With the launch of the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expeditions, Rolex takes its partnership with the National Geographic Society to new heights — and depths — to ensure exploration and conservation go hand in hand.

SINGAPORE (July 8): At a time when concerns and debate around the impact of climate change are at a peak, Rolex and the National Geographic Society lead by example with the launch of their new initiative, the Perpetual Planet Extreme Expeditions.

The five-year project will document the changes taking place in three of the world’s most vital and extreme environments — mountains, rainforests and the oceans — as a result of human activity elsewhere.

Exploration is not new to Rolex, as the watchmaker is renowned for testing its timepieces in extreme environments while supporting some of the most courageous adventurers in recent history. In 1953, Rolex equipped the members of the British Expedition in their successful summit of Mt Everest. That same year, Rolex launched its Explorer watch, which has evolved over time and gone on to accompany generations of explorers across various terrains and environments.

The Extreme Expeditions initiative is the watchmaker’s continued commitment to not only discover new territory but also gain insights, understand data and find solutions for conservation through scientific expertise and innovative technology.

Rolex and the National Geographic Society have planned three expeditions to chart the impact of climate change on extreme environments. The first expedition, which ran from April to June 2019, took place where it all began: Everest. The Everest team, led by National Geographic and Nepal’s Tribhuvan University, set out to learn more about the impact of climate change on the glaciers of the Hindu Kush-Himalaya, an important water source for one billion people downstream. The results will be used to track the health of the water system and study what needs to be done to protect and preserve it for future generations.

This legacy of exploration is a continuation of the vision of Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf, who from the early decades of the watch brand considered the world a “living laboratory”. It was in the 1930s that the Rolex Oyster Perpetual started becoming a precise and reliable tool for pioneering explorers.

Working together for positive change

We are no longer in an era of exploring for exploration’s sake. Climate change is not to be considered lightly. There is an urgent cry for great change and advancements in science and technology to solve some of the problems that this planet faces.

The key message in Rolex’s Perpetual Planet campaign is that we cannot tackle some of the world’s greatest environmental issues singlehandedly. Businesses, scientists, governments and communities must work together to innovate and bring about positive change.

Rolex’s partnership with the National Geographic Society started with a shared spirit of discovery in 1954. The Society has always supported bold and adventurous individuals who sought to push the boundaries in their fields, test new technology and transform the world around them.

Over the years, the partners have built long-lasting relationships with industry leaders such as biologist Sylvia Earle, filmmaker James Cameron and underwater photographer Brian Skerry, who continually seek to gain new knowledge and understanding of the natural world.

In 2017, they took that relationship one step further by ensuring conservation was at the core of what they hoped to achieve together. And today, that belief and vision has resulted in the Extreme Expeditions.

In an official statement, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society Tracy R Wolstencroft said: “Together with our partners at Rolex, we will harness the power of science, exploration and storytelling to reveal critical insights about our changing world, advance understanding and scale up solutions towards achieving a planet in balance.”

Rolex Awards for Enterprise

One of the key initiatives taken by Rolex to champion explorers is the biennial Rolex Awards for Enterprise. Since 1976, the watch manufacturer has supported more than 140 individuals in their projects and given grants to 16 recipients of the awards for their efforts in protecting the environment and supporting communities.

Francesco Sauro, whose research includes geomorphology, the study of geological structures, is one such beneficiary. Sauro is leading scientific expeditions to the caves of South America’s remote mountains. Another is Joseph Cook, a polar scientist and Rolex laureate. Cook is studying the Greenland ice sheet to understand how its microorganisms can influence global warming.

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Earle continues to encourage public support to safeguard the marine environment through a network of Marine Protected ­Areas, or what she calls “Hope Spots”. The underwater explorer and founder of marine technology company Deep Ocean Exploration and Research (DOER) has spent decades learning about the marine environment and developing the technology to explore uncharted territory.

Earle started the Mission Blue initiative in 2010 to inspire communities and governments to protect the marine life around them. Species preservation is essential in maintaining a balanced ecosystem and only through garnering the support of the communities that live off fishing and marine life will we be able to effect positive change in this area.

One of Earle’s Hope Spots, Palau, one of the Micronesian islands, has made efforts to strike this balance. Eighty per cent of its marine wildlife is protected. The other 20% is managed so that the local population may continue to live off the waters — fishing is of critical importance to Palau’s economy. It is important that progress goes hand in hand with conservation to ensure that future generations may still benefit from the natural world around us.

Rolex began supporting the cause in 2014, and since then, the number of Hope Spots has increased from 50 to 112. There is still a long way to go. Earle’s goal is to protect 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. We are now at only 8%.

To learn more about Earle’s Mission Blue, watch a documentary on Netflix titled Mission Blue.

Rolex’s approach of exploration, scientific research and storytelling is essential to inform and educate organisations and communities to work together to effect change and ensure a Perpetual Planet for generations to come.


Stacey Rodrigues is a freelance editorial consultant who believes that every great story starts with a glass of wine