Rolex And Cinema Through The Years
The worlds of horology and cinema have a surprising amount in common. Both employ intricate technology and human creativity, talent and aspiration to transport the imagination and generate pleasure. And, more than any other watch brand, Rolex has been linked to the immersive powers of moviemaking.
Not only have Rolex timepieces appeared in iconic films over many decades, but the brand’s support of the Academy Awards—and of young filmmakers through its philanthropic work—is legendary.
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Getting into character
For the past 50 years in cinema, household names like Paul Newman, Harrison Ford, and Marlon Brando have brandished a Rolex on the silver screen—everything from Bubblebacks and Submariners to GMT-Masters.
But in many instances, the appearance of these Rolex watches was purely organic. No PR stunts or big buyouts for Rolex; the actors and actresses simply insisted on wearing their watches, or the wardrobe department deciding it was an essential way of portraying the character.
Sometimes the script demanded it. In the 1960 film The Fugitive Kind, the character Valentine Xavier—played by Marlon Brando—references his Rolex chronometer in dialogue. As a result, the watch became part of the storytelling and an element of the film’s plot.
More recently, the roles have been reversed, with four distinguished filmmakers becoming Rolex Testimonees—Kathryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Alejandro González Iñárritu and Martin Scorsese: all Academy Award winners, with their films boasting 57 Oscar wins and nominations between them. These four filmmakers have the ability to connect with people across generations, cultures, and boundaries—an openness that Rolex tries to foster.
One with the Oscars
To honour this decades-old connection with Hollywood, Rolex last year became the exclusive watch brand of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organises the Academy Awards. Rolex and the Academy have similar missions—to recognise and uphold excellence, inspire imagination and connect the world through storytelling.
For two years now, Rolex has also hosted and designed the green room, the backstage area where actors, actresses, directors and producers enjoy a much-needed glass of champagne before they appear on stage during the Oscars ceremony. The 2018 green room featured a new design, inspired by Rolex, with influences from the Swiss Alps and architectural components similar to those found on the brand’s watches.
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A short film that encapsulated the spirit of Rolex and its long and varied history with cinema was broadcast widely during the 2017 Oscars, including the memorable moments when Rolex watches appeared on the wrists of Hollywood’s most-loved stars.
Building the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
Rolex’s connection with the academy reaches into the essence of filmmaking, as the brand is also supporting the building of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Under construction in Los Angeles and due to open in 2019, this fascinating museum will encapsulate the long and varied history of cinema.
It is appropriately located in the historical heartland of the movie industry and will be the nation’s first large-scale museum entirely dedicated to the art, science, craft, business and history of movies. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the museum will include a 1,000-seat theatre, 50,000 square feet of immersive exhibition galleries and a state-of-the-art education studio.
The future of film
But arguably even more important than the museum is Rolex’s pioneering work with the next generation of filmmakers. Proud of its role in shaping future Academy Award winners and inspiring existing ones, the brand has launched the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, which has been making a contribution to global culture since 2002.
The programme seeks out gifted young artists from all over the world and brings them together with a full teaching programme of artistic masters, including a year’s creative collaboration in a one-on-one mentoring relationship.
And these aren’t your everyday mentors—past volunteers include Oscar-winning directors Iñárritu, Scorsese and Alfonso Cuarón and editor Walter Murch. They also include Oscar-nominated directors Stephen Frears and Mira Nair, as well as renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou.
From museums charting the history of filmmaking to inspiring programmes for young directors, not to mention glittering watches sitting right there on Harrison Ford’s wrist, Rolex has had a profound impact on the world of cinema. So stay tuned for what the creative brand does next.
This article first appeared on hk.asiatatler.com.