Edition Four – In the Wake of the Pursuit

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A brief history of the birth of the Rolex Sports Watches and the pursuits of the men and women who wear them


In the straits of Bonifacio between Corsica and north-eastern Sardinia, a series of islands and islets define the Maddalena archipelago. It's crystal clear blue waters glitter and wind-blown granite is a heaven for its wildlife and the proving grounds for the Rolex Maxi Cup.

For five days, this challenging and beautiful seascape becomes an almost contemporary Turnerian vision as the horizon awash with mainsails signs free spirited. Nearby, a fleet of J Class Yachts evoke the glamour and pomp of sailing as it was in the 1930's while feeling familiar and distinctly Ralph Lauren.

From Wind Lanes observed by the Tactician, to tidal and weather strategy the muse of the Navigator, the strength of it's crew is measured in its specialists.

There's a spirit on the water and in the hearts of the men and women aboard these works of boyhood wonder and this same spirit defies the wind and dives to depths where light doesn't exist. It exceeds speeds where sound is silenced and summits Mount Fitz Roy in the name of the unknown. Man has always looked beyond, propelled forward by the intangible force: the pursuit.

In the wake of the pursuit, there is unpredictability and hostility. Where there is hostility, the limits of human endeavour are tested and one is right to look to the dependable: the certain. As sure as there are winners and losers, the implications of the sweeping seconds define the upper and lower limits of man's achievements after all, there is a window of time in which returning from the summit to base camp alive is more likely.

Top: Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Everest, 1953 Left: Mt Fitz Roy Right: Amelia Earhart Prepares to dive

For as long as man has dared, he has been certain of one thing: time. In its utilitarian guise, there came the Tool Watch. Where spirit and utility met below the boom there was the genesis of the Sports Watch in their afterglow. Designed and made for Professionals, these watches were consistently accurate, reliable 'work-horses' worn on the wrists of countless men and women in the most extreme circumstances.

In 1926, Rolex patented the world's first waterproof case – the Oyster – and has continued its commitment to innovation over more than a century since Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis founded Wilsdorf & Davis in London in 1903. The first watchmaker to successfully show the date and day in full with its Day Date model, it was in 1954 that most would argue that it unveiled its most recognisable watch – the Submariner – at the Basel Watch Fair.

My wife Joanne gave me my Rolex Daytona when I started racing back in 1972.
Paul Newman on his relationship and introduction to the Rolex Daytona.

Introduced in 1992, some 28 years later in the wake of the Submariner there came the Yachtmaster. A watch in part defined by its lineage, the Yachtmaster is not the understudy of its parent – like its wearer – it has an identity of its own, designed for a purpose, purpose built to fit the pursuit.

A Rolex watch is a study of refinement and obsessive attention to detail. It is as Leonardo Ferragamo says of Nautor's Swan "…innovation without excess". Where a design choses not to stray too far from its genetic blueprint, so too do we see a purity in its aesthetic and a timelessness in its iconic silhouette - consider the Porsche 911, the Eames chair, the Fender Stratocaster or the Hermes Birkin.

Left: 18ct Yellow Gold Yachtmaster 16628 Right: Rolex Submariner Date 16610

Where a particular brand of beer would have its drinker consider them a 'reassuringly expensive' choice, the Rolex wearers experience could be said to be 'reassuringly heavy'. Not so heavy as to feel burdensome but weighty in the way that only those who recognise the crown as a sign of achievement are likely to shake hands: firm and with intent.

Like Vasco Vascotto – Tactician aboard the Robertissima III – the Rolex wearer is not only prepared to lose, but accepting of it as a necessary truth on the journey to discovering just how good they are, for he who shall be last shall be first when there is no finish line. To the Rolex wearer – where you go, we will follow in your wake.

Once we accept losing we can then figure out just how good we are
Vasco Vascotto Tactician – Robertissima III

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