A Culture Of Giving Back: Rolex Philanthropy and the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation


Posted by John Lavitt and filed under Rolex Culture, Rolex Watches |

WilsdorfWhen it comes to giving back in the form of charity and cultural support, philanthropy is an intrinsic part of the Rolex culture and philosophy. Through the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a large percentage of the profits of the Rolex go directly to philanthropic causes. Upon the death of his wife in 1944, Wilsdorf established the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation in which he left all of his Rolex shares, making sure that some of the company’s income would go to charity. The company is still owned by a private trust, and shares are not traded on any stock exchange. The foundations funnels much of the profits generated by Rolex into various charitable endeavors. Given that Rolex is not a publicly held company, exact numbers are not known, but it is clear they generate huge sums of money for worthy charities. Below, the descriptions of the two eminent Rolex philanthropic programs are paraphrased directly from Rolex accounts that describe the programs with a perfect balance of humility and clarity.

Rolex Awards for EnterpriseThrough its two primary philanthropic programs, the Awards for Enterprise and the Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, Rolex fosters innovation in science, exploration, conservation, and the arts worldwide. 
 The Rolex Awards for Enterprise were created to foster a spirit of enterprise and advance human knowledge and well being around the globe. They support pioneering work in five areas: science and medicine; technology and innovation; exploration and discovery; the environment; and cultural heritage. In each series, ten Awards are presented to visionary men and women whose groundbreaking projects benefit their fields of endeavor, their communities and the wider world. Winners are innovators who typically work outside the mainstream and often have limited access to traditional funding. Rather than reward past achievements, the Rolex Awards provide financial assistance and recognition to individuals embarking on new ventures or carrying out ongoing projects. Grants of $100,000 are awarded to five Laureates and $50,000 to five Associate Laureates in each series. These grants must be used to complete their projects. All ten also receive a Rolex chronometer. Each of the Laureates represent the best work being done in their field, reflecting the excellence that Rolex has accomplished with their ground-breaking watches.

In 2002, Rolex launched the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, a global program that pairs emerging artists with masters in dance, film, literature, music, theatre and the visual arts for a year of intensive collaboration. Building on a legacy of supporting culture that dates back to the 1970s, Rolex launched the Arts Initiative to help ensure that artistic excellence is passed on to the next generation. Unparalleled in its artistic and geographic reach, the program has helped over 200 notable talents from 39 countries since its beginnings. Noting the lack of corporate support for individual artists in a multitude of disciplines, Rolex created the program to foster the next generation of artistic excellence and fill a void in arts philanthropy. Renowned artists from around the globe have participated in the program, ranging from Rolex representative and Mexican tenor Placido Domingo to Israel violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Through the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, Rolex has expanded its influence well beyond the scope of groundbreaking watches and chronometers. Through its philanthropic programs, Rolex created a true corporate culture of giving back, leading to cultural achievements and scientific breakthroughs that have benefited the entire world.

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