Press Release

National Geographic Society Receives Largest Gift in 135-Year History From Longtime Partner Rolex

The donation will go towards National Geographic’s Base Camp, scheduled to open in 2026.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (October 26, 2023)—The National Geographic Society’s long-standing partner, Rolex, has made a significant donation to support the transformation of the Society’s global headquarters and public spaces in Washington, D.C. This is by far the largest single gift in the National Geographic Society’s 135-year history, accelerating efforts to illuminate and protect the wonder of the world.

The new National Geographic Base Camp will be the most significant expansion in the Society’s history, transforming the space in downtown Washington, D.C. The reimagined campus will connect the Society headquarters, an expanded museum, and new public spaces. International audiences will be able to share in the Society’s mission and values, experience stunning imagery and photography, bold storytelling, and findings and expeditions, and learn about how they can join in the work to protect the planet.

“This unprecedented gift from Rolex is a testament to our shared commitment to finding solutions and driving action to address our planet's most pressing challenges,” said Jill Tiefenthaler, CEO of the National Geographic Society. “Base Camp will be a place to engage global audiences around our mission and inspire millions to explore and learn about our world. We are enormously grateful for Rolex’s support for this transformative project.”

For the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf, the world was like a living laboratory. From the 1930s, he began to use it as a testing ground for his watches, sending them to the most extreme locations, supporting explorers who ventured into the unknown. As the 21st century unfolds, the company has moved from championing exploration for the sake of discovery to protecting the planet and reinforced its commitment by launching the Perpetual Planet Initiative in 2019. It supports individuals and organizations using science to understand the world’s environmental challenges and devise solutions that will restore balance to our ecosystems.

Over the last century, Rolex has been an active supporter of pioneering explorers, individuals who have pushed back the boundaries of human endeavor by venturing to the most extreme places on Earth to shed light on the natural world. Rolex watches have accompanied these explorers to the highest mountains and to the ocean depths, serving as precise, reliable tools. In turn, these groundbreaking expeditions have proved to be the perfect living laboratory for the brand to test and develop its timepieces.

Stemming from this shared spirit of discovery, the partnership between the National Geographic Society and Rolex began 70 years ago, with the brand supporting National Geographic Explorers and expeditions to the remotest parts of Earth.

Rolex and the National Geographic Society have embarked on new frontiers in the Mariana Trench, supporting a joint scientific expedition to conduct deep-ocean research led by National Geographic Explorer and filmmaker James Cameron.

In 2017, the two organizations expanded their work together, launching the National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Expeditions – a series of expeditions to examine the impact of climate and environmental change on the Earth’s most fragile environments and document the implications for people and wildlife.

Additionally, each year the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year award is given to an individual whose actions, achievements, and spirit push the boundaries of leadership in exploration, and who shows a commitment to share this knowledge with the world. It recognizes a member of the National Geographic Explorer community who shines a critical light on important issues, discoveries, and challenges facing our planet, and inspires the world to act on behalf of a more sustainable future.

“Rolex is deeply committed to enabling exploration as a means to preserving the natural world and inspiring future generations to protect Earth and all its wonders,” shared Arnaud Boetsch, Director of Communication & Image at Rolex. “As a long-time partner, we’ve seen firsthand how critical the Society’s global headquarters have been as a collaboration hub, convening place, and idea incubator. By investing in Base Camp, we will help preserve that rich legacy of knowledge sharing and storytelling for generations to come.”

The investment from Rolex will support the overall Base Camp project as well as the development of the new Explorers Landing space within. Located on the second floor of the redesigned M St. building, Explorers Landing will tell the unique and sometimes unexpected stories from and about National Geographic Explorers and highlight their tangible contributions and impacts to science, education, storytelling, and exploration.

“A gift of this magnitude is transformative in so many ways. It not only enables us to significantly expand Base Camp, which has always been our Home of the Explorer, into a must-see destination for all visitors to Washington, D.C. but also serves as an important signal that will inspire others to philanthropically support the Society’s incredible mission work at Base Camp and around the globe,” said Kara Ramirez Mullins, Chief Advancement Officer at National Geographic Society. “We are honored to have Rolex’s commitment and look forward to continuing our partnership well into the future.”

Base Camp is currently under construction and slated to open in 2026. Find more information and updates on Base Camp here.


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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.