I'm just a novice when it comes to watches but I've heard of
Girard-Perregaux and its high-end timepieces. The four-story
blue and white headquarters/factory building was built in 1948
and renovated in 1988. It's in a residential area a few minutes
walk to downtown La Chaux-de-Fonds (population 35,000) and a
few blocks from Ebel, another watch company visited earlier in
The tiny reception contains two small black chairs and a small
coffee table. Evidently the indifferent receptionist finds me
unimportant as I stand in front of her for a good five minutes
while she seems to be engaging in a personal conversation on
My contact person Dimitri Aubert, Sales & Marketing, is a
nice enough guy and I'm grateful for him finding the time to
meet with me. However, it's a very disappointing visit. You'd
think having read the news clippings (several are enclosed with
the letter of introduction) and having checked my website; he'd
have an idea about what I've been doing for the past 17 years.
Does he think I made my way from California to Girard-Perregaux's
headquarters just for a 10-minute talk in a meeting room? Hello!
What's so difficult about taking a quick walk around the place
to get a feel of the working environment? Do people have offices,
cubicles or share working space? What's the décor like?
About 190 people work here and in a nearby building. Parking
isn't a problem, smoking is allowed only in private offices and
there's no cafeteria but a breakroom (with microwave). It's one
hour and a half to Geneva's airport, two and a half hours to
Zurich's airport and there's no formal dress code. Any employee
perks? One watch a year can be purchased at a discount. I can't
see CEO Gino Macaluso's top floor middle office because "he's
Anything unusual about their corporate offices? Yes, across the
street is an impressive-looking turn-of-the-century villa housing
the company's watch museum. A company brochure touts how, "every
year, Girard-Perregaux welcomes a stream of visitors to its museum".
Well that doesn't include me as Aubert denies my request for
a look inside because "it's by appointment only".
Girard-Perregaux watches range in price from 7,500 Swiss francs
(about $5,000) to 500,000 Swiss francs ($375,000). What do I
think of them? Except for the one Aubert was sporting I never
saw or was shown any. A savvy sales and marketing guy would not
have let that happen and, would have made sure I was shown the