Oris SA

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 office–for 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