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 jewelers. 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?