Friendly, relaxed and fun are usually not words associated with a luxury watch retail environment. Yet, they immediately come to mind whenever I step into the Omega headquarters boutique in Bienne. Don’t get me wrong: none of the high-endness you would expect from a Bahnhofstrasse or New Bond Street experience are lost here. Just, there’s something extra.
That something extra is hard to describe, but you feel it floating in the air, and it’s pretty obvious where it comes from, making this boutique so unique: the watches are made just a few meters away, in the very same facility. Those who design them, test them, assemble them and ship them to the entire world are all around you.
When, as a watch geek, you ask a very specific question to a salesperson, in the rare event they don’t already know the answer, they’ll just discuss the topic with a colleague from the manufacture over lunch, and get back to you right after. The intrinsic value of each watch here is appreciated because everyone is well aware of the skills and effort that went into the making. You can almost smell the metal.
Located in a beautiful and historical building on the site where Omega has been established since 1882, the boutique was inaugurated exactly 3 years ago today, on June 8, 2020. Sitting between the manufacture and offices on the west and the Museum, east side, you really can’t miss it as you stroll down Rue Jakob-Stämplfi. And even if you do, the large, full cap “Montres Omega” writing across the entire building above, and the full-size Lunar Module replica just outside, will help you find it.
Between my own occasional watch shopping, for myself or a gift, the more frequent strap purchase, showing visiting friends and family, or just saying hi when I take my youngest child to circle around the Lunar Module on his scooter, the venue has become a very familiar place. And while there are many great things about it, as described above, none of them would come to life without the exceptional people running the show 7 days a week.
No matter how you’re dressed, regardless of whether you’re coming in to buy a 5 digit watch or just curious about the new Nato straps, you’ll be greeted by Jacqueline and her team with the same warm, respectful and professional smile. A hot coffee and delicious home-branded chocolate are usually associated with the experience. You may even bump into Raynald Aeschlimann, the Omega President and CEO, who occasionally pops by on the way in or out of his neighboring office with a VIP client or ambassador.
A few friends of mine have come all the way to Bienne from other parts of Switzerland, and beyond, to purchase their dream Omega watch. They did not regret it.
The day typically started with a walk around the grounds, getting a sense of Omega’s place in the city, along the Suze river, facing the Jura hills. They then toured the Museum, one of the world’s best of its kind, with watches that were in space or on John Kennedy’s wrist. And then, they went down to the boutique, acquiring the much anticipated watch, right at the source. Other friends with an Omega needing service did the same, immersing themselves before dropping off their watch right where the service would be performed.
While buying a watch and receiving after-sales support is obviously what the store was designed for, I would recommend to anyone with an interest in watches to visit it. The assortment on display is spectacular, considerably more extensive than in your average brand boutique. There is even a watchmaker, behind a glass window, working on a movement. This is not just for show, but actual service work: watchmakers come down to the boutique from upstairs on a rotating basis, bringing with them whatever they are working on.
I realize finding time on a weekday is challenging for most of us. But you will be rewarded with much more than a museum or a shopping experience. By visiting the boutique on a day when it is truly part of the greater whole that surrounds it, you will find yourself spending a moment in the life of watchmaking, made in Bienne.