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Rolex Holds Impressive Status at Monterey Classic Car Week

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It’s an important week for motorsports and, of course, for Rolex. In honor of the Monterey Classic Car week, we’re looking back at the history of the brand’s ties to the sport. 

Rolex’s First Encounter With Motorsports: A Rolling Start

Sir Malcolm Campbell speeding off in his favorite race car, Bluebird. Photo via Daily Mail.

Rolex has a long and storied history when it comes to its involvement with motorsports. The brand first became associated with the sport in September of 1935, when a racing record was broken with a Rolex on the wrist of the driver. Sir Malcolm Campbell was at the wheel of his car, Bluebird, and sporting a Rolex Oyster, when he became the first driver ever to break 300 mph. The event was so momentous that the brand even created a limited edition timepiece in the 1940s to honor Campbell.

The brand partnered with the Daytona International Speedway when it opened in 1959, as Campbell also completed many of his own runs in Daytona in the 1930s. A few years later, the iconic and highly-coveted Rolex Daytona Cosmograph was born. 

As a result of these groundbreaking and lucrative partnerships, Rolex nurtured its partnerships within the world of motorsports, going on to become the Official Timepiece for Formula 1 races and the FIA World Endurance Championship and the sponsor for endurance races like Rolex 24 and other endurance races. Rolex also cultivated famous Formula 1 racers like Sir Jackie Stewart as “testimonees”, or ambassadors, for the brand. 

The Monterey Classic Car Week

Rolex’s reach stretches further than just performance racing, however. The brand is also a patron of events that “celebrate the beauty of classic cars.” Every year, vintage car lovers flock to Monterey, California, for Monterey Classic Car week, which is taking place from August 23-26 this year. It consists of several important events that pay homage to vintage automobiles, including the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (vintage racing) and the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance. Additionally, there are a host of auctions, cocktail events, and tours along scenic California highways. Holding a highly visible position throughout the four-day event is Rolex, which acts as the presenter, sponsor, or timekeeper of various events. 

rolex pebble beach race

The Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance 2016. Photo via Pebble Beach Concours.

In fact, the brand has been the Official Timepiece of the Concours since 1997 and became the presenting partner of Pebble Beach Tour d’Elegance® in 2007. The Tour is an 80-mile drive along the picturesque roads of the Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur. In 2010, Rolex became the Title Sponsor of the historic Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the largest event of the week, with 550 historic and period-correct race cars competing this year alone at Laguna Seca Raceway. Rolex is also the Official Timepiece—and has been since 2005—of The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering: the event is essentially an amazing garden party with rare cars and motorcycles at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club. 

 The pinnacle event of the week takes place on Sunday, August 26th, where 200 cars are showcased on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links for the world’s most elite classic car show, the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Here, the cars are judged on their authenticity, and ability to remain true to the original in technical merit, elegance, and style. Rolex has been the Official Timepiece of this event since 1997.

With this omnipresence during the events, the brand naturally offers watches to the Best in Show winners at both The Quail and the Concours d’Elegance. This year, the owner of the car that wins Best of Show at The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering, will receive a $13,000 Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41mm in 18-karat Everose and Rolesor with a fluted bezel and Jubilee bracelet. The Best of Show winner at the Concours d’ Elegance will be awarded the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust 41 in 18-karat yellow gold Rolesor with Jubilee bracelet. 

Three-time FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Champion, Sir Jackie Stewart, who this year celebrates 50 years as a Rolex brand ambassador, says, “It is always a pleasure to return to Monterey, where the atmosphere and the genuine enthusiasm for motor cars is unparalleled…The event will give me the opportunity to reflect on my career in motorsports and the fantastic evolution of the car during this time. I can’t wait to see the style and elegance that will be on show.”