Chopard & Cie S.A.

I'm in Meyrin, a suburb of Geneva and practically within spitting distance of Geneva's airport. Coming upon Chopard's head office/factory complex it looks like the main building, a two-story structure built in 1975, was one of the first buildings built in this industrial park area. Still, the area has a long way to go before being built up as witnessed by the large freshly harvested cornfield directly behind Chopard's facility. Several blocks away wine vineyards fill up the hillside---not exactly what you'd find in areas in America designated as industrial parks.

It's 8AM as I enter the building and receptionist Gianna Rubino gives a friendly welcome. While waiting to meet with Prisca Huguenin, Public Relations, I survey the reception area. Six large black and white posters line the walls, two of which show Chopard watches, one shows Spanish opera singer Jose Carreras, another of race car driver Jacky Ickx, another an unfamiliar ballerina and the last, Chopard jewelry. The most eye-catching item is the magnificent eight-foot tall grandfather clock near the entrance door. Receptionist Rubino doesn't know when the clock with its intricate woodcarvings was made but does know it's from Holland. On the wall behind Rubino's desk hangs a large Chopard wall clock. There's lots of reading material to thumb through while relaxing on the half horseshoe-shaped sofa including Harpers (in English), Elle (in Italian), Vogue (in Russian) and two issues of watch magazine Montres Chronos.

Chopard employs over 1,100 worldwide with over 500 people on this site and another 500 in a factory in Pforzheim, Germany. Connected to the first building, additional structures were built in the 1980's and 2001 with the tallest being four stories. Employee parking is plentiful with covered parking for commuting cyclists. There's a company cafeteria, no formal dress code and, smoking is permitted in certain departments. Any employee perks? Employees are allowed to purchase one watch a year at a substantial discount.

I'm very appreciative of Huguenin giving me the full tour. Something I hadn't seen before is the melting of gold and silver bars. The bars are then molded and formed into strips, which are later cut into watchcases. Talking to several of Chopard's jewelry designers proves interesting. How so? Ideas are still sketched on drawing boards as opposed to the computers I've been seeing watch designers use. I get a look at the finishing touches being made on a tiara. Whose it for? The winner of the 2003 Miss Europe contest. How much is this headdress worth? About $200,000.

We pass by the second floor corner office of CEO Karl Scheufele as he's arriving to work. His door is closed before I could catch a passing look inside.