La Montre Hermes S.A.



I find the watchmaking subsidiary of La Montre Hermes in an industrial park about four miles from Bienne's city center. Built in 1999, the white, three-story building pretty much blends in with its neighbors except for one slightly odd detail: atop the building stands a life-size 17th century calvary soldier on his mount (horse). Hmm, I think that has something to do with the company's roots. A two-foot tall Hermes sign near the parking entrance lets visitors know they're at the right place.

Wow, the insides of the building are pretty cool. One wall, running the length of the building, is covered with brown leather. There's a large atrium in the middle of the building with a 20-foot tall palm tree occupying center stage. Unfortunately though, the palm tree looks like it's on its last legs as nary a palm branch sprouts from the top. Hardwood flooring is everywhere and brown seems to be a dominate color with even the reception counter completely covered in brown leather. Several colorful flower arrangements and framed Hermes silk scarfs on the wall give the reception area a snazzy but elegant look.

I explain to the friendly receptionist how I mailed a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Guillaume De Seynes. Calls are made and in a few minutes Vincent Moesch, Marketing Manager, arrives. It seems nobody knows anything about the letter but, that doesn't stop the accommodating Moesch from extending a warm welcome and tour of the place.

Walking around Moesch explains that the interior of the buildings and its furnishings contain only four colors (beige, green, white and orange). In every office hang's a framed Hermes silk scarf–each was especially designed for this building–meaning the colors in the scarf are restricted to the four colors.

About 80 people work here. Employee parking is plentiful, there's no formal dress code, smoking is allowed in the workplace and cycling commuters enjoy covered parking. There're no on-site recreational facilities but if you're a runner shower facilities are available. Taking a break in the large break room located on the backside of the building workers can step outside and enjoy the tranquil setting of the adjacent farmland and of a flowing river with its banks lined with tall trees and a cycling/jogging trail. A large man-made pond lies not too far from the break room door but I don't spot any fish, though Moesch insists they're in there somewhere. It's 10 minutes to Bienne's city center, 10 minutes to Bienne's lakefront via bicycle and the river bikeway, two minutes to the nearest freeway and two hours to Geneva's airport. Any unusual employee perks? Each employee is permitted to buy one or two watches per year at cost.

Deputy Director Emmanuel Raffner occupies a top floor corner office. As with everywhere else in the building the floor is hardwood and the furnishings minimal, modernistic and tastefully done. On a wall hangs a framed Hermes silk scarf with designs of violins. No plants or flowers are visible and note the computer. The view out his window? The farmland and river.

Hermes doesn't have a separate website for its watches: www.hermes.com