surface, it seems hardly comparable, watches and films being two entirely dissimilar products. However, Rolex has been a feature of the film industry for decades.

 

Gabriel Byrne wearing RolexGabriel Byrne in The Usual Suspects (1995)

Film is a very visual medium, and the smallest detail on screen could alter the whole meaning of a shot. When an actor chooses to wear a Rolex watch, its presence on their wrist adds information to the plot. The personal effect lends the character a possible history, past and destiny. It reveals something of the temperament, taste, values, aspirations and mindset of the person who wears it. Famous examples would be the various versions of Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner worn by Sean Connery and Roger Moore in Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun; a gold Oyster Perpetual Submariner Date by Bill Paxton in Titanic; an Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master accessorising Marlon Brando’s stellar performance in Apocalypse Now; and Paul Newman confidently wearing an Oyster Perpetual Datejust in The Color of Money (which was later handled by Tom Cruise).

 

Decade after decade, a growing cast of celebrities would wear a Rolex onscreen. As their watch of choice, the greatest actors and directors would, in turn, reflect on the watch and bestow it with their own charisma and flair. But after being a guest star on their wrist, both in front and behind the camera, Rolex would soon take on a starring role.

 

In 2017, Rolex cements its longstanding association with the film industry by entering a formal partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, becoming the Proud Sponsor of the Oscars, and Exclusive Sponsor of the Governors Awards.

 

The highlight of the film season is the Oscars, and it begins with the Governors Awards which honour great names of cinema and are presented in recognition of a lifetime of remarkable achievements.

 

This is followed by the Oscars ceremony which celebrates inspiration and emotion as well as the production process, the technical expertise and all else that goes into the making of a film. To borrow a favourite expression of Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, it is an ode to “a work done handsomely”. Cinema is at once an art, a science and an industry, and the Oscars ceremony shines a light on every one of its facets. Since 2016 Rolex has designed and hosted the Greenroom for the Academy Awards as a convivial space where nominees and presenters gather before and after stepping onto the stage. The inspiration for this year’s theme comes from Hollywood and its major studios. Decorative wall panels in an Art Deco style arrange elements from Rolex watches into mosaics to reproduce the skyline of cinema’s home, Los Angeles.

 

Rolex, Oscar, GreenroomThe Oscars Greenroom. Image: Rolex

Rolex encourages the preservation and transmission of the cinematic arts, promotes excellence and celebrates progress with its partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the institution, the awards and the museum in Los Angeles), by accompanying living legends as well as budding talents through its Testimonees (Martin Scorsese and James Cameron), and the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

 

Rolex, Hollywood

The brand became a Founding Supporter of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which opened its doors on 30 September 2021 in Los Angeles. The first of its kind in the United States, the Museum is devoted to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking. Among its 50,000 square feet of galleries is the Rolex Gallery, a permanent exhibit featuring “Stories of Cinema”, described as “a three-floor exhibition presenting the diverse, international, and complex stories of moviemakers and the works they create”. One of the exhibits in the Rolex Gallery is Paul Newman’s Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona, given to him by his wife Joanne Woodward when he embarked on a race car career in 1969. The watch is inscribed with the phrase ‘DRIVE CAREFULLY ME’ and is now owned by a private collector.

 

James Cameron. Image: Rolex

Exemplifying the shared qualities and values of Rolex and the film industry, both Rolex Testimonees and exceptional filmmakers James Cameron and Martin Scorsese represent the industry at its best, crafting masterpieces. James Cameron has helmed classics such as The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009); and Scorsese being behind Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and The Departed (2006).

 

Beyond producing Oscar-winning films, Scorsese pays tribute to filmmaking acclaimed auteurs while maintaining a creative dialogue with younger generations through artistic collaborations and played the role of a mentor in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Launched in 2002, this initiative has paired mentors and protégés in dance, film, literature, music, theatre, visual arts, architecture and an open category covering interdisciplinary pursuits. Out of the 58 mentor and protégé pairs established, eight were from film. As part of his efforts to perpetuate cinematic arts, Scorsese is also behind The Film Foundation which is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of world cinema, an endeavour that has the support of Rolex.

Martin Scorsese. Image: Rolex

So, what is a masterpiece? Whether a masterpiece of timekeeping, or a masterpiece of cinema — such as the films by James Cameron and Martin Scorsese — a masterpiece is something crafted lovingly and meticulously to be the best. It is the power to bring history to life and to explore every possible future, both collective and individual. Like a Rolex watch, cinema is ingrained with our memories and aspirations. It is witness to our ambitions and to our determination to overcome any obstacle we may find along our way. More than simply 24 frames per second, or 24 hours within a day, it embodies the very essence of our emotions.