Rolex: Shaping Modern Sport
From the U.S. Open to the Olympics, across Scotland, California and Calgary, Rolex has helped shape the golf and equestrianism landscapes.
Since its beginnings in London in 1905, Rolex has become a brand synonymous with sport. Its partnership with tennis is one that dates back to 1978, when the brand became official timekeeper of the Wimbledon Championships. Its deep involvement with motor racing began in the 1930s, and it forged a unique bond with the world of yachting more than half a century ago.
Alongside those partnerships, however, has been Rolex’s involvement in both golf and equestrianism. As sports founded on etiquette and respect, the pairing is a natural one, and Rolex’s various collaborations have been filled with supporting both established and upcoming players.
Rolex first embedded itself into the heart of the golfing community over 50 years ago. It initially began as a partnership with American professional golfer Arnold Palmer in 1967, who was joined by Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, a trio known as The Big Three. These three golfers didn’t just bring their skill to the world stage but kick-started a long-standing partnership with the Swiss watch brand that would encompass many professional players.
“The game of golf has been elevated as a sport by Rolex’s long-standing support and sponsorship,” says Rickie Fowler, Rolex Testimonee and one such professional golfer, in a statement from the brand. “My relationship with Rolex began in junior and amateur golf. I have been fortunate to call Rolex a friend and partner of mine since early in my professional career.”
Not only that, but the brand has championed the women’s game, being a partner of the Solheim Cup since 1994 and the driving force behind the first comprehensive system for female golfers, the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. These rankings, based on international premier tour performances, help decide the Solheim Cup selection. Anna Nordqvist and Lexi Thompson are both Rolex Testimonees and members of the Rolex New Guard, a group of young, aspirational golfers who took part in the Solheim Cup.
Rolex has also established itself as the longstanding Official Timekeeper and Global Partner of the Presidents Cup, an event contested biennially by two teams of elite golfers: one from the U.S. and another from other nations outside Europe. This year’s Presidents Cup will return to Melbourne, Australia, for the first time since 2011, a place that is, coincidentally, also home to the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Tiger Woods will be captain of the U.S. team — one of five Rolex Testimonees to do so alongside Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player — in what will be his ninth time taking part.
The brand’s synergy with equestrianism has been just as interesting. More than 60 years ago, the brand partnered with Pat Smythe, the renowned show jumper who represented Great Britain, the first female rider to participate in the Olympics and winner of more grand prix events than anyone before her. In 1957 Smythe officially became Rolex’s first equestrian Testimonee, marking the start of the brand’s alliance with the sport.
Today, that dedication to supporting the sport’s innovators has only continued. In 2015, Rolex Testimonee Scott Brash took part in the annual Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ jumping competition, held near the Alberta Rocky Mountains in Calgary, becoming the first winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
Brazilian show jumper Rodrigo Pessoa is another member of the Rolex family who, spurred by his father Nelson Pessoa being a standout equestrian athlete in his own right, won an Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. “The support from Rolex shows how committed they are to our sport and to raising the level of professionalism,” Rodrigo Pessoa says in a statement. “The progress made in our sport over the years has been tremendous and it would not have been possible without Rolex elevating the bar.”
It’s not just supporting competitors at the peak of their career that’s important to Rolex, but supporting aspiring riders on the rise. The Young Riders Academy, an initiative supported by the brand, is one of the most prestigious training courses available to young equestrian athletes and has trained the likes of Irish show jumper Bertram Allen.