Monday, October 20, 2014

Sunday bike ride in Le Locle past Swiss watch facilities Part 2

I bicycled around the world for more than 20 years visiting the head offices of over 4,000 companies. In 2003/2004 I visited more than 100 Swiss watch companies. On a sunny Sunday 10 years later I decided to cycle past some of the watch companies visited in Le Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds to see if buildings were renovated, added on to or offices relocated.  Go to my website:, then click on the "Watches and Chocolate" heading to read the stories of my first visits. This is Part Two of my Sunday bike rides with the earlier post of the Geneva area being Part One.  

Nestled in narrow valley in the Jura Mountains, this is the road leading into Le Locle (population11,000).
 Pretty nice looking town hall building.
 Across from the town hall you've got flowers.
This is Zenith, a mish-mash of office and factory buildings some dating more than 100 years ago to a mere 40 years ago. LVMH owns the brand.
Another view of the main entrance to Zenith. Actually, they couldn't tear down some of old structures if they wanted to as they're protected (historic). Zenith is one of only a handful of watchmakers that can use the word "manufacturer" in their name. Zenith produces their own movements.
This multi-building complex stands on the top of a steep hillside and houses the corporate offices/factory of Tissot.
 Tissot is part of the Swatch Group.
 Montblanc occupies this good-looking villa located almost directly across from Tissot.
This level, added under the Montblanc villa, with its floor to ceiling windows is obviously a watch workshop. I received a real crummy reception back in 2004 which wasn't the norm when visiting Richemont brands.
The colors of Ulysee Nardin's buildings are still blue. Though this year (2014) the company was bought by Kering, the French luxury goods firm.
This is a light industrial park on the edge of town and it's some kind of production facility for Audemars Piguet.
Across the street from Audemars Piguet is Choco-Diffusion, a chocolate company visited back in 2004.
Choco-Diffusion specializes in "tourism" chocolate--such as miniature milk cans filled with pieces of chocolate. See their stuff at airports and tourist shops. Quality chocolate isn't what you're buying.
Looking through the office front doors at Choco-Diffusion I spot this pile of gold chocolate bars. Business must be good as up the road a mile I see they have a new warehouse building. One summer I cycled around Switzerland and Belgium visiting chocolate and cookie companies. This was one of the few companies that let me depart without any samples.
Pass by this production facility for Breguet on the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds, population 35,000.
 Thanks to the closed gate, I can't get a closer look at the Breguet facility. Part of Swatch Group.
 Wow, this lone building wasn't here 10 years ago.
On closer inspection I see it's Cartier. Nice looking structure. I take my camera out and start snapping pictures when a voice comes over an intercom located near the red gate telling my I'm not allowed to do that. Yeah right. He says he'll call the police. I told him to go ahead.
 Cycling around the perimeter of the fenced-in Cartier site I see this farm building inside the fence.
Looks like it was recently renovated. I man who lives up the hill from here comes down and talks to me. Says Cartier uses the barn for entertaining and media events.
When I visited Greubel Forsey back in 2004 they had offices near downtown La Chaud-de-Fonds. Now, they've relocated to a light industrial park close to Cartier. Pretty cool looking complex with a converted barn connected to a modernistic structure.
Still remember from my visit in 2004 that the prices of their timepieces STARTED at $300,000 and there was a waiting list. Richemont owns a 20% stake.
Jaquet Droz has this new structure directly across the street from Greubel Forsey. Didn't have them on my list to visit back in 2003/2004. Why? Well it seems the name Jaquet Droz was resurrected not that long away. By who? The Swatch Group.
Watch companies spend lots of money on marketing. One of the tricks I found they do is exaggerate their length of time in business. For instance, Google "Jaquet Droz" and up pops a result from their website saying "since 1738". Well, that part is true but from 1788 to 2000 the company went kaput. In 2000 Swatch got rights to the name and Jaquet Droz had its rebirth. Quite a few watch companies have done this where they find a long dead watch name, buy the rights, start the brand up again, then in their marketing make it seems as though the company has been in business since the 1800's.
This is some kind of new production facility for Patek Philippe.
Side view of Patek Philippe building. Notice the structure is bounded by farmland. The man who walked down from a house up on the hill says the remaining farmland is protected so, this industrial park area can't be expanded
Not too far up the road leading to La Chaux-de-Fonds I find this complex for Breitling.  This is not their head office.  I received a very, very crummy reception from them at their offices near Bienne.  
Louis Vuitton and Dior have offices here.
Tag Heur is in this building. Used to be in the town of Marin. Horrible, horrible treatment from snotty receptionist back in 2002. Part of LVMH.
Production facility for Ulysee Nardin in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Graham and Arnold & Son were in another downtown La Chaux-de-Fonds building when I visited in 2004.  

1 comment:

  1. Paul, are you still riding? Really enjoy your blog. We met at Motorola last millennium.
    Happy Trailz.