I hear Rolex described as a non-profit corporation all the time. I heard it just today as I was listening to a podcast from Jake’s Rolex Watch Blog. I just want to clarify Rolex’s financial position as I understand it. Please correct me if I am wrong.
Upon the death of Hans Wilsdorf, in 1960, ownership of Montres Rolex S.A. was passed on to a charitable trust. Today that trust continues to own Rolex and direct its finances. This does not mean that the company is a non-profit. They turn a profit, you can be sure of that. How else would a company grow to its present size. The profits are shared among employees as well as given to charities around the world. One way this money is given away is through the Rolex Awards for Enterprise which “support exceptional men and women who are breaking new ground in areas which advance human knowledge and well-being.” Through Rolex, USA they contribute millions of dollars to further watchmaking education. They also contribute to many swiss charities.
Since Rolex is not a publicly held company and not a non-profit they do not have to make financial information available. We don’t have anyway of knowing how much profit they make or how much they give away. One thing is for certain: the trust fund is huge! Rumor Alert: Someone at Rolex told me that the fund is large enough that Rolex could continue producing watches for many years at their current rate while paying salaries from the fund without letting anyone go even without selling a single watch.
In conclusion: Rolex is a good company and I owe them for helping me get a good start in my career but they aren’t quite a non-profit organization. They contribute liberally to charities around the world while still turning a profit and growing their business. Their unique situation allows them to weather storms and keeps them from being bought or sold. Rolex will be around for many more years doing good and making excellent watches.
Photo courtesy of coreforce.
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