The king of watches has gone from exploring the natural world to saving it.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel


Aquatic ecologist Joao Campos- Silva, a 2019 Rolex Awards laureate, is helping to reverse the loss of Amazon wildlife.

The Arctic, the summit of Mount Everest, the bottom of the Mariana Trench – Rolex’s watches sure have been places. Brands that get as big as the Crown often have non-horological initiatives to keep things interesting and, for Rolex, exploration has been one of them. But it realises that without some sustained efforts to take care of the earth, there’s not going to be much of it left to explore. So the Perpetual Planet initiative is here to do just that.

The endeavour is a three- pronged consolidation of Rolex’s ongoing support for environmental conversation, and comprises a partnership with National Geographic Society (which Rolex has been working with since 1954, a year after Rolex watches graced the wrists of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their historic Mount Everest trek), a renewed partnership with marine biologist Sylvia Earle, and a more inclusive approach to the Rolex Awards for Enterprise, a 43-year-old programme that proffers grants to those who advance human knowledge, and protect our culture and environment.

It looks to be quite the adventure, sombre as the objective is. The first quest with National Geographic recently took a team to Mount Everest to research the effects of climate change on the glaciers of Hindu KushHimalaya, since over a billion people rely on its waters. Sylvia Earle is best known for her Mission Blue initiative, which aims to increase the number of Marine Protected Areas she calls “hope spots”. With Rolex’s help, these hope spots have increased from 50 to 112 over the last five years, and her goal is to increase them to cover 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

Ensuring the survival of the planet is everyone’s responsibility. So, to bring greater awareness to the incredible eff orts of real-life Planeteers, Rolex has for the first time allowed the public to vote for the Awards for Enterprise winners this year. The five laureates were announced in June, and their projects include a brain-spine interface that will help those with spinal injuries walk again, technology that recycles plastic waste into industrial chemicals, and a malaria parasite detector. Now, what are you going to do?