8 Nov 2013

Rolex creates a branded arts masterpiece

Some brands create arts, others nurture and mentor artists. For prestige brand Rolex it is the latter thanks to an outstanding branded arts program.  

The Rolex Mentors & Protégé Arts Initiative was created to “assist extraordinary, rising artists to achieve their full potential by pairing them with great masters for a year of creative collaboration.” 

The program teams established names and experts in fields such as literature, architecture, dance, music, visual arts, theatre and film with these rising stars to help set them on a path to success. The program uses the tagline 'One year can inspire a lifetime' and has created a wealth of films and photography which bring the stories behind this program to life. 

This year, the program linked with the Biennale in Venice, to host the Rolex Mentors & Protégé weekend and showcase the work completed by the protégés. The weekend also involves talks, readings, performances, lectures, ideas and installations. 

Rebecca Irvin, Head of Philanthropy at Rolex, told Monocle, “We knew we wanted to do something in the arts. Something that was original, something that was not happening and something that would fill a void and something that would serve the arts generally. We decided probably the most valuable thing we could do would be to set up a mentorship program.” 

 “The passing on of artistic knowledge over generations is the premise upon which the Rolex Arts Initiative was built, and Venice is a perfect place to celebrate and display this practice. This has been an exceptional mentoring year, with all of the pairs spending weeks together, discussing their art and benefiting from their shared conversations that are inspirational to both master and emerging artist.”

According to Rolex, the investment of time is reflected in the quality of the proteges' artworks, performances, readings, conversations as well as the installations Rolex created at the Arts weekend. Mentors included Margaret At wood, Patrice Chereau, Gilberto Gil, Walter Murch, Lin Hwai-min, William Kentridge and Kazuyo Sejima. 

Rolex supports the program with a series of films all hosted on a dedicated site and a dedicated Vimeo channel. 


This is a genius platform from Rolex. While other brands rush to create brand arts and entertainment which align with the brand, Rolex has taken it one step further creating artists. 

Rolex has taken to the world of the arts with a philanthropic program that is bound to be approved by its target audience. 

A prestigious brand such as Rolex was never going to start rolling out branded films, even sponsoring an existing art show would have been ludicrous. Rolex was always going to have to run its own race and create something unique and capable of creating a legacy fitting of the brand. 

When your brand is timeless, classic and at the top of the luxury market, the pressure is on to ensure you not only create something fitting for the brand, but also something that will be welcomed by your extremely high brow customers and target audience. 

So combining arts, philanthrophy and a passage of time is a staggeringly good achievement. 

The brand fit is sensational. Rolex is all about passing on, you pass a Rolex from one generation to the next, From father to son, you imbed it with memories, ideas and dreams. So the Rolex product, like the brand goes beyond luxury it is invaluable, timeless. 

To replicate this in a platform is a very, very tough job. That is exactly what makes this program so genius.  Mentoring protégés is an investment in time and knowledge for all parties it is an invaluable experience. The passing on of knowledge mirrors the legacy of the watch as well as creating a passage of time, both between the mentor and the protégé as well as the actual year long program. 

This is not about paying lip service to lofty ideas about giving back, this is a prestigious program encompassing the best of the best which gives something tangible and valuable to the world of arts. 

This is branded arts at its very, very best. The artistic process is unpolluted, genuine and unsullied by the brand, yet the brand reaps all of the benefit from its existence. 

As Peter Sellers, theatre director and Rolex mentor says, “I think the model that Rolex is developing is actually the model that is missing worldwide. This low-key but high-end way that people are meeting… to have the conversations that are missing from the world right now, because these people do need to talk to those people and they do need to find a vocabularly and this Rolex program is finding a vocabulary for the planet. “

He may just be talking about the arts, but that quote could also be equally relevant to the branded arts arena. Rolex is striding ahead of the marketplace and taking branded arts to an exciting new level. I am a big fan of this. 


Arts and patronage may have a long and solid history but this program is an exciting and refreshing way for a brand to add genuine value to a community. I think Rolex has achieved a staggeringly good feat with this program. 

  • 4 stars. 



Jeremy Garling

16 Sep 2014

Beautiful story, and having come from the Arts it is perfect in both the need for those trying to work in the industry and the alignment of Rolex. Great read.

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