Waltham International 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.

Waltham International SA

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.

Bertolucci SA

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.