The roots of Rolex’s affinity for sports and human achievement can be traced back to the pioneering origins of the company. In 1927, the year after Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf developed the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, the Rolex Oyster, he equipped a young sportswoman, Mercedes Gleitze, with the innovative wristwatch to swim the English Channel. At the end of her arduous swim, after more than 10 hours in the water, the watch emerged in perfect working order. Mercedes Gleitze was effectively the first Rolex Testimonee, a witness to the performance of the Oyster who also demonstrated its real-life qualities, the Swiss watchmaker describes in a briefing celebrating 40 years of working with the tennis industry and its leading players.
Since then, Rolex has accompanied many of humanity’s greatest feats, defying the elements and exploring the globe’s most forbidding frontiers. This support for passionate athletes, artists and brave explorers in their attempts to push back the boundaries of human endeavor, has in turn provided a demanding proving ground for the Oyster wristwatch, as a robust, reliable and practical timepiece in any circumstance. By fostering the noblest pursuits, Rolex continues to perpetuate the foundations of renewed and enduring excellence, ever committed to contributing to the community and inspiring younger generations to greatness.
It was thus a natural progression for the brand to partner with the sport of tennis, which reflects these same qualities.
The relationship with tennis started in 1978 when the brand became the Official Timekeeper of The Championships, Wimbledon, the world’s first lawn tennis championship, and the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Wimbledon has succeeded in making significant improvements to its grounds as well as the sport, while preserving its unique image and character. Finding balance between tradition and innovation has been a priority for both Wimbledon and Rolex, forming one of the pillars for the lasting alliance between these two classics.
Rolex has played an important role in Wimbledon’s history for 40 years now, helping support this Grand Slam event at every level. Philip Brook, Chairman of the All England Club, commented: “We are very proud to be celebrating 40 years of our partnership with Rolex. It is a brand that values its heritage, traditions and commitment to excellence in the same way that we try to do at the All England Club, always with improvement in mind, but with a strong appreciation of the past.”
It is rumoured that the Wimbledon Championships of The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club were started in order to raise funds for the repair of The Club’s pony roller, used at the time to maintain the croquet lawns. True or not, on Monday, 9 July 1877, 22 tennis players competed in front of 200 spectators at the Wimbledon courts on Worple Road for the first-ever Men’s Singles Championship – the tournament’s only event at the time.
Today, Wimbledon is comprised of over ten events, ranging from juniors to veterans. The Wimbledon media centre – an international hub – shows Rolex time in San Francisco, New York, Rio de Janeiro, London, Johannesburg, Tokyo and Melbourne, to note just a few of the major cities where tennis’s greatest tournament is broadcast live. From the fans that queue up overnight for tickets, to the royalty, aristocrats, diplomats and celebrities invited to the Royal Box, more than 500,000 enthusiasts gather at Church Road – Wimbledon’s address since 1922 – every year for two intense weeks to watch the finest sportsmen and sportswomen from over 60 countries compete for this coveted Grand Slam Title, which remains the only one of its kind played on lawn. “This tournament will live on forever and always be fantastic… It’s bigger than any player that’s ever lived,” says Rolex Testimonee Roger Federer, who holds the record for most singles Wimbledon wins and Grand Slam titles ever.
Of all the Wimbledon champions, there is one who has achieved greatness beyond all measure. Roger Federer has always exemplified the pinnacle of sporting achievement, since his first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon in 2003. His legendary status transcends the world of tennis. He has long since joined the ranks of the timeless – among elite personalities such as golfer Arnold Palmer, skier Jean-Claude Killy and racing driver Sir Jackie Stewart, all of whom, like him, are part of the Rolex family. Federer’s 8th Wimbledon title extended his record number of Grand Slam wins to 19, the greatest number ever won by any player, and simply confirmed what the Swiss icon has already proven to be true, time and time again. “At the beginning of 2017 I wasn’t sure I would ever make it back to the top of sport, but I played to win and ended up having one of my greatest seasons ever. I rode the wave of victory all the way to Wimbledon and beyond. Winning my 19th Grand Slam title at my favourite tournament felt like a fairy tale, it’s what dreams are made of.”
Roger Federer’s elegance and unparalleled level of achievement both on and off the courts epitomize the quality and excellence Rolex fosters in every endeavour. Together, Federer and the leading Swiss watchmaker have built a long-standing partnership based on deep mutual respect and common values. Few are the sportsmen and women of his calibre who, through their exceptional human qualities and prestige, can so accurately represent the Rolex name.
- This article was contributed by Rolex.