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Rolex as Formula 1 Official Timekeeper
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Rolex as Formula 1 Official Timekeeper

Tuesday, 30 October 2018
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Roberta Naas
Journalist

“Life is all about time - what we make of it and how we use it.”

Roberta Naas is a veteran journalist in the watch world with more than 32 years of experience and author of six books on watches and time. She was as well the founder of www.atimelyperspective.com.

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3 min read

After battling it out on the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix on October 19-21, Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth world title a week later in Mexico. Rolex was on-call for both races.

Timed by Rolex, the Official Timekeeper and watch of F1 Grand Prix globally, the race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) was supposed to be the one where Lewis Hamilton made history – clinching his fifth world title. However, a late pit stop for tire changes in the final laps meant that Hamilton (of Mercedes AMG team and a brand ambassador for IWC) couldn’t regain his neck-and-neck first-position lead against Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, who took the victory – his first since 2013. Hamilton, 33, finally took the champagne off ice a week later after a fourth-place finish at the Mexico Grand Prix earned him his fifth title, putting him equal with Argentine driver Manuel Fangio and two titles behind Michael Schumacher.

A top-secret operation

With a state-of-the-art communications center and timing room, every car is timed to the tiniest hundreds of thousandths of a second. In fact, F1 tracks all timing via cameras, transponders, clocks and more. It also controls all of the media surrounding every race, performs its own on-the-spot videos and replays, and divulges the information almost instantaneously – within milliseconds of any event.

Mark Webber
Mark Webber

The entire timing, communications and race control operation is huge, and to be consistent at every race, F1 packs all of the equipment up and moves it almost intact from race to race. Essentially, the entire video and communications of each F1 race takes place within shipping containers that open to reveal built-in television screens, monitoring systems, timing systems and more. It can all be packed up and moved out within nine hours of the completion of the race – ready to be transported to the next circuit. The equipment alone takes up the space of one and a half 747 aircraft. The entire operation is so complex, top-secret – and professional – that it comes second perhaps only to the precision timing of the Olympic games (by Omega).

While Rolex began its relationship with Formula 1, it has more than half a century of auto-sports involvement.
Half a century of auto-sports involvement

Such incredible timing and communications are to be expected from this high-speed, high-investment sport, where man (or woman), machine, materials and technology all have a hand in winning or losing. The connection with Rolex, where precision and excellence in timing is also paramount, underscores the Swiss watch brand’s ongoing commitment to the world of motor sports. While Rolex began its relationship with Formula 1 racing five years ago, it has more than half a century of auto-sports involvement dating back to the early 1950s.

When Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record (his third) at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1935, becoming the first person to drive a car over 300 mph, he was wearing a Rolex Oyster. He wore that watch to many races, quickly getting Rolex the attention of many drivers. In 1959 Rolex partnered with Daytona International Speedway, creating the Daytona Cosmograph as a result. In 1968 it teamed with Sir Jackie Stewart, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of that relationship. Over the ensuing decades, Rolex became more intimately involved in auto-sports, sponsoring or timing events that range from endurance racing to classic and vintage racing and more. They include Monterey Motor Sports Reunion, Monterey Classic Car Week, and Rolex 24 at Daytona. In 2013 Rolex became the Global Partner, Official Timekeeper and Official Timepiece for F1 races. The brand is also the title sponsor of several F1 races around the world, and has other F1 racers as testimonees, including the well-known Mark Webber, among others.

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