Hanowa Ltd.

The fourth floor of a blah-looking seven-story building near downtown Bienne is where I find Hanowa's offices. The building's main tenant, an insurance company, has their name on the side of the structure and so does Hanowa.

The building's exterior is rather ugly so I thought you'd prefer seeing a picture of the cow standing in the hallway outside Hanowa's offices. Why's the cow dressed in military attire? Hanowa's markets the low-priced Swiss Military and Swiss Eagle watches.

Entering the offices I find there's no reception area but run into Ulrich Hans-Senn. My letter of introduction was sent to CEO Hans Noll. Hans-Senn says Noll isn't in but it's no problem as Hans-Senn agrees to answer my questions. I ask Hans-Senn for a business card but according to him they don't use them. Hmm, I ask what his title is and he answers, "we don't have titles". Pestering him for his job description he finally says, "everything except sales".

CEO Hans Noll founded the company in 1963. Take the "ha" from Hans, the "no" from Noll and the "wa" from watch and you come up with Hanowa. The company has occupied one floor in this building since 1969---about the time it was built. Ten people work here. Want to drive to work? Then you have to pay for parking. Smoking is allowed (Noll smokes cigars). There's no formal dress code, no breakroom and it's an hour's drive to Basel's airport.

Noll occupies a corner office with one large plant (real), computer, a half-dozen Swiss Military watches on his desk and an unexciting view of the street out front.

I check Hans-Senn's wrist to see what he's sporting. Yep, it's a Swiss Military watch. Can you buy Swiss Military watches in the USA? Hans-Senn answers, "no". It seems Wenger and Victorinox-makers of Swiss Army knives and watches-- have a court order preventing Hanowa from doing so.