Philippe Charriol International Ltd.

Before visiting Philippe Charriol International I checked the company website and was surprised at the type of information available from this privately-held concern. Watch companies are normally super secretive about divulging financial figures and yet, right there in black and white for all the world to see are revenue figures for 2001 ($110 million). I'm familiar with the Charriol name as there's a Charriol boutique store in my hometown of La Jolla, California.

Headquarters are the first two floors of a nine-story building about three miles from Geneva's city center. Built in the 1970's, the top seven floors house apartments. Other buildings in the immediate vicinity have similar set-ups with bottom floors housing offices and the rest apartments. It's a very quiet area thanks to this being a dead end street. I see quite a few insurance companies (Winterthur, Allianz) residing nearby so it can't be too bad an area. Why is it that insurance companies always seem to congregate in the same place?

The second floor reception area is awash with piles of Charriol brochures and off to the side there's a showroom filled with company products including purses, belts, jewelry, handbags, glasses, and pens. Wow, I didn't realize Charriol is a lot more than just watches.

Christian Gosteli, Communication Director, answers questions and shows me around. Gosteli gets a hard time for not wearing a watch but having just returned from vacation I give the man a break.

In Switzerland you can own floors in a building. Charriol has been here for about 10 years and owns the two floors. Twenty-five people work here. There's plenty of parking for employees, smoking isn't allowed in the offices, no cafeteria but a break room with microwave and, there's covered parking for commuting cyclists. It's three miles to nearest freeway, six miles to Geneva's airport and no formal dress code. Any employee perks? A free watch.

Founder and CEO Philippe Charriol occupies a second floor corner office with a boring view of the parking lot. However, Charriol doesn't have to look out his window to see cars as there's a slew of them scattered about his office. I count seven Lamborghini scale model cars, three racing trophies and two photos of cars (Lamborghini of course). Why? He races 'em. There're lots of personal nik-naks everywhere giving the office a real casual feel. I note the laptop, one plant (real), three family pictures and a huge 10-foot tall chalk drawing on the wall behind his desk done by his son.