Naval navigation has for thousands of years been one of the greatest frontiers for mankind. Negotiating the infinite vastness and the at-times vicious circumstances of the open seas to reach a distant destination has tested the prowess of captains, adventurers, lone skippers and watchmakers alike. Rolex has for decades nursed a close connection with the intense world of yachting and today we look at some of the notable chapters in their shared history.
For over 60 years, Rolex has been a committed partner of yachting's most prestigious races, regattas, clubs and sailors – it is here where Rolex's high standards of excellence collide with the finest spirit of yachting.
Although Rolex began writing the history of water proof watches with the world's first water resistance wrist watch, the Rolex Oyster, back in the 1920s, when it comes to the brand and yachting, it all started in the late 1950s¬. It was at this time that the Swiss watchmaker formed an alliance with the New York Yacht Club, the founding father of the famed America's Cup, as well with the exquisite-sounding Royal Yacht Squadron in the United Kingdom.
Before we talk regatta races though, let us highlight the outstanding performance of a lone man, Sir Francis Chichester (1901-1972). In 1960, Chichester won the first solo transatlantic race in his "Gipsy Moth III," sailing from Plymouth to New York City in 40 days.
He then set sail for an around-the-world voyage from Plymouth in August 27, 1966 and sailed 14,100 miles to Sydney in 107 days, only to up this achievement a year later by sailing 15,517 miles in 119 days – the longest passage made by a small sailing vessel without a port of call. He then was knighted in May 1967 by Queen Elizabeth II.
And his company during these trips?
A Rolex Oyster watch.
As so many pictures and even a telegram commemorate: Sir Francis Chichester wore his trusty watch on his lone adventure around the world – with a telegram from 29 May, 1967 saying: "Have worn my Rolex Oyster Perpetual throughout voyage around world. Chichester."
Rolex even ran advertisements at the time with a picture of his 55-foot "Gypsy Moth IV" and a scan of his telegram, with the ad saying: "Today's Great Men of Adventure wear Rolex."
Having been an avid supporter of some of the most prestigious and demanding yacht races in the world, Rolex has partnered with the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, hosted by the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia every year, and the Rolex Fastnet Race, organized by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) every two years, are at the forefront of the leading offshore races. Fiercely challenging and frequently subject to extreme weather conditions off the coasts of Australia and the British Isles respectively, these races bring a tremendous sense of personal achievement to those that complete them.
They attract large and varied fleets as well as a combination of professional sailing talent and Corinthian amateurs who share the same competitive edge. In a similar vein, the Rolex TP52 World Championship attracts the best sailors from around the world in the highest-level Grand Prix competition organized for yacht owners and their teams. The rules guarantee similar yachts, allowing the skill of the crews to make the difference.
The point however is that Rolex is in a unique position in its partnering with such events, for it not only shares the core values linked to the successful navigation of the open waters in what are some of the most demanding regattas, but also painstakingly crafts watches that are able to perform at their fullest in these very environments. Winning a race and an accompanying Rolex timepiece is the ultimate goal for the world's very best sailors – and that can only be so because of Rolex's long-term dedication to catering to this special, thousand-year-old dimension in excellence.
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