Rolex: Watchmaker and Environmentalist
ranks among the world’s top ten most valuable luxury brands – as recognizable as Dom Perignon and Gulfstream – but the company is as much a charitable foundation as it is a superstar watch brand, dedicated to supporting projects that make the world a better place. S.A., the Geneva watch manufacturer, is owned by the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation, a private trust that also owns the Institute, a division dedicated to philanthropy. The Foundation was set up by founder Hans Wilsdorf in 1944 to ensure that a portion of the company’s income would always go to charity. Since then, has donated millions of dollars to causes that aim to improve the world in some way.
TheAwards for Enterprise is particularly geared to environmental and public health issues. It was established in 1976, officially to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Oyster chronometer, but also to support men and women dedicated to advancing human knowledge and well-being. Projects focus on the areas of science, technology, exploration, the environment and cultural heritage, and each laureate is awarded CHF 100,000 to further their initiatives.
Support to Young Laureates
The focus of the Awards for Enterprise is on individuals rather than organizations, and the 125 laureates to date – aged from 25 to 74 – are an impressive group. Among the recipients are: Barbara Block, an American marine biologist who created underwater listening stations to track the migration patterns of sharks; British biologist Karina Atkinson, who is turning a little-known nature reserve in Paraguay into a centre for research that attracts conservation scientists from all over the world; Olivier Nsengimana of Rwanda, who creates breeding programs for the endangered grey-crowned crane, a symbol of longevity that is often captivated and kept as a pet; and Russian ecologist Sergei Bereznuk, who is working to save the endangered Amur tiger in northern Russia, which is being driven to extinction because of excessive poaching.
Laureates are chosen by an international jury of independent experts, which typically includes explorers, conservationists, scientists, doctors, educators and innovators. In 2009, the program was expanded to include a Young Laureates program for budding visionaries between the ages of 18 and 30, who each receive CHF 50,000 to support their projects.
When you buy a Rolex, then, you are not just adding prestige to your collection but also contributing to projects that have the potential to improve the lives of millions of people. As Rolex says of its initiative: “With the right amount of passion, anyone can change everything.”