When marine biologist and explorer Sylvia Earle plunges to the depths of the sea, she wears an oxygen tank on her back and a gold Rolex on her wrist. The Oyster Perpetual Day-Date in 18-carat yellow gold has accompanied her to polar ice caps in the Arctic and the Antarctic, through the glassy waters of the Indian and Atlantic oceans, and aboard more than 30 submarines.
Exploration and conservation have long been pillars of Rolex, a Swiss horology house founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf. The free-thinker and boundary-breaker with a passion for the planet created pieces that fused precision time-keeping with impressive technical innovation. In 1926, the Rolex Oyster was hailed as the world’s first waterproof watch, worn by Mercedes Gleitze on her history-making swim of the English Channel the following year. When Edmund Hillary became the first man to summit Mount Everest in 1953, he did so with an Oyster Perpetual in tow, an understated and durable design with a chain-link bracelet and mechanical self-winding movement. Since then, countless explorers have scaled peaks, sailed seas and crossed deserts wearing their trusty Rolex.
Today, focus shifts from discovery to drawing attention to the Earth’s fragility. In 2019, the brand launched Perpetual Planet, an initiative that supports individuals and organisations using science to conquer eco challenges. This encompasses working with Earle to safeguard marine “Hope Spots”, and elevating exceptional Earth warriors through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise.
The word “perpetual” has special resonance for the house. Inscribed on the dial of every Rolex Oyster, it’s an antidote to throwaway culture and reflects Wilsdorf’s mission to keep striving for a better world. Earle, now 86 and still walking sea floors, says her Rolex is more than just an accessory or even a time-keeper, it is a measure of life – a reminder to make every moment count. “You know the most important time?” she asks. “It’s probably out there somewhere in the future.”
This story originally appeared in the November issue of marie claire Australia, out now.