Dubey & Schaldenbrand SA

On a map the village of Les Ponts-de-Martel (population 1,300) looks like a quick 10-mile bike ride from Le Locle. Then again, this is Switzerland. I first have to cycle out of the valley sheltering Le Locle then, in and out of another steep, but picturesque valley before enjoying a long downhill into Les Ponts-de-Martel.

Much of the town lies on a hillside and though armed only with a post office box and no street address it doesn't take long to find a local who directs me to Dubey & Schaldenbrand.

One of the most prominent buildings in town is a vanilla-colored, four-story building with red shutters. Built in the 1860's the ground floor of the building houses the post office and only bank in town. Next to the building's entrance a discreetly placed small gold plaque stamped with the Dubey & Schaldenbrand name and an arrow pointing upstairs lets visitors know they've found the right place.

In a few minutes the delightful Cinette Robert is answering questions and walking me around the offices. Dubey & Schaldenbrand's roots go back to 1946 and in 1995 the company was put up for sale. Robert, with 35 years of expertise in watchmaking, jumped at the opportunity. So, why is the company located in such a beautiful but out-of-the-way locale as Les Pont-de-Martel? Robert did check out Geneva but couldn't believe the high costs of having an office there. In the end Robert decided her hometown would do just fine. She has several valid points. Consider her commute time to work: it's a minute walk from her apartment on the top floor of this building to the office on the second floor. Her banking and post office needs are taken care of on the ground floor and in the building immediately next door there's a hardware and grocery store.

A total of 15 people work here and in a building near Le Locle. Smoking isn't allowed, parking is plentiful and, employees don't have to adhere to a dress code. Though there's no cafeteria employees get use of a full kitchen. Why? The second floor used to be the living quarters for the local postmaster. The kitchen also doubles as the shipping room. It's two hours to Zurich's airport but Robert has that nicely covered; a regional bus stops right outside her building (thanks to the post office) every hour, then proceeds to Neuchatel's train station where she can then hop on a fast train that'll deposit her directly under the check-in counters at the airport.

Robert shares an office with two others. The furnishings in her office are similar as to what is found throughout; real homey as if you're in someone's home. The view out her window? The valley with its green and peaceful-looking farmland.

The highlight of the visit comes when Robert graciously agrees to show this watch novice some of her collection. Fantastic! But there's something else in the room that catches my eye, her bookshelf. There must be over 100 books of varying shapes, sizes and thickness with all having to do with-you guessed it--watches and watchmaking.

Website: www.dubeywatch.com