I'm standing outside the head office of Oris and just finished
snapping this photo when it starts pouring rain. The roof overhang
on the four-story building (built in 1922) doesn't extend very
far so my mad dash for cover is for naught as the blowing rain
gives me a good soaking. This year Oris is celebrating the 100th
birthday of its founding here in Hoelstein and that's what the
large banner (in German) on the side of the building says.
The quiet village of Hoelstein lies about a dozen miles from
Basel in a small narrow farming valley. The head office/workshop
of Oris stands next to the main road. Actually the two-lane road
is the valley's only thru-road.
Other tenants occupy space so after checking the building directory
I head up to the second floor. There's no receptionist or reception
area, only a phone. In a few minutes I'm meeting with Nicolas
Richert, Corporate Services Manager.
No, there wasn't a Mr. Oris. The company is named after a brook
and valley close to Hoelstein. About 40 people work here. Back
in the 1960's, before the quartz watch devastated the industry,
staff numbered about 800. Now, this watch company occupies three
floors in one section of the salmon-colored building.
Employees are on their own in finding parking spots for their
for cars and bicycles, smoking isn't allowed in the workplace,
it's five minutes to the nearest freeway and, it's a 20-minute
drive to Basel's airport. Any employee perks? You can buy one
watch a year at a discount. There's a small break room and directly
across the street stands a bakery (the selection is skimpy and
the cookies I buy are only so-so).
Nothing fancy about the workplace. CEO Ulrich Herzog occupies
a corner office. I note the laptop, one plant (real) and on the
walls are a map of the world and a Oris watch poster. The view
out his window? Traffic going down the town's main road. Oh,
and Herzog has one of those self-propelled scooters in his officefor
making runs to the bakery across the street?
Maybe I'll cycle back in 2104 and wish them another "happy
birthday". Company website: www.oris.com