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Perpetual Planet

Preserving the natural world

For the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, the world was like a living laboratory. He began to use it as a testing ground for his watches from the 1930s, sending them to the most extreme locations, supporting explorers who ventured into the unknown. But the world has changed. As the 21st century unfolds, exploration for pure discovery has given way to exploration as a means to preserve the natural world. Rolex continues the legacy of its founder, supporting the explorers of today on their new mission: to make the planet perpetual.

To this aim, in 2019, Rolex is launching an initiative titled Perpetual Planet. For now, it embraces an enhanced partnership with the National Geographic Society to collect climate data and Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative to protect the oceans through a network of marine protected “Hope Spots”. It also embraces the Rolex Awards for Enterprise that recognize individuals with projects that advance knowledge and protect human well-being and the environment.


A living laboratory

In 1926, Hans Wilsdorf launched the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, the Rolex Oyster. Later, in 1931, the company added the “perpetual” self-winding mechanism, to create the Oyster Perpetual. In the decades since, explorers have been accompanied by this iconic watch testing it under the most extreme conditions of use. It was widely adopted as an instrument of discovery and it led to the evolution of the Explorer watch in 1953, which was launched to mark the first successful ascent of Mount Everest.

Being a part of some of humanity’s greatest adventures inspired Rolex’s commitment to exploration and explorers, as well as something beyond discovery: a sense that we, as humans, must join together to take better care of the planet.


National Geographic Society

In April this year a team led by National Geographic and Tribhuvan University launched a scientific expedition to the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, supported by Rolex. Known locally as Chomolungma ‘Goddess Mother of Mountains’, the mountain is part of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya whose glacial waters sustain a billion people. With climate change, these glaciers are retreating. The information from the expedition, coupled with additional data sets on water supply and demand in the region, will form the basis of a new index to track the health of the Himalayan water system and inform decisions to help protect it.

Rolex and National Geographic have been partners in exploration since 1954, a relationship that was enhanced in 2017 to promote exploration linked to preservation of the planet.

The expedition, which runs until June, is the first of three planned over five years, named The National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Expeditions. World-renowned scientific expertise and cutting-edge technology will be harnessed to reveal insights about the impacts of climate change on the systems that are vital to life on Earth: mountains as the world’s water towers, rainforests as the planet’s lungs, and the ocean as its cooling system.

The objective is to generate data for indices on each of these three domains, providing information that will help governments and communities understand the changes taking place, for themselves and for the world, and offer a scientific basis for solutions to the existential risks now facing all of humanity.

The first The National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition echoes the participation of Rolex in the 1933 expedition to Everest that eventually led to the successful summit climb by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Rolex Awards for Enterprise

Since 1976, we have encouraged the work of some of the world’s most inspiring individuals, through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise. The 150 Laureates have achieved outstanding feats of discovery, commitment and renewal in the fields of science, exploration, health, the environment and cultural heritage. Their spirit of enterprise makes our world a better place.
British glaciologist Joseph Cook studies the microorganisms that live in the Arctic icecap - analysing how climate change affects them and how they, in turn, will affect our world. Italian caver and geologist Francesco Sauro ventures into the deep, unexplored caverns of South America’s remote table-top mountains to investigate lifeforms and geological processes hitherto unseen. German/Chilean biologist Vreni Häussermann is discovering unknown marine life in the Patagonian fjords of far South America – and the human impact on it.

Rolex Laureates and their work span the planet. Their projects embrace endangered species from whale sharks, manta rays and seahorses, to bats, condors, crested cranes, tigers, snow leopards and elephants, using science and advocacy to garner community attention.


Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue

Marine scientist Sylvia Earle has devoted her life to revealing the mysteries of the ocean world. With the support of Rolex, she highlights to the world the fragility of ocean ecosystems. “We used to think the ocean was so big, so resilient, we could not harm it,” she says. “In a few decades we have disturbed basic planetary systems. They are interwoven and we are only now realizing their true importance.”

Through Mission Blue, Earle inspires communities and governments to shield marine life that is at risk from human pressures. By establishing hundreds of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) called “Hope Spots”, she aims to protect a 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030. Currently 8 per cent of the oceans are protected.

Some Hope Spots have been created in existing MPAs. For situations where there is no existing protection, once applications for Hope Spot status are approved by the Mission Blue council – in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) – work on a conservation plan ensues with local populations, environmental organizations and governments.

Aerial view of the Balearic Islands on the coast of Majorca, Spain. The islands form the first Hope Spot in the Mediterranean.
Palau, a group of islands in Micronesia, is a Hope Spot. “Eighty per cent … is now a safe haven for wildlife and 20 per cent is managed so that the local population can continue to draw on the ocean for their livelihood,” says Earle, who has been a Rolex Testimonee since 1982.

By connecting with committed people and organizations, Rolex is determined to help make our planet perpetual. As Sylvia Earle says: “Together we can really make a difference.”

Many people still don’t understand that protecting the ocean means that we’re protecting ourselves.

Sylvia Earle


Perpetuating the legacy

The vision and values of Hans Wilsdorf still guide the company today. From exploration for pure discovery to exploration as a means to preserve the natural world, Rolex continues the legacy of its founder.

For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers, pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour. With the Perpetual Planet initiative, launched in 2019, Rolex is committed for the long term to support the explorers in their quest to protect the environment. To start with this commitment focuses on the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and partnerships with the National Geographic Society and Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative. But that is just the beginning.

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Perpetual Planet