SA and Bertolucci SA
Waltham International and Bertolucci are two unrelated watch
companies but I've placed them together because their offices
are located on different floors in the same building.
I'm in Marin, a suburb about five miles from downtown Neuchatel
(population 40,000). More specifically, I'm in a multiple building,
mixed-use office park complex located next to a freeway. It's
a familiar place as I was here last year in an unsuccessful attempt
to visit Tag Heur. Several tenants do retail business here so
it's not strictly speaking an office park. Waltham occupies the
top and Bertolucci the third floor in the four-story structure.
Waltham's name is in big letters near the top of the building
and there's zilch for Bertolucci other than its name being listed
on the first floor directory.
Entering Waltham's offices requires ringing a doorbell and having
someone physically open the door. The man doing the door opening
turns out to be the person I mailed my letter of introduction
to a month earlier; CEO Claude Girardin.
Before meeting with me Girardin has to make a phone call so I
plop down on one of the sofas in the reception area. Several
watch magazines on a coffee table include The Basel Magazine
and Europastar. Several pictures of Waltham watches hang on the
walls and right above my head is a framed picture of an older
Japanese gentleman in a suit
Waltham roots go back to 1850 and believe it or not was founded
in the United States (Roxbury, Massachusetts) and named after
a city (Waltham, Massachusetts). It's had a roller coaster past
with a myriad of owners. In 1954 the company moved to Switzerland.
Since 1978 the company has been in the hands of a Japanese owner-the
gentleman whose picture is right above where I'm sitting. The
primary market for Waltham's high-end watches? Japan.
Eight people work here with Waltham occupying the floor since
1990. Parking is plentiful, smoking isn't allowed, no formal
dress code and there's no cafeteria but a small break room. It's
five minutes to downtown Neuchatel, 30 seconds to the nearest
freeway and 90 minutes to Zurich's airport. Any employee perks?
Upon being hired employees are given a watch to wear and after
a year-the watch is theirs to keep.
Girardin sits behind an L-shaped table in a large sparsely furnished
corner office. I note the computer, lack of plants and half dozen
Waltham watches. His view out the window? Nice view of Lake Neuchatel
in the distance.
Elapsed time of Waltham visit: one hour and fifteen minutes.
Walking into Bertolucci's offices one isn't sure where to go,
as there's no obvious reception desk but an open area. I approach
a woman sitting at a desk and explain who I am and how I mailed
a letter of introduction to Jean-Paul Gaillard, president, a
month earlier. Could she ask his secretary who ended up with
the letter? Well, it turns out Sandy Fischer, the woman I'm speaking
with, is Gaillard's secretary. Fischer says she doesn't recall
the letter and she opens the mail. Hmm, I say that's very odd
as I was just upstairs visiting Waltham and they had received
the letter, which by the way was dropped in a mailbox less than
60 miles away.
I ask Fischer if she or someone else has a few minutes to talk
with me. The answer is "no" as Fischer says everyone
is busy. I explain how this is my only opportunity to visit the
company but my pleas fall on deaf ears. I ask for background
material on the company and am given several brochures (it later
turns out the brochures only show some of their watches and zilch
information on the company).
Elapsed time of Bertolucci visit: two minutes 15 seconds.