Domino’s began incentivizing its franchisees with Rolex in 1977 when Domino’s Pizza founder and CEO Tom Monaghan gave a high-earning franchise owner the watch off his wrist. In his 1986 autobiography, Pizza Tiger, Monaghan wrote, “I wore a Bulova with our Domino’s logo on its face. A franchisee asked what he had to do to get that watch from me, and I told him, ‘Turn in a twenty-thousand-dollar sales week.’ He did it.”
After that, Managhan began giving away Seikos to top earners. Then he upped the ante with “hundreds of $800 Rolexes.” In the early days of what is now known as the Rolex Challenge, turning in $20,000 in sales one week at Domino’s would get you a Rolex. (Break $10,000 and you’d get a Hermés tie.) But as Rolex prices have increased, so have the stakes. Domino’s continues to give out branded Rolexes today, but a franchise needs to hit $25,000 in sales in a week. Four weeks in a row. According to a Domino’s spokesperson, a franchise pulls in closer to $17,000 in sales a week, on average.
“As soon as I realized the challenges were attainable, I starting to work hard for them,” said Hannah Lantz, a Domino’s Franchisee. “I have won five times, including at the $45,000 and $50,000 level. Fifty thousand dollars is a lot of pizza per week. It required growing the staff and more preparation.”
As a means of motivation, Monaghan’s use of Rolexes as incentives seem incredibly more effective than the “fuck you, look at my watch” method employed in Glengarry Glen Ross. In his essay “The CEO as a Corporate Myth-Maker,” Wayne State Literature and Folklore Professor Richard Raspa suggests that Monaghan believed “everyone who worked at Domino’s was a potential replica of the founder.” That offering employees the same kind of luxury pens, ties and watches he owned — even the one off his own wrist — would bestow them with the same kind of entrepreneurial power Monaghan possessed to turn a Ypsilanti, Michigan pizza parlor into one of the biggest fast food franchises in the world.
As for the watches themselves, the ones that show up on the secondhand market have become oddball collectibles, selling at slightly over what you’d normally expect to pay for a vintage Air-King. (They are more easily found than Rolexes branded by companies like Winn-Dixie and Coca-Cola, which gave their watches away for years of service rather than monetary goals.) Still, the Domino’s logo is a divisive feature.