Most watch collectors spend plenty of time on Rolex.com, zooming in on high-res images, reading spec lists, and swapping out dial colors on potential future watches. Fewer people spend time on Rolex.org, a wide-ranging collection of Rolex’s contributions to science, industry, the arts, and innovation. Today, we’ll take a look at Rolex’s charitable contributions, a lesser-known component of the iconic Swiss brand.
Rolex has a long history with deepsea diving and exploration. Its long-term partnership with COMEX helped lead to the creation of the Submariner and the invention of the helium escape valve. As COMEX began to explore deep sea saturation diving and underwater habitats, Rolex contributed funding and research to help support a new era of undersea exploration.
Rolex’s history with saturation diving naturally led into the brand’s interest in supporting ocean preservation and oceanography research. Rolex contributed funding to James Cameron’s deepsea solo dive with the Deepsea Challenger, 10,908 meters (35,787 feet) below the ocean’s surface. Rolex has also led the charge on supporting marine life, working towards the conservation of threatened species such as sea horses, rays, and sea cows.
Rolex has a specific fund set aside for enterprise and innovation, which it awards to five individuals per year. While these laureates often work in the sciences, the award is not limited to that field of study. When it considers candidates for the awards, Rolex looks to recognize individuals who, in their words, “advance human knowledge, protect cultural heritage, or help preserve natural habitats and species.” Recent awardees have worked to help paralyzed individuals walk upright, to reduce plastic waste, and to preserve and protect the giant arapaima, a freshwater fish species.
Another area of Rolex innovation that has gotten more attention recently is Rolex’s support of disease mitigation and public health initiatives. In 2012, it recognized Mark Kendall for his innovations in vaccine technology. Kendall had created a vaccine delivery system that used a small patch of hundreds of tiny microneedles to deliver a powdered inoculation under the skin, rather than a traditional hollow needle that inserted medicine into a muscle. The lack of refrigeration needed gave this delivery portability and ease, making it easier to vaccinate in areas with warm climates.
With his first invention spurred forward by Rolex’s award, Kendall went on to create a concept called WearOptimo, a tiny, wearable sensor to track health indicators in disease progression. Kendall is now exploring tracking IL-6 in the bloodstream, an inflammatory marker that indicates a serious reaction to COVID-19. Tracking the appearance and level of this protein could help physicians identify a patient who is at risk of a severe reaction to the virus. Early identification could lead to earlier intervention, and rapid hospitalization and supportive care could improve outcomes for those suffering from severe COVID-19 infections.
Recently, Rolex has supported COVID-19 relief efforts in other ways, including large donations to the Red Cross and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Even in the midst of a pandemic, it continues funding initiatives that support human health and progress.
Having a better watch band won’t cure an illness or save a species, but it can make wearing a watch just a little more pleasant. Maybe with a more comfortable watch band on your wrist, you won’t be distracted by pulling and chafing. With a lack of irritation on your wrist and a band that complements the pinnacle of Swiss watch design, you just might be inspired to innovate in your field. Maybe not, but it certainly can’t hurt. Grab the watch band beloved by Swiss watch enthusiasts today.
Written by Meghan Clark