Audemars Piguet

I'm in the reception area of Audemars Piguet, one of the world's oldest (1875) and best known manufacturers of watches, and I'm waiting to find out who ended up with my letter of introduction mailed to CEO George-Henri Meylan. The most prominent items in the small reception area are an antique watchmaker's workbench and a wall clock; the later to my surprise bears no name of its maker. Earlier, before entering the four-story building (built in 1907) I check the large exterior clock atop the structure to be sure its sporting the correct time. It is.

The picture shown with this story was shot from faraway on purpose to give one a sense of the pastoral setting of the area. The tall building to the right of the church steeple is a roadside hotel (recently bought by AP). You then see a building with a brown oval roof -that's AP's new factory (built in 2000). It's connected to the four-story headquarters building which I'm standing in right now. To the right there's a three-story pointed-roof building. Built in 1868, this building is where AP was founded and since 1992 has housed the company's watch museum. Audemars Piguet's headquarter/factory complex fronts the main (and only) road running through Le Brassus, whose population probably totals no more than a few hundred people. Several blocks way stands the terminus for the train that runs through the valley.

Oh no, I'm disappointed to be told they hadn't received my letter of introduction. I find that somewhat suspect. After all, it was mailed over a month ago from Lausanne, Switzerland-a mere 30 miles away. Sidebar: Mailing the letters.

Juliette North, Public Relations, steps out into the lobby and after explaining what I do she graciously agrees to answer my questions. A total of 250 people work here with about 100 in administration and 150 in the factory. Four floors is the height of the tallest building, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, there's plenty of parking for cars and bicycles, meeting rooms are named after AP's various watch collections and there's no formal dress code.

It's an hour's drive to the nearest major airport (Geneva) and there're no onsite recreational facilities-though the water's edge of Lake du Joux lies about a half-mile away. As far as lunchtime you're on your own as there isn't a company cafeteria. My request to see CEO George-Henri Meylan's corner office is denied because "it's private". Is it possible to have a look in the company's watch museum? North answers, "No, you need an appointment"

While disappointed in their saying my letter of introduction wasn't received, I'm grateful for Ms. North's flexibility-though walking me over for a peek in the watch museum would have been a nice touch. I leave without haven't seen a single Audemars Piguet watch aside from the Promesse ladies watch being worn by North.

Revenues in 2001 totaled 200 million Swiss Francs (roughly $150 million). Company's website: