I’m having an existential crisis, not to mention a moral dilemma. I love watches, particularly of the mechanical kind, for what they are but not for what they have come to represent. As a post-graduate student of sustainability, I should not be writing columns that encourage unnecessary conspicuous consumption that relies on the continuous extraction of valuable resources. And as much as timepieces are remarkable demonstrations of human ingenuity, creativity, and audacity, today, most are less appreciated for the feats of micro engineering, design, and innovation than for their being symbols of success.
Prior to the invention of the pendulum clock in 1657, time was measured by the cycles of the seasons, the sun, and the moon. Linear, Eurocentric notions of time have been fundamental to our understanding of the universe; however, this has also led to the exploitation of both planet and people. These wonderful little machines are, alas, reminders of our enslavement to the always-on global machine with its unnatural rhythm, so delinked from nature. The imposition of this Western notion on colonised societies often suppressed indigenous systems of cyclical or non-linear understandings of time.
Food for thought as I deal with the meta-crisis. The pursuit of wealth and its accoutrements always comes at a cost, so the watch you choose reflects your values and those of the manufacture. Thankfully, there are brands that care about our world. In the realm of luxury watches, IWC received a Butterfly Mark recently — the ethical equivalent of a royal seal for its commitment to transparency and traceability.
While many believe they have “arrived” when there is a Rolex on their wrist, alignment with the brand goes so much deeper. In some cases, literally: it is a sponsor of ocean research in the Mariana Trench in the western Pacific. Owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a charitable trust established in 1960, Rolex is one of the original success stories on how to approach capitalism differently.
The concept of perpetual time is a more “rounded” alternative to linear time, one that is infinite and unending. Without an external energy source, perpetual motion is currently considered impossible, but the highly efficient Rolex Perpetual calibres do come pretty close to achieving this state — as long as you keep moving. This motional notion is at the heart of Rolex legacy initiatives to preserve cultures and protect the planet for future generations.
Among these is Perpetual Planet, which has partnered with Steve Boyes, a highly regarded South African conservation biologist and chairperson of the Wild Bird Trust. Last year, Boyes and a team of scientists and support crews set off on the first Great Spine of Africa Expedition across Angola, with the support of Rolex. The team gathered data on biodiversity, threats, habitats, hydrology, and ecosystem health. What better way to start your new financial year than by taking a more considered journey?
Heir to the original navigation tool, the 40mm Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II is updated with a two-tone brown and black Cerachrom bezel insert, Triplock winding crown, Oystersteel and Everrose Gold case, and Oyster bracelet. It is powered by the in-house Calibre 3285 self-winding movement with date and two-time-zone functionality.
• From the March edition of Wanted, 2023.