WATCH: JUMPING FOR JOY
Rolex celebrates six decades of partnership with equestrian excellence as it continues to drive support for top riders and rising newcomers in the field.
Rolex celebrates six decades of partnership with equestrian excellence
Dynamic, graceful and precise – the Olympic disciplines of showjumping, dressage and eventing conjure many of the qualities that we associate with horology. Rolex’s long history of supporting athletic lifestyles dates back to 1927, when the company’s founder Hans Wilsdorf invited swimmer Mercedes Gleitze to don a Rolex Oyster during her attempt to become the first British woman to swim across the English Channel.
After successfully completing the 10-hour crossing, Gleitze effectively became the first Rolex Testimonee, kicking off the watchmaker’s lifelong legacy of keen involvement in sports and support for athletes across numerous disciplines.
Rolex appointed its first equestrian Testimonee in 1957, when British showjumper Pat Smythe joined the illustrious ranks of Rolex-endorsed athletes. The athlete wore a Rolex Oyster Perpetual while jumping, skiing and sailing and spoke of her fondness for the world’s first waterproof wristwatch.
Six decades on, Rolex’s partnership with the elite world of equestrianism is stronger than ever.
The Swiss watchmaker has taken an active role in creating one of the most coveted titles in the sport: the Rolex Grand Slam of showjumping. Created jointly in 2013 by three major tournaments: CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and CHI Geneva, the Grand Slam is awarded to a rider who wins the Grand Prix at each of the shows back-to-back.
So far the accolade has been collected only once: by Rolex Testimonee and Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash, in 2015.
Alongside Brash, Rolex also supports several other top riders, including Brazilian Olympic gold medallist Rodrigo Pessoa, who has been a Rolex Testimonee since 1998 – the year he won the World Equestrian Games in Rome and became world champion. Pessoa has since gone on to compete and take home titles at various international events.
Pessoa credits the watchmaker for catapulting the sport to new heights, and for supporting riders to pursue perfection in their respective categories.
“The support of big brands like Rolex shows that they’re really committed to equestrian sport and to raising the level of professionalism,” he says. “The progress in the last couple of years has been tremendous, and this could not be possible without brands like Rolex elevating the bar.”
ACCOLADES AND ATHLETICISM
Female equestrians around the world are busy lifting that very bar. Two of the most familiar names in the sport, Zara Tindall and Meredith Michaels-beerbaum, have partnered with Rolex as they continue to achieve record-breaking success.
Tindall’s win at the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen followed her entry into the Rolex Testimonee family. The talented rider followed that by grabbing a silver medal at the 2012 Olympic games in London. Tindall, the daughter of the UK’S Princess Anne, believes being a part of the Rolex family has allowed her to grow alongside athletes of exceptional calibre. “To become involved with Rolex professionally, together with all the other accomplished people Rolex support, is such an honour,” she says.
American-born German rider Michaels-beerbaum, who is a three-time World Cup Final winner, agrees that to be associated with Rolex is a remarkable opportunity to gain experience and exposure.
“To be associated with the world-famous brand that is Rolex, and all other great athletes supported by Rolex around the world, is an unbelievable honour,” she says.
In 2014, Rolex founded The Young Riders Academy, putting in place a structured coaching system for promising young showjumpers that previously hadn’t existed. The programme has already gone on to benefit one rising star: 21-year-old Bertram Allen from Ireland, who became the youngest Rolex Testimonee when he joined the community at the age of 18. Today, Allen is regarded one of the most promising athletes in the sport, thanks in no small part to a boost from the academy that allowed him to participate at top international competitions.
Celebrating six decades of support for the equestrian world, Rolex continues to seek out new talents to nurture and bold achievements to promote – a fitting tribute to the altruistic, intrepid and headstrong spirit of Mr Hans Wilsdorf himself.