Who Owns Rolex?

4:38 PM

The majority of the world's most reputable companies, like Apple (AAPL) and Disney (DIS), are publicly traded companies with abbreviations that you can find on any stock ticker. If you are looking for the abbreviation for Rolex to gather information on the company, you may be surprised to find out that it's not in fact a publicly traded company and information on their annual production and profitability is not available to the public.

Who Owns Rolex? (photo: rolex.com)
On September 07, 1945, the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation was created to assume ownership of the Rolex company in the event of the death of its founder, Hans Wilsdorf. Wilsdorf's wife May died in 1944 and the couple had no children, so Wilsdorf decided that the company should become part of the foundation after he died. He passed away on July 6, 1960, and since then the company has been owned by the foundation. With no shareholders or board of directors, the profits of the company are reinvested in the company, with portions donated to the company's charitable initiatives. They are not required to report their annual production, profits and donations to the public, so the exact amounts are shrouded in mystery and speculation.

Given their expansive production facilities and quest for full vertical integration, it is clear that the majority of their profits are reinvested in the company. However, the watchmaker has several notable philanthropic programs that constitute donations to charity. Run by the Rolex Institute, the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative and Awards for Enterprise honor human achievement and and strive to create meaningful impressions on the world achievement in the arts and philanthropy. 

Rolex Awards Ceremony at the Royal Society, London, Arthur Zang, 2014 Rolex Young Lauterate & Hayat Sindi, 2014 Jury Member (Photo: Rolex Awards/Nick Harvey)
The Awards for Enterprise were launched in 1976 to honor men and women who advance human knowledge in the areas of science, health, applied technology, exploration, discovery, environment and cultural heritage. Now in its 40th year, it has helped 130 pioneers work on making the world a better place for humanity. Its sister program, the Menor and Protégé Arts Initiative, brings emerging talents in the areas of architecture, dance, film, literature, music, theater and visual art together with masters in the field for a year to ensure that artistic excellence is passed on from generation to generation.

The watchmaker is also the official timepiece for many institutions of the arts, like the Met in New York City and La Scala in Milan. Additionally, in 2001 the watchmaker opened a watchmaking school in Pennsylvania, Lititz Watch Technicum, to meet the educational needs of young American watchmakers. Always looking to associate their brand with excellence and human achievement, it is likely that Rolex will continue to support art and culture for decades to come. Not beholden to shareholders and stock market volatility, the company can focus solely on continually improving their production process and contributing to the advancement of culture.

For more information on the company's contributions to the arts, including their arts testimonees and sponsored events, visit the Rolex and the Arts page of this site. For a list of the current protégés from the arts initiative, click here or visit the watchmaker's official website at rolex.com for additional information.


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