Tissot SA

The picture accompanying this story is somewhat misleading because it doesn't show a large portion of Tissot's headquarters/factory. This is a result of the complex being built on steep terrace overlooking downtown Le Locle. Out of sight in the right side of the picture (behind the trees) stands the newest (1966) and tallest (seven stories) building. The first building you see (white with a red roof) was built in 1907 and is the oldest structure here. Back when this first building was built this area was pretty much barren and formally called the Shooting Range Plateau due to the Society of Rifle Shooters holding its activities here---it would not have been a good place to ride a mountain bike across.

Several receptionists man the second floor reception counter. I count eight magazines to thumb through in the reception waiting area (four German and four French) and note the display of Mido watches. Mido as well as Tissot (since 1985) are part of the Swatch Group. My visit turns out to be a lot of fun thanks to the hospitable Penelope Vincent, International Public Relations Manager.

My tour is extensive and I doubt if there's a nook and cranny of the facility Vincent neglects to show me. It's easy to get lost here as numerous additions have been added over the years making it sometimes tricky going from one building to another. The funniest moment of the tour comes when I'm taken into a showroom and shown two large glass display counters (similar to what you see in a watch/jewelry store). One case is labeled "not do" and is filled with Tissot watches displayed in a sloppy, overlapping, hodge-podge manner. The other case is labeled "do" and is filled with Tissot watches tastefully arranged.

Thanks to its commanding location on a steep terrace overlooking Le Locle (population 10,400) the Tissot complex is highly visible from below. At night a large lit Tissot sign atop the its seven-story building is seeable across the whole valley.

About 200 people work here. Smoking isn't allowed in the workplace, parking is plentiful including covered parking for commuting cyclists and, there's no formal dress code-with the workweek ending in that American invention--casual Fridays. Employee perks? Special prices on watches.

CEO Francois Thiebaud occupies a large corner office on the sixth floor. There's the traditional antique watchmaker's bench but it's a lively looking office thanks to all the sports memorabilia and nik-naks scattered about the room. The sports stuff shouldn't come as a surprise since Tissot is involved with a number of sports including cycling, motorcycling, ice hockey and fencing. That explains the tall ice hockey stick in the corner. There's a jersey signed by Michael Owen. "Who's he?" I ask. Vincent says Owen is a famous Liverpool international soccer player. I must admit I'm clueless to who's who or what's what in soccer since I'm typical of most Americans in that we don't follow the world's biggest sport.