Epos Montres SA

This three-story villa seems out of place. Directly across the street stands a large concrete structure housing Bienne's main fire station. Other buildings seem to have hemmed in this over 100-year old house covered with ivy. It's on the second floor where I find the offices of Epos Montres, a maker of high-end watches.

CEO Tamdi Chonge answers my questions. Chonge recently bought the company from Peter Hofer, who founded Epos in 1983. Chonge's parents came to Switzerland years ago from Nepal under a Swiss refugee program. Growing up in Switzerland Chonge became smitten with watches. After working for several watch companies the opportunity arose to purchase Epos.

Six people work here. Like the tenants on the first and third floors, Epos rents space. Adjacent to the villa stands a large building which looks like it was formerly some kind of manufacturing facility. It turns out the building originally manufactured watch parts and this villa where Epos has its offices used to be the owner's home. Smoking isn't allowed in offices (Chonge 's a smoker and steps outside when the urge arises), there's a small breakroom, no formal dress code, it's a two-minute walk to Bienne's city center and employees enjoy a 50% discount on Epos watches.

Chonge shares a corner office with former owner Peter Hofer, who's staying on for a year to insure a smooth transition. Both share the same desktop computer and both share the same unexciting view out the window of the building next door. Is Chonge sporting an Epos watch on his wrist? Yep, it's from the Emotion line and goes for 1,400 Swiss francs or about $1,100. Website: www.epos.ch