Before the Singapore Grand Prix 2019 begins later this weekend, we spoke to three figures prominent in the motor sport world about what it means to be a Rolex Testimonee.
Rolex formed a close relationship with one of the sport’s most emblematic figures, three-time FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart, which still endures today, more than 50 years later. The Rolex family of Testimonees also includes Mark Webber, who competed in Formula 1 for 12 years, before becoming 2015 FIA World Endurance Champion during a three-year stint in the championship. Besides that, 2016 FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion, Nico Rosberg, is the most recent Rolex motor sport Testimonee to join the family early in 2018.
Race action at Silverstone Circuit | Photo courtesy of Rolex/Jad Sherif
Why do you think that Rolex and motor sport is such a natural partnership?
MARK WEBBER: I think it starts with the vision and the design. The elegance, but also the toughness and robustness, that you need in such mechanisms, both in terms of watches and cars.
Take the Rolex Deepsea, for example, it’s incredible how that watch is waterproof to a depth of 12,000 feet. It’s highly unlikely that anyone wears the watch that deep, but Rolex are showing what the watch can do. Similarly, a Formula 1 car can do extraordinary things in the right hands; it’s incredibly over-specified for what it needs to do, and the car is rarely pushed to its absolute limits.
When you compare the vision that the designers at Rolex possess, and the vision that the designers have in the concept of building a Formula 1 car, as well as how many thousands of pieces are involved to ensure that all of the components work in harmony – the parallels are really exceptional, and that’s why motor sport and timing are so inextricably linked. Crafting a beautiful piece of jewellery like a Rolex watch is very similar to designing and building a top-flight racing car.
SIR JACKIE STEWART: The standards of precision and engineering excellence upheld by Formula 1 and the highest echelons of motor sport are very similar to those set by Rolex; levels that are incredibly rare. Performance has to be one of the major reasons why Rolex is where it is today. No other watch company in the world demands precision to such a high standard; the testing and the components that go into its watchmaking have enabled Rolex to achieve the ultimate in engineering.
Similarly, in Formula 1 we are leading the way – we have the best aerodynamics, we use the best equipment and materials and we also have exceptional people working together to push the boundaries of technology and engineering. It is this shared ethos and the values of teamwork that unite the worlds of motor sport and watchmaking.
Rolex Testimonee, Nico Rosberg on the grid ahead of the Formula 1 Rolex British Grand Prix 2019 | Photo courtesy of Rolex/Jad Sherif
NICO ROSBERG: I completely agree. Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor sport, showcasing racing drivers and teams who are constantly testing the limit of what is possible. As one of the biggest and most legendary sports, with a prestigious history, Formula 1 connects with people around the world. Rolex and motor sport both continue to set new standards of excellence and precision.
What does it mean to be a Rolex Testimonee?
SJYS: I’m very proud that my relationship with Rolex started so long ago when I hadn’t even won a World Championship! I will be forever grateful for their foresight and my admiration for the brand continues to grow every single year because of the quality of the people involved and the quality of the product. As the brand continues to support individual excellence, I feel incredibly privileged to still be part of the Rolex family over 50 years later.
Rolex’s long-term relationships also include the greatest tennis players and golfers in the history of sport. Only the best sportsmen and women have had partnerships with Rolex and that is because excellence and the quest for perfection is so embedded within Rolex’s culture. It’s an honour for the three of us to be a small part of this.
Rolex Testimonee Mark Webber in Melbourne, Australia. | Photo courtesy of Rolex/Jad Sherif
MW: For me, it means a great deal. When I was younger, growing up in a little-known corner of Australia, the chance for me to see a Rolex, let alone have one, was out of this world. A lot of it also goes back to my relationship with Sir Jackie – he was a very significant part of my career – and he spoke volumes about Rolex and how fantastic a brand they are to work with.
NR: I was honoured to become a Rolex Testimonee last year. It’s a privilege to represent the brand, alongside other international sportsmen and women, like yourselves, who have achieved unbelievable things in their respective fields. Sir Jackie, your legacy in Formula 1 truly speaks for itself – it is testament to you and the brand that your partnership started over 50 years ago.
