Rolex and Wimbledon
A partnership built on the pursuit of perfection
The Wimbledon Championships are the world's oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament. Founded in 1877, they are both a showcase for what all that is good in modern sport and a symbol of enduring tradition.
In 1978, Rolex took its place within that great tradition, joining the tournament as the Official Timekeeper on Centre Court and throughout the All England Club grounds. It was a fitting partnership: just as Wimbledon has evolved to represent the quest for excellence and endeavour of the highest order, so Rolex has come to stand for precision, performance and the unfaltering pursuit of perfection.
Rolex has long been associated with sporting challenges, ever since 1927, when Mercedes Gleitze wore a waterproof Rolex Oyster as she swam the English Channel - the first Englishwoman to do so, wearing the world's first waterproof wristwatch. In the process, Gleitze became the original Rolex Testimonee, a title accorded to exceptional personalities whose accomplishments bear witness to the excellence of Rolex watches. Rolex has gone on to forge partnerships with motor sports and major golfing, sailing and equestrian events, as well, of course, as tennis.
Federer's quest for perfection
No-one personifies the search for sporting excellence more than Roger Federer. Considered by many to be the greatest-ever men's tennis champion, the Swiss became a Rolex Testimonee in 2001. Two years later he achieved his inaugural Grand Slam, winning the first of seven Wimbledon titles. In a career that has demonstrated not just great talent and skill but also dedication and commitment, Federer has won a record 18 Slams between 2003 and 2017. The ATP ranked him men's world number one for a total of 302 weeks, more than any other player in history.
Among the many memorable games he has been involved in, the 2009 Wimbledon final stands out for Federer. He defeated the American Andy Roddick in an epic contest which included a marathon 16-14 final set. And when he finally lifted the trophy, Federer was wearing his Rolex. "This is why this watch is particularly important to me," he recalls. "When I look at it, I remember that day very vividly. It's a watch I look back and share memories with."
What is more, his Rolex Oyster Perpetual has a symbolic significance for Federer, telling him that even the best cannot stand still. "It also reminds me that if you do not work hard, somebody else will, and they eventually will pass you. So you've got to be tough and even ruthless to some extent, but always be fair and play with style."
Beyond Wimbledon and the 'happy Slam'
Rolex's commitment to tennis extends across the men's and women's game, and Federer is one of several high-ranking players to be partnered by the watch company. Other Testimonees include Angelique Kerber, currently ranked number one in the women’s game, former US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro, Wimbledon semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki (below).
Rolex also partners with rising young stars like Eugenie Bouchard and Belinda Bencic, and tennis greats from the recent and more distant past, including Justine Henin, Björn Borg, Chris Evert and Rod Laver.
Nor is Wimbledon the only major tennis tournament associated with Rolex. It supports the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the tennis year - dubbed the "happy Slam" by Federer for its festive spirit. Rolex is official timekeeper of the ATP World Tour and the BNP Paris WTA Finals Singapore. It also sponsors the Davis Cup and a range of prime tournaments including the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the Shanghai Rolex Masters and a range of other Masters 1000 competitions.
Performance, precision, reliability
When Rolex founder Hans Wilsdorf set up his watchmaking company in 1905, it was with the singular aim of creating a wristwatch that would be precise and elegant but also robust - the sort of timepiece that could complement the active, sporting lives of men and women in the modern age.
That ambition was realised when Mercedes Gleitze swam from France to England. She and her watch came to stand for performance and reliability, combined with the will to reshape the world in the face of a great challenge. Nearly a century on, those qualities of performance, reliability and precision will be on display during the 2017 Championships at the All England Club - not just on court as Roger Federer and his fellow Testimonees compete for glory, but on Rolex clocks and timepieces across the Wimbledon complex.