Jaeger-LeCoultre



Le Sentier gets the call as the biggest town in the Joux valley but that's not saying much as we're talking maybe a couple thousand inhabitants. The headquarters/factory complex for watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre stands on the outskirts of Le Sentier and fronts the main (and only) road through town. It's a good-size complex of interconnected buildings. One can visibly see the progression of building extensions to the original 1833 Jaeger-LeCoultre farm-workshop. One structure was added on in 1866, then 1888, 1912, 1946, 1972 and 2001. Directly across the street a herd of cows graze lazily on the grass.

Wow, the tiny reception area is in the original building dating from 1833. While checking in with the receptionist I note the flower arrangement and the large wall clock hanging near the door. The name on the clock reads Reverso, Jaeger-LeCoultre's most famous watch (it swivels). I ask the receptionist to call Managing Director Jerome Lambert's secretary to find out who ended up with my letter of introduction. Oh, oh, it seems Mr. Lambert is in Las Vegas for a watch show and his secretary isn't in. Isabelle Gervais, Public Relations Manager, comes to the lobby and though she knows nothing about my unusual odyssey, agrees to answer questions.

About 900 employees work here, one of the worlds very few integrated watch manufacturers. Footage of the various buildings totals approximately 200,000 square feet--with the tallest building six stories. The company's name came about from the coming together of a Mr. Jaeger and a Mr. LeCoultre back in 1903.

There's plenty of employee parking including covered spaces for bicyclists in a new multi-level parking structure in the rear, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there's no formal dress code and zilch recreational facilities are found on the premises.

One would think with 900 people onsite, there would be a cafeteria. Nope, vending machines are the option with many zipping home for lunch. Is there a watch museum? Yes, it's a traveling exhibition. Any employee perks? Employees are allowed to purchase one watch a year at a discount-which I'm finding, is the norm in the upper end watch industry.

Probably the most unusual piece of trivia garnered from this visit is that there's no elevator in this four-story 1833 structure. Which means Managing Director Lambert, who occupies an office on the second floor, gets his exercise. Is it possible to see Lambert's middle office with a view of the valley? No, since neither he or his secretary is in.

No tour of the facility is offered and I leave somewhat frustrated. Jaeger-LeCoultre is now part of luxury goods retailer Compagnie Financiere Richemont AG.