The 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex: twenty years on the clock

The 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex: twenty years on the clock

Twenty years have gone by since the 24 Hours of Le Mans enlisted the help of the luxury watch brand Rolex to keep time during the most important day of the year. This is no ordinary partnership. Demanding sport and precision timepieces go hand in hand in their quest for excellence. We reflect on two decades of exacting standards.

Founded in 1905, a year before the Automobile Club de l’Ouest, Rolex boasts an unrivalled pedigree in watchmaking. The partnership established with the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2001, was “self-evident” says Fabrice Bourrigaud, ACO director of culture and heritage. “Watchmaking is the perfect illustration of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s a day that ticks by, a race against the clock. Rolex is a luxury brand par excellence, synonymous with some of the world’s best-known sporting events such as Wimbledon, the Masters and Formula One."

The brand has long been associated with motorsport. In the thirties, the Swiss manufacturer worked alongside the world land speed record breaker Malcolm Campbell. Later, Rolex began lending its name to famous endurance events such as the 24 Hours of Daytona. Several racing drivers, among them Sir Jackie Stewart, Tom Kristensen and Mark Webber, are associated with the brand.

Time is of the essence in racing, and the familiar green Rolex timepiece is a perpetual reminder to drivers, lap after lap. “Our relationship has grown over time”, says Fabrice Bourrigaud. "Rolex provides the clock at the start/finish line.” Although a familiar feature of the circuit, the timepiece is not a permanent fixture, it is reinstalled every year. “We have always had sponsors, but never this level of involvement.” Rolex and Le Mans go back further than 20 years. ”We actually had a Rolex clock in the fifties, provided by local jeweller Dutray.” Year after year, the ties between the famous brand and the iconic race have become stronger and stronger. “Rolex’s involvement with the race is unparalleled. Thanks to the firm’s contribution to the Spirit of Le Mans trophy, Rolex joins the ACO in paying tribute to the women and men who uphold the values of endurance racing: involvement, commitment, togetherness and sporting endeavour. The Drivers’ Club also receives support from the brand."

"From a driver’s point of view, it’s the perfect pairing"
Tom Kristensen

Above all, the tale of two world-famous brands is about people. “The relationship between Rolex and the race is 20 years old. This partnership is special because it is a lasting one, and that is a rare thing. From a driver’s point of view, it’s the perfect partnership: the most elegant, most prestigious watchmaker and the most iconic motor race. The introduction of the Hypercar class this year is the beginning of a thrilling new chapter for endurance racing," says Tom Kristensen, who has been first past the Rolex clock at the end of the 24 hours no less than nine times.

One demanding race, one exacting timekeeper and many beautiful stories still to be told.

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