Watch Company (IWC), headquartered in Schaffhausen (population
35,000), evidently goes to the beat of a different drummer. Why?
How else do you explain its location in northern Switzerland
a few miles from the German border. All the other major Swiss
watch companies make southern Switzerland their home. It's not
like high-end watchmaker IWC hasn't been around for while having
been founded here back in 1868 by Ariosto Jones, an American.
I find IWC's headquarters next to the Rhine River and two minutes
from Schaffhausen's city center. It's a three building complex
of connecting buildings built in the early 1900's. The tallest
structure is four stories. Two friendly receptionists man the
counter in the tiny reception/lobby area. There's an IWC wall
clock hanging on a wall. Receptionist Beatrice Rohner tries to
track down who ended up with my letter of introduction sent a
month ago. I addressed the letter to the Chief Executive Officer
since I wasn't able to find his/her name anywhere. I also check
to see if Ms. Rohner is wearing an IWC watch. Yep, it's one of
their Portuguese models with the huge face-they start out at
about $5,000 and continue upwards to $50,000.
Though my letter isn't found, things work out fine thanks to
the accommodating Andrea Schellmoser from Public Relations. About
380 employees work here. If you want to drive to work then you
have to pay to park here. Smoking in offices is optional, conference
rooms are named after various watches and there are no recreational
facilities-though in the summer employees go swimming in the
adjacent Rhine River.
There's no company cafeteria but plenty of eating-places in the
city center a two-minute walk from here. Break areas in the buildings
serve free soft drinks and coffee. It's 30 minutes to Zurich
Airport and three minutes to the nearest freeway. Any unusual
employee perks? Up to 60% off on watches. Looking through one
of IWC's catalogs I see one can snap up a platinum Grande Complication
timepiece for a cool $217,000.
Schellmoser finds the keys and takes me for a walk through the
watch museum. Plenty of spiffy-looking watches on display.
CEO Georges Kern occupies a middle office on the third floor.
The room is furnished in black and white. There's a tall cactus
plant, a laptop computer, picture of his kids, paintings from
his kids and signed posters by tennis player Boris Becker and
cyclist Jan Ullrich. Kern's view out his window? The church directly
across the street.
In 2000 IWC became part of Richemont, the luxury goods group.