Though only five miles from Bienne, it feels like a whole different
world here in Bueren an der Aare, a picturesque little town of
3,000 inhabitants. Coming into the town center, traffic has to
take turns passing through a historic single lane wooden covered
I'm here to visit Witschi Electronics, the dominant player in
the field of testing and measurement equipment for the watch
industry. The headquarters/factory stands about two blocks from
the city center and the three-story red brick building is long
(maybe a block long) and narrow. Why is the building so narrow?
It turns out an English watchmaking company built the structure
back in the 1800's. With the narrow building it allowed more
light into the place-good if you're a watchmaker sitting at your
desk trying to see what you're doing.
Upon reaching the reception desk I don't even have to open my
mouth as receptionist Sabrina Tavoni recognizes me from the news
clippings sent with my letter of introduction. In a few minutes
I'm given a warm and enthusiastic welcome from CEO Andreas Blaesi.
About 65 employees work here. The building was bought in 1989
and it's a protected structure. Different countries have different
words for describing historic buildings--in England they're called
listed buildings. Being designated a historical significant structure
severely limits changes an owner can make to the exterior and
many times to the interior.
I'm given an extensive tour of the facility and one gets the
feeling employees are part of a of a family. Blaesi's easy rapport
with employees might have something to do with one of his former
positions at the company, head of human resources. We drop by
Friedrich Witschi's office for a visit, his family founded the
company in 1947. I guessimate Witschi to be in his 60's and his
office is more like a workshop as we catch him fiddling around
with an instrument box.
Wandering through the production area for test instruments Blaesi
instructs me to take off my watch. It's then placed into an ALC
7000, a watch leak test instrument. The machine verifies that
the watch is as waterproof as it says it is (it's stamped on
the back). Some of the machines here aren't cheap as I'm shown
one going for 400,000 Swiss francs (about $300,000).
There's a nice cozy break room with an outside terrace, which
could pass for a Starbucks. There's no formal dress code, no
smoking in the workplace, it's about a mile to the nearest freeway,
80 miles to Zurich Airport and there's plenty of employee parking-including
covered parking for commuting bicyclists.
CEO Blaesi occupies a second floor middle office. I count three
real plants. The view out his window? Tall trees which block
the view of nearby train tracks.