Rolex & equestrianism - celebrating 60 years of an enduring partnership of excellence
Rolex’s affinity for sports and human achievement can be traced back to the pioneering origins of the company. Early in the twentieth century, when wristwatches were regarded as fragile items of apparel, Rolex’s founder Hans Wilsdorf was determined to create a timepiece that would be robust, precise and reliable, adapting to ever more active lifestyles. In 1927, he equipped a young swimmer, Mercedes Gleitze, with the newly developed Rolex Oyster, the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, to swim the English Channel. At the end of the swim, after more than 10 hours in the water, the watch emerged in perfect working order. Mercedes Gleitze was thus effectively the first Rolex Testimonee, a witness to the uncompromising performance of the Oyster, who also demonstrated its real-life qualities.
Since then, Rolex has accompanied many of humanity’s greatest feats as men and women have broken long-standing records, defying the elements and exploring the globe’s most forbidding frontiers – from the tallest peaks to the deepest oceans. Rolex continues its constant pursuit of perfection to this day and, in doing so, the brand has become a symbol for elegance and prestige.
Equestrianism - A PRECISION SPORT WITH SHARED VALUES
It was only a matter of time before Rolex began partnering with the elegant sport of equestrianism, with which it shares many values and attributes. The Olympic disciplines of Show Jumping, Dressage and Eventing are physically exacting, requiring accuracy, grace and strength - qualities that are mirrored in the creation of a Rolex wristwatch. In 1957, the brand formally began a partnership with the sport. And Pat Smythe, the all time great equestrian athlete, become the sport’s first Rolex Testimonee.
ZARA TINDALL - A ROLEX EQUESTRIAN TESTIMONEE FROM A ROYAL LINEAGE
Zara Tindall MBE, scioness of the British royal family and one of the country’s top equestrian athletes, became a Rolex Testimonee in 2006. In the equestrian sport of Eventing, Zara has followed in the footsteps of her accomplished parents, Captain Mark Phillips and HRH Princess Anne. In 2006, she won Individual gold and Team silver at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen and was voted BBC TV Sports Personality of the Year - an award her mother won in 1971.
Zara reached the pinnacle of her sport by winning an Olympic silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games on her horse, High Kingdom. Her career continued to ascend great heights in 2014 when she repeated this success helping Team GB secure a silver medal at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
Zara draws inspiration from Rolex’s first equestrian testimonee and one of the greatest female showjumpers to ever represent Great Britain – Pat Smythe, who became a household name in the late 1940’s for her international equestrian accomplishments as well as for expanding the gender boundaries for her mostcherished sport.
AN ILLUSTRIOUS LIST OF EQUESTRIAN TESTIMONEES
In these past sixty years, Rolex has brought on board several top ranked equestrian athletes as Testimonees.
Presently, Brazilian show jumper Rodrigo Pessoa is its longest serving equestrian Testimonee having joined the brand in 1998, the same year he won the World Equestrian Games in Rome to become World Champion. Rodrigo is an Olympic gold-medallist in
Individual jumping with 70 Grand Prix wins to his name.
Scott Brash, from Scotland, who has won equestrianism’s greatest, most challenging accolade: the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping is another well known Rolex Testimonee from the British Isles.
Meredith Michaels-beerbaum, the first woman ever to be ranked world number one in show jumping and join the German national team, became a Rolex Testimonee in 2007. In the following years, she became one of the world’s most successful equestrian athletes.
THE YOUNG RIDERS ACADEMY – SUPPORTING THE DEVELOPMENT OF NEW EQUESTRIAN TALENT
To nurture and foster new talent, Rolex supported the establishment of The Young Riders Academy in 2014. Prior to this there was no suitably structured coaching system in show jumping, unlike other Olympic sports. The Young Riders Academy quickly became the most prestigious training course available, with an impressive education programme as part of the content. The
Academy has already proven its success with 21-year-old Irish showjumper Bertram Allen, who became Rolex’s youngest addition to their sponsorship family.
SIX DECADES MARKED BY MOMENTS OF GLORY
Over the last 60 years Rolex has been the pioneer in the global equestrian world, supporting events such as the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, to test the world’s best horse and rider combinations to reach new heights within the sporting arena. Similarly, over the last century, since the company was founded, Rolex has continued to adapt and innovate its iconic timepieces.
Rolex has cultivated an enduring legacy with the equestrian world and is now a major force at play behind the finest riders, competitions and institutions. Looking ahead, this partnership will continue to strengthen and deepen, building on the equestrian event calendar and embracing new members to its Testimonee family, so continuing to cement its name in the history of this great sport.