While luxury watches are rarely top-of-mind when we think of the world of film, Rolex has had a long-standing relationship with cinema spanning over 60 years. Marlon Brando, who played Colonel Kurtz in the epic 1979 war film, Apocalypse Now, donned a Rolex GMT-Master. In 1986, Paul Newman wore a Rolex Datejust as pool hustler, Fast Eddie Felson, in The Color of Money, while in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, explorer Brock Lovett – played by the late Bill Paxton – led an expedition to the ill-fated ship deep in the Atlantic sporting a Rolex Submariner Date in yellow gold.
It has to be said that Rolex’s watch cameos in countless films were not product placements as one would assume. Rather, they were woven into the film plot or the personal choice of directors (James Cameron gave the watch to Paxton to wear during the filming of Titanic) to subtly add a tough and courageous edge to their characters, along with a sophisticated sense of style.
In 2017, to further cement its roots in cinema, Rolex became Proud Sponsor of the Oscars, Exclusive Watch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and Founding Supporter of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures – all of which aim to preserve film history. The latter is a key interest of Rolex, whose values include the importance of nurturing emerging filmmakers through mentorship and contributing to culture by ensuring the transmission of filmmaking knowledge to future generations. Since 2018, Rolex has also been the Sponsor of the Governors Awards that recognise life achievements in film every year. This formal relationship with cinema and support for its creative dynamism underscores the historical nature of the links Rolex has with the art form.
Whether in sports or cinema and the arts, Rolex supports individuals who achieve the highest level in their field. Among its prestigious family of Rolex Testimonees include Academy Award-winning directors Kathryn Bigelow, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Alejandro G Iñárritu. All masters of their craft, boasting an impressive 57 Academy Awards between them, each has made a profound and enduring impact on cinema that transcends boundaries, cultures and generations. We learn more about four distinguished filmmakers, their accomplishments and favourite Rolex timepieces.
Rolex Testimonee: Kathryn Bigelow
The first and only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, Bigelow has redefined the landscape of cinema today with her tenacity, command of visual narrative and choice of subjects that have the ability to provoke change. The American director also produces and writes for many of her films. In 1981, she co-wrote and directed her first feature film, The Loveless, and in the late ’80s and ’90s directed a trilogy of action films including Blue Steel (1989), Point Break (1991) and Strange Days (1995). Bigelow solidified her status as a Hollywood heavyweight with political action thrillers such as The Hurt Locker in 2008 – for which she won Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director – and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. Most recently in 2017, she directed and produced Detroit, based on the 1967 Detroit riots, which explored race-related violence in the US. Bigelow’s films provoke an examination of society, which have established the director as a true auteur. Here, she discusses inspiration and mentorship.
Kathryn Bigelow’s Timepiece: Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36
The classic Datejust has spanned eras with its distinctive aesthetics, and has retained the enduring codes that have made it one of the most recognisable watches today. Bigelow’s elegant Oyster Perpetual Datejust 36 in Everose Rolesor features a contemporary dark rhodium dial and Jubilee bracelet. Light reflections on its case sides and lugs accentuate the elegant profile of the feminine timepiece that showcases a diamond-set bezel, which frames 18k gold Roman VI and IX indexes set with 24 diamonds on the dial. Powered by the self-winding manufacture calibre 3235, the watch has a power reserve of approximately 70 hours.
Rolex Testimonee: James Cameron
The director, writer and producer is responsible for some of the most memorable films in the last 40 years: The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009). His films have blazed a trail for their artistic realisation and advanced visual effects, setting numerous performance records globally. Titanic held the record for the highest-grossing film in history for 12 years. It was only surpassed by Avatar, which maintained that record for another decade. Cameron’s films have also earned numerous nominations and awards. Titanic received 14 Academy Award nominations and won 11 Oscars, both records, including the acclaimed director’s three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Editing. The Canadian filmmaker and explorer – who has had Rolex watches appear organically in his film – has also been a loyal patron of the brand, having worn a Rolex for several decades. And like Rolex, which is committed to imparting knowledge of filmmaking to the next generation, Cameron talks about his influences and passing the torch to budding directors.
James Cameron’s timepiece: Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea
An ultra-resistant diver’s watch created in 2008, the Rolex Deepsea is made for extreme depths of up to 3,900m. In 2014, Rolex released a commemorative edition of the 44mm model: the Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea in Oystersteel with a black ceramic bezel and Oyster bracelet. Featuring a D-blue dial that was dual-coloured from deep blue to pitch black, it was a tribute watch to mark Cameron’s historic solo dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench at a depth of 10,908m. The watch is powered by the new-generation calibre 3235, which incorporates the new Chronergy escapement patented by Rolex that combines high energy efficiency with great dependability. Crafted of nickel-phosphorus, it is impervious to magnetic interference.
