Louis Erard Montres SA and Aero Watch SA

VisitingThe village of Le Noirmont (population maybe 1,000) lies up in the Jura Mountains about 15 miles east of La Chaux de Fonds. I cycled here last year (2003) to visit watchmaker Paul Picot.

It not hard finding the offices of watchmakers Aero Watch and Louis Erard Montres as they both share the same building just around the corner from Paul Picot. The long building looks to have been built in the 1940's or 1950's in different stages. Looking at the attached photo you can see the building to the left is taller (five stories) than the one on the right (with the clock on the pole). Due to the various vehicles parked in front you can't see the row of windows lining the basement floor. A variety of other tenants occupy the building.

First I visit Louis Erard Montres. Knocking on a second floor door I'm greeted by Sylvie Ramseier, Sales Assistant. After explaining who I am and what I do, friendly Ramseier agrees to answer my questions. The decor and furnishings are decidedly outdated and barebones. The company traces its roots back to 1931 but essentially had been dormant until five years ago when the name was revived by managing director Alain Spineti.

Parking is free and plentiful for the 17 employees, smoking is allowed in the workplace, there's no formal dress code, no covered parking for cyclists, it's 25 minutes to the nearest freeway and two and a half hours to Geneva's airport. It's a mixed-use area with residential housing surrounding the building. Managing Director Spineti's no frills, corner office contains no plants and has an unexciting view of the parking lot.

Taking the stairs up to the third floor I knock on the entrance door of Aero Watch. In its advertising the company traces its roots back to 1910. However, it too is another watch company that lay dormant for years until it was bought and revived by investors in 2001. Isabelle Metzger answers the door and though she says they didn't receive my letter of introduction mailed a month earlier to managing director Dennis Bolzli, she agrees to answers questions.

My visit doesn't amount to much as the questions are answered as we sit near the entrance door. I can't see Bozli's office ("he's busy") nor anything else as my visit is over within seven minutes. Fifteen people work here. The company shares watchmaking space with its downstairs neighbor Louis Erard Montres. Any unusual employees perks? At Erard I was told employees can buy up to two watches a year, 20% off the retail price. At Aero, all Metzger would disclose is that employees "receive a discount".

The hilly bike ride through scenic farmland and tiny villages was enjoyable and its one of those times where getting to the destination far outweighs the actual visit.