For decades, the Swiss watchmaker has been linked to the world of cinema: from the appearances of its watches in iconic films to its support for young filmmakers through mentoring programmes

Rolex’s association with films started spontaneously. The first great actors who wore the brand’s watches in their movies did so not because of any marketing arrangement or product placement but, probably, to convey a sense of power and success. Marlon Brando wore one for his legendary role as Colonel Kurtz in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. In The Color of Money (1986), Paul Newman sported a Rolex seven years later as he manipulated a pool cue as Fast Eddie Felson. And in 1997, Bill Paxton wore one in the Titanic as the treasure hunter Brock Lovett, as he descended to the infamous wreck in a submersible. 

Rolex has since then gone on to formalise its relationship with Hollywood. In 2002 it established the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative that supports emerging filmmakers through mentorship, contributing to culture by helping to ensure that the artistic heritage is passed on. The initiative helps set up mentor-proteges programmes, identifies gifted young artists in various disciplines from all over the world, and brings them together with artistic masters for a period of creative collaboration. Among those associated with the project include Martin Scorsese, who, along with explorer and film director James Cameron, is currently a Rolex testimonee, Alfonso Cuarón, Stephen Frears, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Mira Nair, Zhang Yimou and film editor Walter Murch. Spike Lee is the current film mentor.

Since 2016, Rolex has designed and hosted the Greenroom, where presenters and special guests mingle before going on stage at the Oscars. The Greenroom’s theme and decor change annually, and this year it was held at Union Station. A year later, it became the sponsor of the Oscars, as well as the exclusive watch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Since 2018 it has also sponsored the Academy’s annual Governors Awards that honour lifetime achievement in film.  

Rolex is also a founding supporter of the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opening in Los Angeles this year. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the museum and hub for film lovers will have 50,000 square feet (about 4,650 square metres) of exhibition galleries and a 1,000-seat theatre, among other facilities. As the largest institution in the United States devoted to moviemaking, it is destined to be the world’s pre-eminent film museum, helping people understand the arts and the sciences that create movie magic. Rolex will host a gallery retracing the history of film where the brand has played a role. Through the museum, Rolex aspires to assist in the preservation of film history, as well as transmitting knowledge from one generation to the other.

Rolex believes that with this long-term association Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is driven by their united pursuit of excellence and a mission to preserve and celebrate the creation of extraordinary works – masterpieces. Whether crafting a groundbreaking timepiece or an Oscar-winning film, the goal for a watchmaker like Rolex and great filmmakers is to forge an unforgettable work, one that never loses its relevance and stands the test of time.