Time flies when you’re having fun: revisiting five major moments from the brand’s 60-year relationship with equestrian sport.
TEXT Astrid Hiort PHOTOGRAPHY Rolex
In a race against time, with challenging obstacles, extreme focus and the risky business of ending up in a ditch (or the water), a Rolex watch has always been a good sport for equestrians as well as other athletes going the distance by land, sea and air. Ever since the world’s first waterproof wristwatch made it through the English Channel in 1927 with sportswoman Mercedes Gleitze many groundbreaking Rolex achievements have followed, and in 1957 the equestrian world became part of the Rolex world. It is a partnership that has nurtured some of the best talents within the sport – and helped launch The Young Riders Academy in 2014, from which Rolex rider Bertram Allen is a key name to emerge – and seen the staging of major shows, among them the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.
To celebrate 60 years of Rolex and horses, here’s a look back at some of the most glorious moments since 1957.
THE GAME CHANGER
It all began with the late, great British showjumper Pat Smythe, who challenged gender boundaries in a sport where mostly men were seen on horseback in competitions. Smythe broke the barriers when she became the first British woman to ever ride in the Olympics showjumping in 1956 when women were finally allowed to compete – as well as being the first female showjumper to win a medal. At the time, she wore the Rolex Oyster Perpetual. “I wear it all the time,” she noted back then, “and as for worrying about it when I jump, I never give it a thought.”
THE NO. 1
From Pat Smythe to Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, who at the age of 21 changed her future career path from politics to horses and trained her butt off to become the first woman ever to be ranked No. 1 in showjumping. “When I wear my Rolex competing, it reminds me of some of my proudest moments where every second of concentration counted towards victory,” the leading show jumper has said of her victorious moments and partnership with Rolex.
THE WONDER CHILD
Let’s not forget one of the OG Rolex Testimonees: the one and only Rodrigo Pessoa. Having been part of the family since 1998, the Brazilian is quite the trophy stallion with 70 Grand Prix wins, a gold medal for Individual jumping at the 2004 Athens Olympics and Team bronze medals in Atlanta 1996 and Sydney in 2000. On top of that he is also one of only four riders to have won a hat trick of World Cup Jumping Final titles. Not even his father, Nelson Pessoa, could keep up with that. Pessoa Junior beat him at the Rolex Grand Prix at the CHIO Aachen in Germany back in 1994.
THE HAT TRICK
Fast forward to another moment when Scott Brash went the distance and pulled a major hat trick, winning the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping as well as the Rolex Grand Prix in December 2014 – quite the shooting star moment that most definitely deserves a spot on the list.
No Rolex list without eventing star Zara Tindall, who joined the Rolex Testimonee family in 2006. Tindall – daughter of Captain Mark Phillips and HRH Princess Anne – won Individual gold and Team silver at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen 2006 and took home Olympic silver at the London 2012 Games on her aptly named horse, High Kingdom. “It was incredible, it was almost better than the winner’s medal, it was a beautiful, classic and timeless piece I will always treasure, engraved with the words ‘World Champion’,” Tindall expressed when given the watch to seal the deal of her partnership with Rolex – a trophy which we are guessing must be a lot easier to casually flash than a medal around your neck.