Is Rolex a Non Profit — The Truth

A Rolex watch surrounded by certifications and pamphlets related to the company. (from: Pexels, Antony Trivet, )

Is Rolex a non-profit? Understanding the premier luxury brand’s business model.

When we think about luxury, it is all too easy to think about the horrors of late stage capitalism. What we don’t think about is a non-profit. Yet, one of the premier luxury watch brands, Rolex, is a non-profit.


To some, this may be all of the information you need to dive in and buy the Rolex of your dreams. Others have looked at this and called it “fake news” or presumed tax write-off manipulation.


In reality, there are reasons to both be skeptical of and hopeful about the role that Rolex plays in the global economy. Here’s what Rolex is doing as a non-profit and exactly what that means:


Is Rolex a non-profit?

It is kind of indirect, but Rolex is a non-profit


What’s weird and makes some people skeptical is that you won’t find any information about this in any handy area of the Rolex website. Searching the site for ‘non-profit’ or ‘charitable’ only provides information about other groups they work with. The Rolex org site is similarly lacking in information.


The reason is because Rolex is owned by a non-profit instead of actually being listed as one itself directly.


Who owns Rolex?

What Rolex will tell you is that its founder, Hans Wilsdorf, created a charitable foundation and passed 100% of his Rolex shares to it before he died. This foundation, the Fondation Hans Wilsdorf Rolex SA Geneve, is a Swiss non-profit organization and is often simply called “The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation ” by English speakers. In Swiss law, this type of organization is known as a shareholder foundation.


The organization does its best to stay out of the limelight and has a very small internet presence. The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation website stays modest, though does have a portal where you can request donations or scholarships from them directly. Their LinkedIn profile reports only seven employees at this time.


What charities does Rolex support?

By Swiss law, Hans Wilsdorf is not required to report exactly how much it spends on charity. As a result, not all trustees are reported, giving the organization what the Financial Times calls, “an air of secrecy.” In other words, Hans Wilsdorf is in a position where it has no urgency to report its own doings.


However, with a bit of digging it isn’t too hard to find out where at least some of the money is going. For example, the Geneva Graduate Institute lists the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation amongst its donors.


The Rolex website also mentions some of the charitable activities they’ve supported over the years via the Rolex Awards for Enterprise program. This program has given awards to 155 applicants — in disciplines that cover science, tech, exploration, and culture — since it started in 1976 and the complete list of winners is publicly available.


The 2023 Rolex Awards For Enterprise will award five more winners (called ‘laureates’) with 200,000 Swiss Francs (~$215,000 USD) each, and a special Rolex chronometer. The organization notes that there may be additional cash prizes given in addition to the stated amounts.



For all of the controversy and hate from Redditors that Rolex receives, it does appear to do good things. Not revealing exactly how much you give away to charity when it isn’t even a legal requirement doesn’t exactly sound like the worst thing in the world, now does it?

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