From the outside looking in, Rolex, the industry’s ever-present force major, is about as closed a shop as one could imagine. Every aspect of the company’s dealings is shrouded in secrecy to protect a commodity that has taken generations to cultivate — mystique. It is assuredly rare, then, that anyone from outside the company should be allowed through the doors. Even less often is Rolex extending not just its open arms, but also its considerable support to enable these outsiders to pursue their dreams by accomplishing something that would have literally been impossible were it not for the crown’s assistance.
Whatever your preferences are when it comes to Rolex and its products, it is undeniably a cornerstone of our industry. As such, the company wields significant power. And while those of us within the world of watchmaking may first think of that power in a commercial context, the name of Rolex extends far beyond the relatively simple world of selling watches. The brand carries huge influence beyond its timekeeping and stands for something that seems completely irreplicable in an age of consumer pessimism and dwindling new investment.
As one may hope, and yet may not know, Rolex has, for the past several decades been using its power and influence for good. And it really is something everyone should be aware of. Especially watch lovers. Especially readers of aBlogtoWatch. Because maybe you could be part of it…
Since 1976 — the 50th anniversary of the Rolex Oyster — the Rolex Awards For Enterprise have been given out biennially. The aim of the awards? To encourage and enable exceptional individuals who exemplify the Rolex values of quality, ingenuity, determination and, above all, the enterprising spirit that has driven the company since its beginning.
Rolex identified a dearth of corporate philanthropy and decided to do something about it. The brand was well aware that a great many talented, passionate and visionary men and women were in need of their support. Rolex knew it was in a position to help financially, to forge connections, to open doors, and to guide the next generation of pioneers with years of sideways thinking in the bank. And so the crown began its search for those who were ready to step up to face major challenges or undertake original and innovative projects that had the potential to enhance, enrich, or even extend life on Earth.
In the 43 years of its existence, the Rolex Awards For Enterprise have been conferred upon 140 winners. The results of these partnerships have been far-reaching and impacted many lives positively. Communities have been transformed, endangered ecosystems preserved, lives improved by new technologies, oceans protected, new frontiers explored, and significant advancements in science and health have been made. To give you an idea, among the five laureates of the Rolex Awards For Enterprise 2019 were those in the process of inventing new technologies to assist people with disabilities to walk again, to recycle hitherto unrecyclable plastic waste, find the cheap, easy way and blood-sample-free way of testing for malaria — you get the idea.
I mean, this all sounds very lovely and is liable to give you a fleeting warmth in your belly, but why else should you care? Well, we are reporting on this laudable endeavor because applications for the next round of funding are open. So if you have a big idea to pitch to Rolex, now’s your chance.
Anyone can apply for the next round of Rolex Awards For Enterprise 2021 provided they stick to the really rather basic rules. You must be over 18, complete the application in English, ensure you fill in just one application (this isn’t the NBA Draft, you know?), be the person who plays the leading role in the project or the organization, and ensure the pre-application is completed within two weeks of creating an account on the official website. So, basically, keep your powder dry until you know what it is you want to pitch for. One thing to be aware of, however, is that the 2021 Rolex Awards For Enterprise does not provide scholarships for academic studies.
Rolex wants to help you change the world. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, or how many Seiko divers you have in your watch collection, if you believe you’ve got a ground-breaking project that could help expand the knowledge of our world inside you, then go for it. Candidates can apply in five areas: science and health, applied technology, exploration, cultural heritage and the environment. The chosen few will each receive CHF 200,000 (which is roughly the same in USD at the time of writing) to advance their projects. But perhaps better still, they’ll have Rolex in their corner, publicizing their efforts and supplying them with “a Rolex chronometer” — sweet bonus for being a kind-hearted soul. Candidates for the Rolex Awards For Enterprise 2021 can submit their applications online. The deadline for applications is 15 April 2020. You can apply here, or learn more at rolex.org.