Who owns Rolex?

by / ⠀Who Owns / November 13, 2023
Who owns Rolex

Rolex is a privately held company, owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation. This charitable foundation was created by Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, in 1944. Upon his death in 1960, Wilsdorf bequeathed his stake in the company to the foundation. The primary purpose of the foundation is to support philanthropic efforts. As a private entity, specific details about ownership structure and shares are not publicly disclosed. However, it is known that the foundation holds the majority of shares in Rolex, ensuring that the company remains independently owned.

Company History

Rolex is a Swiss company known for its luxury timepieces. It was founded in London, England, in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis. They initially named their company “Wilsdorf and Davis” and imported Swiss movements to put them in watchcases made by others. In 1908, they decided to create a brand that would represent prestige and high-quality Swiss craftsmanship. Thus, the name “Rolex” was born.

As the company grew and its popularity increased, Wilsdorf decided to relocate the headquarters to Geneva, Switzerland in 1919. This move aimed to be closer to the Swiss watchmaking industry and to avoid the high level of taxation in the United Kingdom. In 1920, the company officially became Montres Rolex SA. Rolex remained a privately held company throughout Wilsdorf’s lifetime. In the early days, both Wilsdorf and Davis shared ownership of the company.

After Davis retired in 1927, Wilsdorf held sole ownership. Following Wilsdorf’s death in 1960, he bequeathed his shares in Rolex to the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private charitable trust he had previously established in 1945. As a result, the foundation became the sole owner of Rolex, ensuring the independence and continuity of the company. Today, Rolex remains a privately-owned company. The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation maintains ownership, and its main activities include managing the company’s shares and donating a portion of Rolex’s annual revenue to charity and research initiatives.

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In summary, Rolex was founded by Hans Wilsdorf and Alfred Davis, and over time, the ownership has evolved to belong solely to the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private charitable trust that continues to ensure the company’s independence and contributes to philanthropic efforts.

Who was the original founder?

Rolex was originally founded by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law Alfred Davis in London in 1905. Hans Wilsdorf, a German-born businessman, is credited as the driving force behind the company. Hans Wilsdorf was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1881, and he later moved to Switzerland. He initially worked for a Swiss watch manufacturer called Cuno Korten. It was during this time that Wilsdorf developed a keen interest in wristwatches and recognized their potential in the market, despite wristwatches not being popular at the time.

Wilsdorf and Davis started their company importing Swiss watch movements, mostly by Hermann Aegler, and then placed them in watch cases made by companies like Dennison. They originally named their company Wilsdorf and Davis, and it mainly operated as a wholesaler. In 1908, they registered the trademark “Rolex,” which was a short, easy-to-pronounce name that could be engraved on watch dials and was also thought to sound similar to the winding of a watch. Wilsdorf wanted a name that would look good and be easy to say in different languages. To expand their business, they moved its base to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1919.

This was mainly due to the high taxes on imports and exports of gold and silver in post-WWI Britain. The company was renamed Montres Rolex S.A. in 1920. Hans Wilsdorf was a visionary entrepreneur who constantly sought innovations in watchmaking. He focused on manufacturing wristwatches with the highest precision, leading to the development of the world’s first waterproof wristwatch, the Rolex Oyster, in 1926.

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The company continued to set new benchmarks in the industry under Wilsdorf’s leadership until his death in 1960. Today, Rolex remains one of the most renowned and prestigious watch brands globally.


Who owns Rolex?

Rolex is a privately-owned company and is owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, which was established by its founder, Hans Wilsdorf, in 1945.

When was Rolex founded?

Rolex was founded in 1905 by Hans Wilsdorf and his brother-in-law, Alfred Davis.

Where is Rolex based?

Rolex is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

What is Rolex known for?

Rolex is widely known for producing high-quality, luxury wristwatches that are popular worldwide for their design, durability, and prestige.

Are Rolex watches Swiss-made?

Yes, Rolex watches are Swiss-made and are considered some of the finest examples of Swiss watchmaking expertise.

Sources for More Information


Featured image provided by Laurenz Heymann; Pexels; Thanks!

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