Christophe Claret SA

It's a very hot and muggy morning as I make my way up the steep road leading to Christophe Claret. It's made even more difficult thanks to the shampoo I bought the night before. The shampoo bottle was festooned with pictures of nectarines and of course it smelled like nectarines. It's not until today when riding up the hill that I realize it smells good to flies and other assorted flying pests as I'm attacked from all sides.

Claret manufacturers and supplies watch movements to the watch industry. We're not talking about ordinary watch movements but the kind found in high-end watches such mechanisms with magic chimes, automations, tourbillons and split seconds chronographs with lifting-levers. CEO Christophe Claret founded the company in nearby Le Chaux-de-Fonds in 1989 and moved here to Le Locle in 1998.

Le Locle (population 10,400) lies in a small and narrow valley. The town itself is situated on the valley floor but its steep hillsides are home to many of its residences. It's here in a former mansion built in the 1860's that Claret has its head office/factory.

Situated on lush tree-filled piece of property the three-story mansion is a real beauty. It looks like the former parking garage behind the mansion was demolished and in its place discreetly stands a new one-story concrete and glass structure-maybe the size of an eight car garage.

Entering the mansion my eyes widen as I marvel at the carved woodwork, cherrywood parquet flooring and stained glass windows. I make my way to the reception desk and ask to speak to Christophe Claret's secretary. The woman says she's his assistant. I explain how I sent a letter of introduction a month ago and wanted to find out who ended up with the letter. Oh oh, she knows nothing about the letter and CEO Claret isn't in. I ask if she opens his mail. "No", she answers. I ask if someone has a few minutes to answer questions about the head office. "What kind of questions? she asks. I give sample questions. I then have her check out my website on her computer as well as showing her several write-ups I've had in Swiss newspapers. "No, it isn't possible", she says. I explain how this is a one-time only visit for me. It falls on deaf ears. I ask, "Could my letter be on Mr. Claret's desk and he just hasn't told you about my pending visit? Could you check?" "No", she answers.

What a disappointment. Sending out the letters.