For those unfamiliar, your impulse is probably to roll your eyes when you hear the words ‘Rolex Awards.’ You may be thinking, ‘Not another self-congratulatory orgy of narcissism.’ You would be quite a long ways from the truth in this case.
The Rolex Awards are not a yearly celebration of expensive timepieces and the affluent people who wear them as a status symbol. The Rolex Awards are in fact much closer to the Nobel Prize than the Grammys. They seek to encourage everyday people to achieve greatness for the betterment of all, rather than just another annual pat on the back.
Launched in 1976 to honor the Oyster chronometer, the world’s first waterproof watch, the Rolex Awards celebrate extraordinary individuals who use their ingenuity and available resources to foster change in their communities, as well as the world at large.
Every two years a panel of experts ranging from scientists to educators select a group of laureates out of a diverse field of applicants that have all embarked on projects that aim to improve the quality of human life in some way, be it through education, disease prevention, or environmental protection.
Projects deemed the most original, feasible, and with the most potential for impact will fetch 100,000 Swiss francs for the creators. In 2009, Rolex also began encouraging the youth to participate by adding the young laureates category, which only accepts applicants ages 18-30. Their prize is 50,000 Swiss francs.
Each winner is also given access to the substantial network of past laureates, in addition to international media coverage for themselves and their project. The Rolex awards have coaxed some incredible innovation out of its past winners.
Last year for example, one of the chosen young laureates named Arthur Zang implemented a Cardio Pad in his native land of Cameroon. This allowed nurses in rural areas to send the results of cardiac tests to heart specialists by using a mobile connection.
More companies should follow Rolex’s example and strive to empower the youth and old alike to make a difference, no matter how small it may seem. Many people sit back and pray for a dramatic global revolution. They will be waiting for quite some time. It is not one massive gesture that will change this world, but a series of small ones.
Thanks to Rolex, those people know that their efforts are not going unnoticed.