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How is Rolex a non profit organisation?

Is Rolex a non profit main image

Both Rolex and Save the Children have their origins in London. Now, Rolex (initially Wilsdorf & Davis, named after the founder of Rolex, Hans Wilsdorf) has gone on to be one of the most well-known luxury watches on the planet.

Save the Children has, well, gone on to save a rather handsome number of children.

Watch companies are not typically seen as a nonprofit organization, but there has been a lot of online chatter about whether Rolex is such a non-profit company or, which makes sense, or a for-profit company. 

So, sit back, polish your Rainbow Daytona, and let’s look at the intricacies of the watch industry. 

What exactly is a Non-Profit Organisation? 

Well, this is a rather complex question, depending on which social institutions you ask. Heck, even people might have different opinions. 

That said, since Rolex is based in Switzerland, we should probably look at what the clarification is over there. 

According to an article written by Dufour Advokatur, “Swiss NPOs are typically set up as foundations (Stiftung) or associations (Verein). While LLCs (GmbH) or stock corporations (Aktiengesellschaft) can also be structured as NPOs, they are less common as it is generally more difficult to attract donations than via foundations or associations.“. 

I would highly suggest you read this article to get a greater understanding of how the Swiss Government views these companies, especially those who deal with a lot of money. 

Now that we have a greater understanding of how the Swiss Non-Profit Organization will go about things, it’s about time we look at the Rolex Institute and how this luxury brand is viewed – I’m quite intrigued and slightly nervous, not going to lie…

Is Rolex a Non Profit Business? 

No. 

There. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I’m not going to keep you on the line with promises of a better world and a perfectly sized Explorer (whatever mm that might be). The short answer is no. Rolex is not a non-profit.

In 2023, Rolex posted a record $11.5bn in sales with their self-winding watches – no grotesque memorabilia as we’ve been seeing from other brands with similar sports associations *cough* FERRARI. 

This makes the Swiss company a hyper-giant in the watch industry, and when you do a bit of research you’ll notice that Rolex watches are sold via a company called ‘Rolex SA’.

Rolex Signage for: Is Rolex a Non Profit Company article.
Source

Rolex S.A. means Société Anonyme, and since they sell luxury items, they are a public limited company.

The Rolex Watch Company is a public company capable of making large profits and will therefore be paying tax on all the Swiss Francs they make. Lovely. 

So, what gives? Why is the first thing my auntie telling me about Rolex that they are a bunch of thieves? Well, this is where things get about as complicated as the SkyDweller – which isn’t much, but certainly more than a DayDate. 

Hans Wilsdorf’s Legacy

As mentioned, Hans was the initial creator of the company, and boy did his company have a positive impact on the world – whether you like the brand or not, they are mighty significant. 

Now, Rolex is currently (and has been since 1960) owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. This ‘parent company’ is actually a non-profit brand. Yup, you read that right. Fondation Hans Wilsdorf is a charity that was founded in 1945 and its mission is rather comprehensive:

“To ensure the safeguarding, maintenance and profitability of the assets entrusted to it, in accordance with the instructions and wishes of the founder. If available: a) support social and philanthropic institutions having their headquarters in the canton of Geneva, as well as people residing in Geneva and encountering financial difficulties; 

b) support, in particular by granting scholarships, the training of young people (college students, students, apprentices) in Geneva training establishments (including education adapted to specific needs); c) support cultural institutions based in the canton of Geneva, as well as cultural projects in Geneva; 

d) support humanitarian institutions based in the canton of Geneva; (e) contributing to the protection of animals and their ecosystems.” Now, there is too much to cover in one article, so, when time permits, read this document for more information. 

Hans Wilsdorf founded the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation in 1945 1024x538 1

Now, the global brand doesn’t disclose how much they donate (accurately), but Secretary General Marc Maugué said the following in an interview, “Every year, we have around 300 million Swiss francs available for charitable purposes. When major projects come up, it can sometimes be significantly more”.

You won’t find a terribly high number of articles or interviews on the subject matter, I guess that is just the Rolex way… That said, there is significant evidence they do take social action and they are indeed a charitable trust. 

Does that mean Rolex doesn’t pay tax? 

Oh no, they do, they surely do. The Foundation just owns all the shares of Rolex itself, one could say they are the sole owner of Rolex. That said, Rolex is still a company that has to pay taxes. They are not some charitable company that avoids tax, they function just as any other company would, including paying the legal requirement of them when it comes to taxes, etc. 

That said, the limited information on the Foundation and how the funds are used in very different ways is rather suspicious, and more clarity on this would certainly be welcome. I don’t expect a complete guide, but certainly more than an interview or two. 

IDK, maybe it’s just me – or what do you think? 

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