Rolex & Exploration

10 minutes read

A key element in our recent Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer and Explorer II articles was a simple, but bold claim that, in one way or another, is an inseparable part of every modern Rolex watch.

This part is Rolex’s strong ties with exploration, a bond whose history goes back to the late 1920s. For over 90 years, Rolex has been looking at the world as its proving ground.

Rolex & exploration

The creation by Rolex of the first waterproof and dustproof wristwatch marked a major step forward in 1926. Given the name “Oyster”, this watch featured a hermetically sealed case which provided optimal protection for the movement

From dizzying heights to deadly depths, from the freezing cold of the highest mountains to the scorching heat of race tracks, Rolex watches have proven to stand whatever the world can throw at them. Today we are looking at the fascinating history of Rolex & Exploration.

Rolex has been a dedicated partner of those exceptional individuals, as well as institutions, who propel exploration forward, into uncharted territories. As such, Rolex SA carefully selects and closely supports those who help bring themselves, as well as the broader public, to a greater understanding of the wonderful world that is around us.

In the next few paragraphs we will look at some of the key landmark moments, so as to get a better understanding of how these affected Rolex, as we know it today. These landmark moments include the 1933 British Everest Expedition which reached 8,580 meters, the 1953 British Everest Expedition which included Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay, who became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Rolex & exploration

Two of the heroes of the 1953 British Everest Expedition which included Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay, who became the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest

Unimaginable pressure nearly 12 kilometers below the water

The dive by the Bathyscaphe Trieste, crewed by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh, who have descended to the deepest point in the oceans, the Mariana Trench. Fitted to the exterior of their craft was the Rolex Deep Sea Special, a watch that could stand the unimaginable pressure present at the bottom of a body of water nearly 12 kilometers high. In 1971, Rolex began its partnership with Comex, a marine engineering firm, and have created some of the most desirable vintage Rolex watches, coveted by Rolex collectors around the world.

Rolex & exploration

The Rolex Deep Sea Special, the first watch to down to the deepest, darkest place on our planet and come back up ticking

In 1994, David Doubilet, a highly acclaimed underwater photographer, became a Rolex Testimonee.

Rolex & exploration

Explorer and artist, American David Doubilet is one of the world’s best known and respected underwater photographers

In 2005, Ed Viesturs, a Rolex Testimonee since 1995, climbed Annapurna. Ed has in fact scaled all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks without supplemental oxygen, all during his Endeavor 8000 project that he undertook between 1989 and 2005. He has taken Rolex watches to more of the highest peaks than probably anyone.

Rolex & exploration

Ed Viesturs, a Rolex Testimonee and a man who has taken Rolex watches to more of the highest peaks than probably anyone else

In 2010, the Deepsea Under The Pole by Rolex project collected data and conducted successful scientific experiments under the Arctic icecap. In 2012, James Cameron and the Deepsea Challenger dove to the Mariana Trench with a Rolex Deepsea Challenge watch fitted to the exterior of his submarine. 2017 saw the launch of the Under The Pole III expeditions that will last until 2020 to explore more of our oceans from the Arctic to the Antarctic, by way of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. It was also last year that Rolex has launched an enhanced partnership with National Geographic to promote conservation and exploration.

This is a strongly abbreviated list of Rolex’s countless involvements in exploration. From the perspective of us, mere mortals, the relevance of all this can be found in how Rolex has been tirelessly dedicated to assisting those pushing their, and humanity’s boundaries. Rolex was at hand to help in many extraordinary ways, including the development and supply of reliable timekeepers, as well as funding.

Rolex & exploration

A picture is showing the Rolex Oyster Perpetual of 1953, a watch worn on the quest to conquer Mount Everest, and a watch to inspire the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer I and Explorer II

Rolex watches of today, as we shall point out in our discussions time and again, have this adventurous spirit embedded deep in their engineering, performance, durability and aesthetics. That is because so many of these brave men and women, when their electronic devices failed, or when the longest night was at its darkest hour, what they always had at hand was a Rolex watch, that supplied the vital information of accurate time – replacing their devices, or telling how dawn is only a few hours away.

With all the above taken into consideration, perhaps it is easier to understand why a Rolex watch everywhere around the world is more than a coveted timepiece: it is the hallmark of great individual achievements. For this reason, it is now on us to strive for great achievements and then mark our successes by relying on a Rolex timepiece.


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Rolex & Exploration



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