“Charlotte’s” quickly became my go-to bakery in Bienne when it opened 2 years ago. And while the fantastic St Honorés and pear tarts are the reasons I keep coming back, I must confess I was often intrigued by the beautiful watches on the wrist of Charlotte Ernandez, the owner. Even better, when we started to talk, I realized how her passion for both watches and pastry, and her professional experience in each, are so closely intertwined. No wonder her bakery runs like clockwork! (seriously, it does)
Born and raised in Marseille, France’s second largest city, Ernandez started her professional life at a young age. She quickly got noticed at a local bakery chain and, after just a few years, was put in charge of opening a new branch. That is when she started to dream of opening her own… The dream finally came true, but only after an unexpected and life-changing experience working for Rolex in Bienne.
What brought you to Bienne?
I arrived here in 2005. I came along to be with my partner, who has since become the father of my two children. I wanted to start working immediately to be independent and also meet people. My background was in managing a bakery, but the opportunities I found were in chocolate and watchmaking. I already had a bit of a fascination for watches. I come from a humble background and Rolex in particular was always a symbol of quality, and, well, success.
So you found a job there…
I was very surprised. I had assumed some special skills, or studies we needed. But I found out they were able to train people internally. I started by preparing the spare parts for assembly. I also worked in quality control. I really liked what I was doing, touching the watches, the environment… When my temporary contract expired, I knew I wanted to continue. So I looked for a full time opportunity.
Where did you land?
I was lucky to be able to try three different workshops. As soon as I discovered the one where the hairsprings were being adjusted, I knew it was the one. I was fascinated by how each minuscule coil had to be regulated, one by one. I never thought I had it in me to be so meticulous. The work required to be very calm, patient, and focused. And I loved it.
How did you adapt to your new environment?
A lot better than I expected. At the end of the day, I always liked things to be clean, organized, precise. The watchmaking environment at Rolex met my personality well.
What are your favorite Rolex models?
My favorite reference overall is probably the Daytona. The history, the movement, the reputation… If I had to choose one variant, it would be steel bezel, white dial. I love the Submariner as well. I’m wearing the “Kermit” right now, with its steel green bezel and black dial. I’m not a fan off small watches, despite having spent time working on the 2235 movement.
What happened after 15 years at Rolex? Why did you leave?
I loved just about every moment at Rolex. It was an honor to work there, and I learned so much. But after a decade and a half, I felt I had been “around the clock”. It was time for another dream. I wanted to be able to express myself without the constraints of a formatted professional environment. Opening my own bakery is something I had wanted to do since my days back in Marseille. And interestingly, what really convinced me to move ahead was when they brought in a French pastry chef at Rolex; I saw how much people there liked his cakes and tarts…
What was your vision when you opened “Charlotte’s”?
French pastry was always like jewelry for me. It should always be perfect. In that sense, the continuity from my previous job was pretty straightforward. Quality, precision, aesthetics. Regarding the bakery itself, I wanted somewhere spacious, that could include a tea room. And easy to access, with parking. Most importantly perhaps, I wanted somewhere brand new, that I could design from scratch. I was fortunate to identify an opportunity in this building before it was built.
You already told us your favorite Rolex models. What are your favorite patisseries?
Pretty much anything with apple in it. I love Tarte Tatin. I don’t have it on display because it needs to be served warm, straight out of the oven. But we are working on a solution… Otherwise, Jalousie aux pommes (note: an apple tart with a very thin crust) is probably at the top of my list!