Maurice Lacroix SA
A few days after mailing my letter of introduction to CEO Philippe
Merk I received an e-mail from Gabriela Malaise, Public Relations
Manager for Maurice Lacroix. I had mistakenly sent the letter
to the company's watch factory in Saignelegier instead of the
head office in Zurich. Ms. Malaise wanted to know which place
I was planning to visit. I responded by saying Zurich wasn't
on the schedule and was visiting other watch companies in the
same region as Saignelegier, an out-of-the-way village. I asked
if the factory was historically significant. Malaise says the
factory was recently given a complete renovation and is worth
making a visit. Sounds good to me.
There's not much happening as I arrive in downtown Saignelegier,
population 2,500. Then again, it's lunchtime and typical Switzerland
where every place shuts down from noon to 1:30 PM while workers
hightail it home for lunch. I show up at Maurice Lacroix's three-story
building near the edge of Saignelegier and it's closed.
Checking back in an hour I'm greeted by Serge Barrabas, Technical
Director, and the man responsible for running the place. Barrabas
is like a proud father showing off a newborn as I'm given a top
to bottom tour of this impressive state-of-the-art facility.
Jeez, and I thought Ms. Malaise was just spinning PR hype when
she said this place was state-of-the-art. Though the buildings
go back a hundred years, they've basically been gutted and rebuilt
from the ground up during the past few years.
I'm very impressed with the computerized inventory retrieval
system. Most of the watch companies visited keep watch parts
in file cabinets, drawers or warehouse-like storage rooms. Here,
there's a big metal enclosure similar in shape to an elevator
shaft. You type the part needed into the computer and then robotics
takes over. Within the minute a tray appears bearing the part
needed-even telling you where on the tray it's located.
There's plenty of parking for the more than 90 employees--with
cyclists enjoying covered parking. Smoking isn't allowed in the
workplace, there's no formal dress code and it's two and a half
hours to Zurich's airport and almost two hours to Basel's airport.
Though no cafeteria, the few employees who don't go home for
lunch can eat theirs in a brightly decorated breakroom. Any employee
perks? After three months employment employees are allowed to
purchase up to two watches a year at a 50% discount.