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Geneva and The Swiss Watch Tradition

Victorinox Swiss Army

Maverick GS Bracelet Watch, 43mm


Geneva and The Swiss Watch Tradition

Leaving Edinburgh was another one of those “adjusting on the fly” moments.

Adjusting On The Fly

My original plan was to fly from Scotland to the south of France - of course not everything goes according to plan.  About three days before my flight I found out that the pilots of the airline I was supposed to take to leave Edinburgh, were planning on going on strike the day before my flight.  Panicked about being stuck at the airport with a cancelled flight, I looked for another flight immediately.  When I couldn’t find another flight to the south of France, I looked for any other flight leaving Edinburgh on the same day.  I found one to Geneva.  Murphy’s Law - the pilot strike didn’t actually happen, but my reservations were all changed so I was set.

Shopping In A City Of Luxury

I arrived in Geneva at night, so after checking into my hotel, I called it a night.  The next morning I decided to check out the shopping Geneva had to offer.  The city is well known for it’s luxury market, so I was excited to see what it had to offer.  I started at Bongenie, a luxury department store on Rue du Marché.

After leaving Bongenie, I continued along Rue du Marché.  Just a short walk down was the Victorinox Swiss Army store.  When I changed my plans to Geneva, the first thing I thought about was watches.  And why wouldn’t I?  Switzerland is famous for a few things: chocolate, Gruyere cheese, skiing the alps, fondue (or more accurately raclette), banks, and most importantly watches.  So when saw the watches in their window I had to go in and get one.

The Swiss Watch Tradition

So what makes Swiss watches so desirable?  They’re recognized around the world as THE standard of quality mechanical watches.  The mark “Swiss” on a watch is so valuable, that’s it’s even governed under a law: in order to bear the mark “Swiss”, the movement and the casing must be manufactured in Switzerland, and it must be assembled and inspected in Switzerland.

Some History

The first watch was not made in Switzerland, but rather in Nuremberg Germany.  In fact, many of the early innovations that made watches smaller, more portable, and longer lasting didn’t come from Swiss inventors.  However, Geneva provided the perfect breeding ground for watch making.

Huguenots fleeing France came to Geneva, bringing their knowledge of watch making with them.  Geneva had been a city of jewelry makers, but under John Calvin’s reformation, the lives of Geneva’s denizens were highly regulated and they weren’t allowed to wear the jewelry they were known for making.  Instead, these skilled craftsmen turned their skills towards watches.

Over the years, Geneva built a strong industry watch making industry.  They were one of the first to employ a process in which parts would be made in one part of the country, and assembled in another - streamlining production and allowing them to turn out more than other countries.  There have been hits to the Swiss Watch economy.  The American’s took over the industry prior to WWII, but after the war Swiss companies cornered the market and the American industry fell apart.  The Japanese provided major competition with the invention of quartz movement, however the Swiss brand Swatch helped bring attention back to the Swiss Market.


Swiss Watches Today

Today, a Swiss watch is not only synonymous with luxury, but also precision and quality.  Names like Audemars Piguet, Breitling, Jaegar-LeCoultre, Omega, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Rolex, Victorinox, Swatch, TAG Heuer, Longines represent the modern options in the Swiss watch market.  Many of them produce watches that can reach astronomical prices, while others have some more affordable price points.

Regardless of the brand, it’s safe to say there is no such thing as buying a “bad” Swiss watch; they all come from an industry that has honed their craft over generations, and protect their reputation fanatically.


Back To Shopping

After my little watch detour, I made my way to Rue du Rhone to check out all the luxury stores.  The jewels in the window displays of some of the stores were truly jaw dropping.  Right along the shore of Lake Geneva sits the l’Horloge Fleurie – a clock made of flowers.  From the Pont du Mont Blanc I was able to get a perfect view of the lake.  But one of the sights that quickly caught my eye was below me – the water.  The waters of Lake Geneva were so clear – literally crystal clear, and the most gorgeous shade of blue.

My frozen fingers and sore throat had me searching for a stop.  Luckily, right at the end of Pont du Mont Blanc was a favorite, so I stopped at Laduree for a quick cup of tea.  Fortified with a steaming cup of tea, I continued to my next destination.  Manor is another department store in Geneva, and home of the first Sephora in Switzerland.  Right before Christmas was not the right time to visit a department store, but the walk there and around the store was still worth it.  The grocery level alone was pretty incredible – there was a whole wall of panettone.

First Signs Of Trouble

As I started making my way back towards the hotel, I began to feel the cold I picked up in Edinburgh weighing down on me.  The next morning my plan was to get some supplies from the store knowing that many restaurants and cafes would be closed on the 24th and 25th.  After shopping, I dragged my ill feeling butt back to the hotel for some rest.  When you’re traveling and have so much that you want to see and explore, getting sick is the last thing you want.  I basically did everything I could to stave off the sick feeling and forget about it.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.  All night I was up coughing and generally feeling miserable.  So much so, that I at 7am on Christmas Eve day I took myself to the Swiss version of Urgent Care.

A few blood tests, XRays, and meetings with the doctor later, I found out that I didn’t have a cold.  I had a rather nasty infection, bronchitis, and a hint of pneumonia.  I left with prescriptions and spent the rest of the day and the following day, buried beneath the blankets of my hotel room bed.  So that was basically the extent of my time in Geneva.


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