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Thread: So, how does Rolex really spend its profits?

  1. #1

    Post So, how does Rolex really spend its profits?

    A couple of years ago, I disagreed with Jeannie. It was a mistake of course, but in attempting to prove that she was wrong, I stumbled upon something that not only proved her right, but was really and seriously cool: the constitution of The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, the organisation that controls Rolex. At the time, I did a rough translation in schoolboy French, admitted that I was wrong and left it at that. In fact, what I wrote was:

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt
    Thanks Jeannie, that was a good read (although some of the quotes were a little wayward). However, I have, as I do, gone digging and here is the Wilsdorf foundation's entry in the Canton of Geneva's commercial register:

    Registre du Commerce du Canton de Genève

    After half an hour digging through 'French with a Swiss accent' while being mocked by my beloved who is fluent in 'German with a Swiss accent' and not very helpful, I'm afraid that I have to say that not only am I wrong, but I'm very wrong. The Smoking Gun can be found under Réf 16 and downloads as a PDF which is, even to my jaded opinions,quite awesome.

    Basically Rolex are constitutionally committed to helping a fairly large chunk of the population of the canton of Geneva, starting with the blind, moving on to destitute women, taking on the hospital and social security system, good works and student grants and then throwing a whole lot at education in general and education of watchmakers specifically. In short, if you are resident in the canton of Geneva, Rolex will try quite hard to give you money one way or another. (Even if you are not human!) To be clear, becoming a Swiss resident is virtually impossible (my beloved is Swiss (Canton of Zurich, sadly) and my daughter is in the process of getting dual nationality, but I would still have to spend twelve years trying quite hard to even be considered!)

    I'm so impressed, that I think I might well go and have a crack at translating the whole damn thing! (one day...)
    Well, with a shiny new forum I thought it was time to finally pull my finger out and provide Jeannie with the translation I promised, so here it is, or rather here is the relevant part that describes how Rolex actually spend their profits:

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Wilsdorf

    Incorporated in Geneva by
    Mr Gustave Martin, notary
    1 August 1945


    February 3, 1954
    January 21, 1986
    June 6, 2003
    August 4, 2004
    January 14, 2005
    28 June 2007
    June 23, 2008
    and finally November 12, 2008




    This is made in accordance with articles 80 onwards and article 335 of the Swiss civil code and also in accordance with the special provisions described below. This foundation shall have the legal title: Hans Wilsdorf Foundation (previously known as the Hans Wilsdorf (Rolex SA) Foundation Geneva).

    Article 2


    The headquarters of the foundation is in the canton of Geneva. It is registered in the commercial register and under the supervision of a competent authority.

    Its duration is indefinite.

    Article 3


    The Foundation has the following goals

    a) To collect all relevant assets to ensure the protection, maintenance and profitability of the foundation, in accordance with the instructions and the wishes of the donor.

    For all economic assets that accrue, including all shares, companies and rights as may be donated by the first founder and that accrue to him, the foundation has the primary mission to continuously monitor these assets to maintain their ongoing operations as a functioning whole and to ensure that their operation is in the spirit and traditions of their founder.

    b) The primary purpose of all income and resources must be to maintain and develop the resources and properties belonging to the foundation.

    c) When available, allocate money for yearly donations to charities and sponsorship that have the following aims:

    l) Support for blind people living in the Canton of Geneva

    2) To discreetly aid deserving and cultured women of the Canton of Geneva who do not have the resources to support themselves.

    3) Animal welfare

    4) Other humanitarian, cultural and philanthropic works based in the canton of Geneva.

    5) The General Hospice and Central Social Help Desk (previously central Bureau of Charity) in Geneva.

    6) Scholarships for promising young students who cannot afford to continue their secondary or higher education in the schools, colleges, polytechnics, trade schools and universities of Geneva. To also establish prizes for students in the middle schools of Geneva who distinguish themselves in the study and knowledge of modern foreign languages.

    7) Establishment of a fund for the support of deserving students and apprentices who are hampered in their study due to disease or whose families cannot afford appropriate treatments or cures.

    d) A grant, if possible annually, to the Geneva watchmaking school to be split equally between funding research techniques and funding particularly deserving students. This should be distributed as awards from The Foundation Hans Wilsdorf (Rolex SA), Geneva.

    e) An annual award, when available, to the industrial art departments of The School of Applied Arts (EAA) and the High School of Arts and Design (HEAD) (previously School of Arts Decorative) in Geneva. This award is to be distributed as ‘The Hans Wilsdorf prize’, to deserving candidates in the class of enamellers, enamel painters and jewellers. This award should be focused, by the management, on developing the skills required to apply these techniques to watch decoration.

    f) A grant, when available, to the Faculty of Social and Economic Sciences at the the University of Geneva (or possibly to any another faculty) to facilitate
    the studies of full time students who, through publication or committed research, further the understanding of trade, export or possibly any other interesting topic.

