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Cinema & Rolex Watches: An Enduring Relationship

By Kames Narayanan

As far as filmmaking goes, James Cameron is at the forefront of the industry. His liking for Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex extends beyond a personal collection to the silver screens where his protagonists are often spotted wearing a Rolex. Here, he is photographed wearing his Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea.
 
Rolex
As far as filmmaking goes, James Cameron is at the forefront of the industry. His liking for Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex extends beyond a personal collection to the silver screens where his protagonists are often spotted wearing a Rolex. Here, he is photographed wearing his Oyster Perpetual Rolex Deepsea.

“A gentleman's choice of timepieces says as much about him as does his Savile Row suit,” wrote Ian Fleming in his debut 007 novel “Casino Royale”. In the same book, he revealed that its suave protagonist, a personification of masculinity “could not wear a watch. It had to be a Rolex.”

Naturally, when the character James Bond debuted on the silver screen, the international sleuth’s sidekick was a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner timepiece, which he wore on his wrist. In the four sequels that followed, Bond continued to reach for Rolex watches — cameos which over time, have been some of the Swiss luxury watchmaker’s most noteworthy in cinema.

Across the board, watches have had their fair share of screenplay — be it in seeded product placements or organically. The list of watchmakers who have made the break into Hollywood is far-reaching, yet, few have made as strong of an impression as Swiss luxury watchmaker Rolex.

This crossover between Rolex and the movie
 industry has been an observable phenomeno n
since the early days of film-making. Rolex has been linked for decades to the history of cinema through the appearance of Rolex watches in countless legendary films. In 2017, Rolex solidified its place in cinema and forged a partnership with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

RolexKatherine Bigelow, who has been named a Rolex testimonee amongst three others, is the first and only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director. Here, she is wearing her Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40.
Katherine Bigelow, who has been named a Rolex testimonee amongst three others, is the first and only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director. Here, she is wearing her Oyster Perpetual Yacht-Master 40.

As a sponsor of the Oscars and a founding supporter of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Rolex now plays a hand in fostering the art of storytelling and propelling the realm of film-making to greater heights. Conversely, the Swiss luxury brand earns the legitimacy of having world-renowned creatives behind its name.

James Cameron, who has been part of the Rolex family for many years, was the first Rolex Testimonee in the field, and with Kathryn Bigelow, Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Martin Scorsese, they collectively represent some of the best directors working in film today and are all Oscar winners; all together, their films have won 57 Academy Awards. Iñárritu and Scorsese have further taken on mentorship roles in the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.

RolexAlejandro G. Inarritu was a mentor in the 2014–2015 Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, where he took his protege on the set of "The Revenant".
Alejandro G. Inarritu was a mentor in the 2014–2015 Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative, where he took his protege on the set of "The Revenant".

Over the decades, Rolex has found itself in some of the most iconic films produced to date —
 amongst the more recent
films that feature Rolex
watches are Selma (2014)
and I Love You Phillip 
Morris (2010). In explaining the allure of a Rolex watch, film industry luminary James Cameron explained that “great movies are made in details, and not just a few details — every detail. Every character, every prop and every sequence.”

“A Rolex is not only a beautiful watch and a masterpiece of engineering, it’s very tough. It’s a watch you can take into any environment and which can stand up to the pressure. So, what you’re saying subliminally to the audience is: the character can take the pressure, too; he or she has what it takes,” said Cameron. Cameron’s testament is bolstered by his experience with acquisitions from Rolex — archival images from the set of “Titanic” (1997) depict him submerged in water mid-directing, with a Rolex on his wrist.

(Cameron gave the late actor Bill Paxton a Rolex Submariner to wear during the filming of “Titanic”.)

RolexMartin Scorsese stars in the Rolex film as one of the four filmmakers shortlisted for their unparalleled prowess in their craft.
Martin Scorsese stars in the Rolex film as one of the four filmmakers shortlisted for their unparalleled prowess in their craft.

Contrary to expectations, despite their size and often nuanced onscreen time, watches can play a pivotal role in storytelling. They are the bones that directors throw at audience in profiling a character as an indicator of status and persona. Looking across the history of Hollywood, this particularly rings true in the genre of action films. In the hour of distress, the mechanical complications donned by the heroes often unveil exceptional capabilities. For instance, in the 1973 Bond film, “Live and Let Die”, Roger Moore’s Rolex Submariner, fitted with a serrated bezel, doubles up as a fast spinning buzz saw.

More often than not, the Rolex timepieces that adorn the wrists of the main leads are specifically sought out by filmmakers or at times, even personal possessions of the actors themselves.

Just as Rolex’s slogan reads, “It doesn’t just tell time. It tells history.”, parts of this history will forever live on in some of the most noteworthy motion pictures of our time.

“Film really tells us who we are. Tells us about ourselves. There’s a reflection of the society that we were at the time, our philosophy of line,” says Scorsese.