Manufacture Roger Dubuis S.A.

Cycling out past Geneva's airport to visit watch manufacturer Chopard I remember passing a new glass office building and admiring its beauty. The long narrow building had the name Roger Dubuis in big letters at one end of the structure. I remember thinking to myself that the long narrow building with lots of glass would provide an excellent workplace for a watchmaker. Several days later after visiting Antiquorum, the auction house specializing in horology, I was thumbing through one of their catalogs on items coming up for auction and saw a Roger Dubuis watch listed. Holy smokes! That new glass building DID house a watch company.

Why wasn't Roger Dubuis on my original list of companies to visit? The Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, is a non-profit trade association with over 500 members representing 90% of watch manufacturers. It was from their website that I culled the names of most of the watch companies I would visit. Roger Dubuis wasn't listed. I also hadn't come upon the company's name while thumbing through a myriad of watch publications. So, with only a week left in Geneva I mail my letter of introduction to CEO Carlos Dias, without giving the customary four- week notice of my pending arrival. The company has a website but upon typing in the address you get a "site under construction" message.

It's 9AM on a magnificently bright blue sky summer morning as I cycle up to the front doors of Roger Dubuis. There're two sets of glass doors to pass through so after you pass through the first set, you wait until those close before the second set will open. So I'm standing there waiting for the second set to open and they don't. Evidently the receptionist has to open them. I can see the receptionist on the phone and then watch her stand up and motion for me to go around to the backside of the building. Hmm, that's odd. I go to the backside and find an entrance for deliveries. The security guard doesn't speak English but after showing him the name of CEO Carlos Dias he leads me upstairs to the receptionist who had waved me around back. Receptionist Aldina Boesch apologizes profusely as she had seen the clipboard I was carrying and assumed I was making a delivery. I laugh and tell her it's happened so many times that I've lost count.
When receptionist Boesch asks if I have an appointment with Dias and answer "no", she says they have a very strict policy of no one being allowed in without one. She makes a call and afterwards says no one knows about the letter. Aw jeez. I explain to her that this is my last day in Geneva (which it is) and I'd really like to meet with someone who could answer questions about this cool-looking building. Boesch says to take a seat.

The waiting area is very comfortable. You can grab an apple or candy out of a bowl, thumb through four watch magazines or just admire the brown strip hardwood floor as you relax on brown & white strap sofas. In a few minutes Carole Kittner, Director of Pubic Relations, greets me. I explain what I do but Kittner has an appointment and will see if it can be changed.

Five minutes later the delightful Kittner is back and as we are about to head off for a tour when CEO Dias enters the building. I'm introduced to Dias but from what I understand he never saw the letter I mailed. But, thanks to receptionist Boesch and the flexible and accommodating Kittner, it turns out to be an excellent visit.

Built in 2002, the good-looking four-story, 30,000 square foot building will soon have a baby brother as construction will start in the near future on a similar building to be built where the current parking lot is located. About 180 people work here. Employee parking is plentiful, there's parking for commuting cyclist but it's not covered, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace and there's no formal dress code. Meeting rooms are named after watch collections, there're no recreational facilities, and it's 20 minutes to Geneva's city center, two minutes to nearest freeway, five minutes to Geneva's airport and, there's an onsite helipad. Any employee perks? A "substantial" discount on watches.

It's worth pointing out that the building is air-conditioned. The summer of 2003 has been very hot and Switzerland, as well as all of Europe, has endured recording breaking heat waves. Unlike in the USA, the majority of office buildings in Europe do not have air conditioning.

The company cafeteria definitely ranks as the best I've seen during my tour of watch companies. Located on the top floor, workers have the option of eating inside or on the spacious outside terrace with its terrific expansive views of the nearby Jura Mountains. The fancy umbrellas and furnishings would put a five star hotel terrace to shame. Plus, guess what? Eyeing a fancy barbecue set-up on the terrace I learn they have cookouts several times a week.

Manufacture Roger Dubuis, originally called SOGEM (Societe Genevoise des Montres), was founded in 1995 by Carlos Dias and Roger Dubuis. The watches produced are high-end and definitely distinctive. I'd put them in the same league as another upstart watchmaker, Franck Muller.

CEO Carlos Dias occupies a top floor with a view toward the airport. The same hardwood floor is here as it is everywhere in the administrative section of the building. I note the lack of plants, no computer (he doesn't use one), photo of grandchild and two Roger Dubuis watches on his desk. Brown chairs with white strapping (like the sofas in the lobby) compliment the hardwood floor in Dias' office. It turns out Dias designed the chairs.