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.