Rolex Testimonee: Alejandro G Iñárritu
The Mexican filmmaker is known for his visual style and exploration of the human condition, establishing him as a force to be reckoned with. He garnered two consecutive Oscars for Best Director for Birdman in 2015 and The Revenant in 2016. His debut feature film, the 2000 drama Amores Perros, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Among his latest work is Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible), a conceptual virtual reality installation based on true accounts that allows viewers to experience a fragment of the personal journeys of refugees. First presented at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, it was awarded a special Oscar at the 9th Annual Governors Awards – the director’s fifth Academy Award. Giñárritu was a mentor in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative from 2014 to 2015. Established in 2002, it identifies emerging artists in various disciplines and brings them together with artistic masters for a period of creative collaboration. To budding moviemakers, he reveals the difference between knowledge and experience: “New generations think that because knowledge is available on the Internet, and is there waiting for them at any time, that it is inside of them. But that knowledge doesn’t do anything if there isn’t a complete immersion inside the experience of the person.” Here, he explains how his two mentors brought out the best in him.
Alejandro G Iñárritu’s Timepiece: Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II
Unveiled in 1955 with a design that showed the time in two different time zones simultaneously, the GMT-Master was first developed as a navigation instrument for frequent world travellers. The 40mm GMT-Master II was launched in 1982, driven by the new calibre 3285 with 10 patent applications filed over the course of its development. The COSC-certified movement features a Chronergy escapement and a guaranteed power reserve of about 70 hours. The watch is also equipped with a Parachrom hairspring that offers greater resistance to shocks and temperature variations. Iñárritu’s Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II in Everose Rolesor with a black dial, brown and black Cerachrom bezel and Oyster bracelet has an arrow-tipped hand that circles the dial once every 24 hours, as well as a bidirectional rotatable 24-hour graduated bezel. The coloured 24-hour hand displays the “home” reference time in a first time zone that can be read on the graduations on the bezel. An ingenious mechanism operated via the winding crown allows the traveller’s local time to be easily set by “jumping” from hour to hour.
Rolex Testimonee: Martin Scorsese
A towering figure in the history of cinema, director, producer and screenwriter Scorsese’s career spans 60 years and as many films, with a multitude hailed as some of the greatest movies ever made. The passionate film lover who raised audiences’ consciousness of film preservation grew up in New York’s Little Italy and made his first films in the late ’60s. He redefined our ideas of what was possible in movies with classics such as Taxi Driver (1976), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995) and most recently, The Irishman (2019). The cinema legend’s unique combination of artistry, charisma and generosity continue to inspire filmmakers and audiences all over the world. Scorsese has also mentored protégés through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. After spending more than half a century honing his craft, he is still filled with unwavering passion towards his mastery and mentorship. In this short video, Scorsese talks about his mentor.
Martin Scorsese’s timepiece: Oyster Perpetual Day-date 40
Details play a crucial role in telling a story on screen and in many of Scorsese’s iconic films, he chose to feature Rolex watches, with a preference for the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date. The iconic model debuted in 1956 as the first waterproof and self-winding chronometer to offer a modern calendar with an instantaneous day display. The latter was spelt out in full in a window on the dial, which was an industry first. Scorsese’s Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 40 in 18k yellow gold with a white dial features a fluted bezel and a President bracelet. Showcasing three semi-circular links, the distinctive bracelet was also created in 1956 for the launch of the watch. The timepiece is equipped with a new-generation self-winding movement, calibre 3255, developed and manufactured by Rolex. Boasting 14 patents, the model has garnered itself the ultimate watch status, thanks to its exceptional precision, resistance to shocks and magnetism, power reserve, ease of use and legibility.
Supporting the arts
Since 2016, Rolex has hosted the Greenroom at the Dolby Theatre during the Academy Awards by creating a unique and evocative design for the ultra-exclusive area where presenters and special guests gather before going onstage. Earlier in February, in its fifth year of hosting, the space was dressed to reflect the theme, Polar Exploration. As Rolex’s support for exploration has shifted from pure discovery to preserving the natural world, the theme reflects its Perpetual Planet initiative to protect the environment in the face of climate change.
Echoing the ethereal beauty of a polar landscape, Greenroom guests were invited to witness an icy scene in the North Pole from a cosy, wood-panelled observatory complete with warm-toned furnishings. Special lighting mimicking sunlight and shadow added to the experience. Evoking the vital function of the Rolex Explorer II in an extreme expedition, its display was central to the decor with meridian lines emanating from the watch to the icy scenery outside.
“The design of this year’s Greenroom is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the environment that Rolex is seeking to protect through our support of pioneering individuals and organisations finding solutions to safeguard the planet for future generations,” said Arnaud Boetsch, Rolex Director of Communication and Image.
Maintaining the legacy
As part of its legacy, Rolex is also a big proponent of assisting in the transmission of knowledge across generations. It is a Founding Supporter of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures that is scheduled to open in Los Angeles next year. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the museum and hub for film enthusiasts will boast 50,000 sq ft of exhibition galleries and a 1,000-seat theatre among other facilities.
Slated to be the world’s pre-eminent film museum, the attraction aims to help people understand the arts and sciences behind creating movie magic. In addition, Rolex will host a gallery that retraces the history of film where the manufacture has played an enduring role.
(Main and featured image: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; all images are courtesy of Rolex)