Bulle isn't that big a place with a population of only 11,000
people, yet for the past five years the town has taken top honors
as Switzerland's fastest growing community. It probably has to
do with its location at the base of the Swiss Alps. The views
of the mountains are just fantastic and it's on the main road
leading up to Gstaad, one of Switzerland's most famous ski resorts.
I'm here to visit Orama, the parent company of Andre Le Marquand
and Side Watch watches. The address brings me to a good-looking,
four-story building about a two-minute walk from Bulle's compact
city center. Judging from the building's directory there are
only two tenants, Orama and a construction company. I enter the
elevator and press the button for the second floor reception.
Hmm, the elevator doesn't move. Matter of fact, when you press
any of the floor buttons the elevator doesn't move. It looks
like you need a key to access the floors. As I stand there scratching
my head I take a second look at a piece of stationary taped next
to the elevator buttons. It's in French but I notice the Andre
Le Marquand letterhead. Oh, oh, I know the word "fermee"
means closed and I see dates. Jeez, they're closed for vacation
July 18 to August 18.
As I'm retrieving the camera off my bike to snap a picture of
the note in the elevator I notice a man greeting a woman who
had been waiting outside the building. He exited a car festooned
with several Side Watch advertisements. The elevator doors were
just about to close when I say in a loud voice, "do you
work for Side Watch?" The man answers, "yes".
I explain who I am, what I do and how I sent a letter a month
earlier to founder and CEO Andre Le Marquand telling of my pending
arrival. I then say, "boy, that's pretty tacky that nobody
notified me you'd be closed". The man says to come on up
and he'll see with me after his meeting with the woman.
The second floor houses the reception area and offices. The first
floor contains the watch assembly area. While the man talks to
the woman he suggests I wander around downstairs as he turns
on the lights and I'm shown the stairway. Looking at all the
watches and assorted watch parts scattered about the workbenches
I say, "you don't even know me and you trust me down here
by myself?" The man just shrugs his head as he heads back
Boy, I like the offices and workplace. Stepping off the elevator,
who's exterior is black, a colorful reception area filled with
lots of red and black greets visitors. Along with the reception
counter painted a bright red there's also the bright red window
blinds. Several black pillows decorate the bright red sofa and
strips of bright red periodically interrupt the black carpeting
throughout the floor. A glass display near the reception counter
is filled with Andre Le Marquand watches.
So, who is this man who ends up giving me a nice reception? It's
Cedric Le Marquand, head of sales and marketing, and son of founder
Andre Le Marquand. Le Marquand doesn't know anything about my
letter of introduction but apologizes for the snafu. His 73-year
old father started the company back in 1978 and the plan is for
him to eventually take over the reins.
Built in 1996, the company owns and occupies the first two floors
of the four-story building. Parking is plentiful for the 27 employees
including covered parking for commuting cyclists and smoking
is not allowed in the workplace. There's no cafeteria but there's
a break room, which I notice lacks chairs. Why no chairs? Well,
the intricate workings of watches requires sitting down on your
rear end all day and evidently when break time comes, the employees
have elected to forgo sitting down. It's an hour to Geneva's
airport, one and a half to Zurich's airport and three minutes
to the nearest freeway. Any employee perks? Watches at cost.
So, you haven't heard of Side Watch? Me neither. It's a new line
of watch with the idea being you wear these wristwatches on the
side of the arm. It's primarily aimed at those into sports. For
example, wearing one while cycling I don't have to turn my wrist
to see the time.
Le Marquand's second floor middle office is next door to his
father's. I note the laptop, one plant (real) and several pictures
of his wife and kids. Going home for lunch isn't too big a deal
since his commute time is two and a half minutes. His view out
the window? The street. Oh, and remember how I was surprised
at Le Marquand letting me roam around the watch assembly area
unsupervised? It turns out close circuit cameras were beaming
pictures of me to a monitor on his desk.
Websites: www.sidewatch.ch and www.lemarquand.ch