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
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.