Caran d'Ache SA
Checking out watches at jewelry and watch shops to get an idea
of prices, advertising and display techniques I began noticing
stores also carried high-end writing instruments. Besides the
usual names of Montblanc, Waterman and Parker, I kept coming
upon Caran d'Ache. It turns out Caran d'Ache is a Swiss company
and it's headquartered right here in Geneva. In town for one
just one more week I send my letter of introduction to Managing
Director Silvio Laurenti with one week's notice of my pending
arrival instead of the usual four weeks. Will the company come
Boy, I'm four miles from downtown Geneva and you can't get much
closer to the French border as it lies about a stone's throw
away. You have to pass through a gated entry to set foot on the
headquarters/factory complex but it's no problem for me on a
bike as I cycle around the restraining bar and unmanned booth.
From information garnered from the company's website I knew the
company was founded in downtown Geneva in 1924 and the factory/head
office moved out here to the suburbs in 1974. However, the six-story
head office building with the company's name in big letters atop
the structure looks much older. Time has not been kind to the
The receptionist speaks very little English but seems to understand
I want to talk to Managing Director Laurenti's secretary. Six
glass display cases grace the lobby each containing spiffy-looking
writing instruments. Dated 1929, on one wall hangs a large six-foot
by 10-foot painting displaying the vast colors of Caran's crayons.
In a few minutes Laurenti's secretary Clair Clevien appears.
Aw jeez, Clevien says they hadn't received my letter of introduction
but agrees to answer questions even though she's been with the
company only a few months.
Sitting in the company's large and blah-looking ground floor
cafeteria I talk fast. Why? Lunchtime is over but the place reeks
of cigarettes thanks to chain-smoking cafeteria workers taking
a break. About 280 people work here. Employee parking is plentiful,
smoking is allowed in the workplace, meeting rooms are named
after lines of pens, it's less than a mile to the nearest freeway
and seven miles to Geneva's airport. Any employee perks? The
company's extensive lines of pens and pencils at cost.
I can't see Managing Director Laurenti's second floor middle
office because "he's in a meeting". Though I'm near
the reception area I could tell his second floor office was nearby
because he's a cigar smoker and the stench from a fresh-lit cigar
was drifting down. My visit consists of the lobby and cafeteria
so I'm out of luck in finally finding out how they put that thin
little piece of lead into pencils.