Frederique Constant S.A.

I'm about four miles from Geneva's city center in a mixed-use area. In front of me stands an unassuming five-story, 1960's building who's front is painted a pale blue. The storefront of a furniture retailer occupies most of the ground floor. It's up to the top floor I go to visit Frederique Constant.

It's only eight in the morning but I've been finding the watch industry to be a bunch of early birds when it comes to starting work. Yep, the front door is open as I enter the very large room. Calling it a warehouse-size room would be more appropriate. Other than the two women helping me at the reception counter the only other person visible is a man sitting in a glassed-in room at the far side of the floor. I explain what I do to the receptionist and how I sent a letter of introduction six weeks earlier to Managing Director Peter Stas. Matter of fact, I dropped by here last week and was told to come back as Stas wasn't in. This time I'm in luck as Stas turns out to be the man in the glassed-in room and, he has time to meet with me. Why is he here at 8AM when most of the others don't arrive until 9AM? Is it to have quiet time to get work done? Set an example to employees? Avoid rush hour traffic? Nope, Stas gets out and about early due to being in charge of dropping his kids off at school.

Twenty-two people work here with the company occupying one floor. The building is a lot deeper and bigger than it looks from the street. Employee parking is plentiful, smoking in the workplace is prohibited and there's a break room but no company cafeteria. It's six miles to Geneva's airport, a half-mile to the nearest freeway, there's no dress code and, the Swiss/French border lies less than a half mile away. Initially I thought this location was somewhat out of the watch loop but less than two blocks away Rolex has a large modern factory building. Any employee perks? A substantial discount (75%) off on watches.

Nothing fancy about the décor in Stas' plainly furnished corner office. I don't see any plants, note the desktop computer, picture of his wife and, the large number of watches scattered about. On the wall behind his desk hangs a large oil portrait of his great-grandfather Constant Stas (1880-1967). The view out the window? Great panorama of the nearby Jura Mountains.