A watch comes to represent a special moment in your life, could you identify a key memory that one of your Rolex watches symbolises?
MW: Each Rolex I own is special to me in its own unique way; every watch holds a personal story. When I won my first Grand Prix in 2009, at the Nürburgring in Germany, I bought a GMT-Master II, a present to myself to mark the occasion.
NR: I did the same in Monaco, after my first win there. On the Monday morning – the day after the race – I went straight to the shop. I bought my wife her wedding gift – because we were getting married the following year – and myself the green Submariner to celebrate my first Monaco win.
SJYS: See then, in that case, all three of us bought a watch because we had won something, long before we were personally associated with Rolex. In 1966, I went to Indianapolis and qualified well. And so, I went and bought an 18-carat gold Day-Date with president bracelet; I had always dreamed of having a Rolex.
MW: Watches are so incredibly personal, aren’t they? And I think that’s because it represents something in your life which you’ll never, ever forget – like those key moments that we just spoke about. A Rolex watch will certainly be a lifetime gift to yourself. For my Dad’s 70th birthday, I bought him a Rolex, it was a very special moment for both him andmyself.
Drivers' Parade – Romain Grosjean (Fra), Rich Energy Haas F1 Team; Kevin Magnussen (Den), Rich Energy Haas F1 Team And Carlos Sainz Jr (Esp), Mclaren F1 Team | Photo courtesy of Rolex/Jad Sherif
This year, Formula 1 celebrates the sport’s 1000th race at the Chinese Grand Prix, how do you see motor sport developing and the future of Formula 1?
MW: Motor sport in the future – Sir Jackie, where are we going to be in a couple of decades?
SJYS: Everywhere in the world people drive cars. There are currently more cars in the world than there has ever been; it’s one of the great possessions, to have a car and to therefore have the independence to travel. The motor vehicle is here for the long term, and as long as we’ve got people driving cars, we will have motor sport.
We don’t know exactly what direction Formula 1 will take in the future, but it will certainly continue to raise the game, improving the sport and technology, be it better fuel consumption or environmental factors, for example. But Formula 1 has always got to be the highest level in the sport. It has been now for a good many years. The cars that we have driven during our time in Formula 1 are the absolute epitome of engineering. The sport has a secure future ahead.
MW: What particularly interests me is why do people gravitate towards athletes as much as they do? The gladiatorial element of Formula 1 is obviously huge – people look at the man and machine component – and are fascinated by this combination.
Rolex Pit Lane Clock at the Formula 1 Heineken Chinese Grand Prix 2019. | Photo courtesy of Rolex/James Moy
NR: I agree, Formula 1 is a gladiatorial sport and there’s always going to be an appetite to watch gladiators. And this is what Formula 1 is about: it’s cutting-edge technology being operated by gladiators. What those humans are doing out there with these remarkable machines is incredibly entertaining for us all to watch and that’s going to remain the case for a long, long time.
Of course, Formula 1 needs to ensure that it remains entertaining, so they need to encourage the gladiators to be able to overtake and battle with each other. This is why we’ve seen the proposition of some new regulations for 2021 – to make sure that the entertainment factor remains and we see some great wheel- to-wheel action – because that’s what you need for the longevity of the sport. And the sport has it in it.
The balance has to be struck between the technology and the physical element, ensuring that the technology harnesses and promotes the human element of our sport.
MW: I think what’s intriguing for me is the appetite for risk in society. We consider the sport in gladiatorial terms, we talk about our spirit when we were growing up and what we did to go racing, so it is fascinating to consider how a Grand Prix car will look 20 years from now. These are the big questions that motor sport is currently examining: how sophisticated the car will be, how much input the gladiator will have, and what the risk element is. It’s exciting to be part of these discussions and help pave the way for motor sport in the future.
Cover image of Sir Jackie Stewart courtesy of Rolex/Jad Sherif