    The professors of the relevant faculty may freely decide on the allocation of these grants

    g) An annual grant, when available, to the CSEM. The Swiss Centre for electronics and micro-engineering research and development (previously known as the Swiss Watchmaking Research Laboratory) at Neuchâtel (or to any other body which might replace it) This grant would be to facilitate certain special work and contribute to the costs of the professional education of deserving students training as watchmaking engineers.

    h) When disposable income is available, some is to be allocated to the nephews and nieces of the founder and his descendants, for the payment of fees for education, setting themselves up and similar purposes. The Foundation board will have the power to decide the amount allocated.
    The original link in my post to Jeannie is still good, as are my instructions, so anyone who cares can check my translation. It's about as good a translation as I can manage and it's taken me most of the day (I'm recovering from being lightly spayed so I have a rare bit of spare time) . I have translated for clarity of meaning as best I understood it rather than preserving the original structure. Obviously any French speakers can, and I hope will, improve on it. What I do know is that this is the only place I have seen this and I have never seen it in English and so I'm pretty sure that this is a rare bit of brand new Rolex ephemera and is my little gift to Jeannie and the IWL.

    I think this insight into how Rolex spends their money is both cool, helps explain their dramatic success and even helps justify their somewhat enthusiastic pricing policy: like Robin Hood, they are stealing from the rich and giving to the poor! Some might call this social justice, others might call it a communist plot.

    What do you think?
    Last edited by Matt; Nov 23, 2014 at 04:15 PM.

  2. #2
    Higher Entity Jeannie's Avatar
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    Oct 2014
    North Carolina, USA
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    I remember the conversation well and have since tried to unearth the information myself with no luck. My Googling skills are not on par with yours it seems. Plus, I might not know it when I found it anyway because I couldn't read it!

    Thanks for posting, Matt. We've copied the info to the IWL library.


  3. #3
    Dinger of Hum Chronopolitano's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    All worthy, but I find #2 particularly intriguing. "Deserving and cultured" women.... Hmm....

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Chronopolitano View Post
    All worthy, but I find #2 particularly intriguing. "Deserving and cultured" women.... Hmm....
    The spur to setting up the foundation was the death of his wife in '44. Perhaps that might be a reason. Certainly he was orphaned at the age or twelve and was reliant on the kindness of his uncles to educate him, so this might be a factor in some of his choices.
    Last edited by Matt; Nov 23, 2014 at 05:14 PM.

  5. Likes Chronopolitano liked this post
  6. #5
    This is why buying a Rolex gives you such a warm fuzzy feeling. People should really walk up and thank you if they see you wearing one!
    G-Shock: GW3000B-1A
    Rolex: Submariner 14060M
    Accurist: 1961 Shockmaster (Gold) & 1965 Shockmaster (Steel)
    Omega: Speedmaster Professional 3570.50.00
    Meistersinger: Perigraph AM1002
    Ben Sherman: S489.OOBS
    Rotary: 1990 Quartz (Gold)
    Steinhart: Ocean GMT 39mm
    Certina: DS Super PH500M & DS PH200M
    Timex: MKI Mechanical

  7. #6
    Thanks for taking the time to put that together. It's great information that doesn't seem to be widely known. Learning the charitable background behind Rolex dramatically changed my opinion of the company. I actually respect them even more for not using their benevolent deeds as a marketing tool.

  8. #7
    Thanks for the info!

    Rolex and its unique ownership and management structure has always fascinated me. I think the fact they are a privately held and ultra secretive fuel this interest. There are many "facts" I would like to know about them but the percentage of gross sales that end up in the charitable trust and what percentage then reaches the people/animals has always been one at the top of my list. I will say it makes no difference to me and no matter what the percentage turned out to be I would have still bought the Rolex watches I have and it would not impact my future buying. It is just a fact I would love to know, mainly because I am not allowed to know.

  9. #8
    Savagely Average
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Cloud 9
    That is all good and well.....but they obviously spend a lot of $$$$ on marketing

  10. #9

  11. #10
    I remembered something I meant to ask/mention before. What is the connection between watch companies and the blind? #1 above is the blind and Omega supports Orbis and their eye hospital plane. Makes me wonder if Omega is aping Rolex or their is some connection I am not aware of.

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