Kolber SA

It's tricky finding the building housing Kolber's offices because it's tucked away from the street behind several other buildings. I'm about three miles from Geneva's city center in a light industrial area. It's not too bad an area seeing as how Rolex, one of the biggies in the watch industry, has its large gold-colored headquarters complex a block away.

The five-story aluminum-clad building looks to have been built in the 1980's. Tenants on the ground floor include two motorcycle repair shops. It's amongst a bunch of motorcycles that I lock my bike. A sign near the building's elevator, an industrial/freight loading sort, says Kolber is located on the second floor.

The décor is sparse but the reception warm as Simone Schuessler-Widmer and Alexandra Sahiti-Herter welcome me. Both perform dual roles manning the reception area and as sales & marketing assistants.

In a few minutes I'm meeting with Rolf Wuethrich, General Manager. Kolber's roots go back to 1984, when watchmaker Rayond Weil sold it off. The current owner of this mid-priced maker and distributor of watches hails from the Middle East---Al-Futtaim Watches & Jewelry, a trading company based in the United Arab Emirates (Dubai).

The pipe-smoking, accommodating Wuethrich answers questions and then walks me down the hall for a look in the warehouse and shipping area. Occupying a portion of the second floor, a total of 12 people work here. Parking is plentiful, there's no cafeteria but there's a small break area (including microwave) where employees enjoy free soft drinks and coffee. Smoking is allowed, it's five minutes to the nearest freeway, 15 minutes to Geneva's airport and a 20-minute walk to downtown. Any employee perks? One free watch a year.

The furnishings are sparse in Wuethrich's corner office. Several Kolber ad posters liven up the walls. I note the laptop and one plant (real). What's the view out his window? It's an unobstructed view of Rolex's headquarters.

Website: www.kolber.ch