Bucherer Montre SA and DeBeers Centenary AG

About three miles from Lucerne's city center I find the headquarters for Bucherer Montre, Europe's largest watch and jewelry retailer. Established in Lucerne in 1888 by Carl Bucherer, this family-owned business employs over 1,000 people and has revenues in excess of $337 million. Besides carrying most of the world's famous watch brands (its Europe number one Rolex retailer); Bucherer carries its own line of watches.

The company's flagship store in downtown Lucerne has a selection of over 40,000 items. I mistakenly went to the store thinking it housed the head offices. Jeez, it was packed with American and Japanese tourists all seemingly intent on buying something.

The seven-story head office building looks to have been built in the 1970's and the name "Bucherer" is in big letters atop the sides of the structure. The lobby is very plain, no -frills with a security guard/receptionist stationed by the entrance. It's 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon as the secretary to Management Chairman Adalbert Butler steps into the lobby and says they hadn't received my letter of introduction mailed a month earlier. She's sure of it because she opens all the mail. She says I'm out of luck in meeting with someone because corporate communications and marketing personnel have all left for the day.

So, now we come to the odd part of the story. Occupying a floor in the Bucherer building is DeBeers Centenary AG. This is the diamond trading part of DeBeers, the South African company with pretty much a monopoly on the world's diamonds. I go up to DeBeers' reception area and bingo, right away they know who I am because they received the letter of introduction-which had been mailed to the same address as Bucherer's.

However, my visit is for naught as Andrew Poolman informs me the company has been moving their operations to Luxembourg and will be vacating the premises shortly. How did they come to occupy one floor in this building? They own the floor. Evidently in Switzerland you can buy floors in a building.
Actually, the funny part of the story is my waiting in a room called the Diamond Room for Mr. Poolman. Throughout the room are dozens of diamonds on display NOT in glass display cases but out in the open. These couldn't possibly be real? Boy, I'm thinking to myself, I must really look trustworthy to leave me alone with all the glittering stones. It turns out to be wishful thinking on my part as Poolman says they're all glass replicas.