As the city’s Vice-Chancellor, Julien Steiner has among his prerogatives Bienne’s image as a place to live. Considering how radically the perception of Bienne has evolved over the years, and the role of watchmaking in the city’s reputation, there was a lot to discuss for this interview.
Before we begin, I want to call out that Julien Steiner played a very important role in the development of this blog. Over 2 years ago, when I had just started, I was unsure if there would be any interest in such a project from a guy like me who had just moved to the city. One day, someone reached out on Instagram with a question. I did not have the answer, so I contacted the city administration. They eventually put me in touch with Julien Steiner. He not only encouraged me but promoted the blog on the city website. That is when my imposter syndrome (mostly) vanished, and I truly started investing time and energy in creating content on a regular basis.
Where Watchmaking and Leather Savoir-Faire Share a Roof, and Much More – A Day at La Montre Hermès, Part II
As I explained in the previous “episode”, the day spent at the Manufacture Hermès was so rich that a single article could not do justice. One of the reasons is that there are in fact two distinct, yet intimately connected, operations taking place under the same roof. The first, and the reason La Montre Hermès exists in the first place, is watchmaking. As we saw, the breadth and depth of in-house horological work taking place there is considerable. The French maison is truly one of the major watch players in the city.
The first 70 articles I wrote for this blog are all about watchmaking. And I expect pretty much the next 70 to be as well. But sometimes, it’s nice to make a little exception. Especially when it comes to high quality chocolate, the exceptional treat par excellence.
Last year, for the first edition of the Bienne Watch of the Year, we ended up electing the MoonSwatch. It was actually a super close battle among the 4 finalists, themselves chosen among 16 nominees. In a year where the Speedmaster was front and center of much watch headlines, 2 other variants of the model made it to the final round: the Speedmaster ’57 and, at opposite ends of the MoonSwatch in terms of horological complexity, the Chrono Chime. The Hermès Arceau Le Temps Voyageur was the only non-Speedmaster to make it to the final.
I generally learn a lot when I get to interview people for this blog. In some cases, I learn even more than usual, and this conversation with Paul Bernard is definitely all the way up there. His perspectives on how contemporary art ties into the world of industrial watchmaking as we know in Bienne were all new to me. I hope you’ll enjoy learning about them as much as I did.
When you first visit Bienne, some watch brands are impossible to miss. They are so to speak “in your face”, and that is a great part of the city’s charm. But it’s at least as charming, if not more, when some brands are discovered later, almost by chance, through a walk or a lucky encounter. And when the brand in question is associated around the world with the highest level of quality and craftsmanship, while increasingly becoming a watch collector’s favorite, well, then, it’s pretty incredible.
As you may know if you’ve been here before, I love buying pre-owned watches. The variety, the serendipity, and the story behind each piece are a lot more magical to me than a thick carpet, engineered lighting and unscratched, shiny cases. For that reason, you’re more likely to find me sniffing around the shelves at Dario’s, Charles-Louis Muri’s or the Bienne Cash Converters than sipping champagne to celebrate a purchase at an authorized dealer.
While my sister Jeanne is a photographer, I really know very little, actually close to nothing, about photography. The pictures I take for this blog hopefully get the job done most of the time, but as you can tell they’re informative at best. My camera is not too bad, but I set absolutely everything to automatic, and any “post-production” (is that even how they call it?) is done using automagic recommendations in Google Photos. I have no idea how to use Photoshop.
As of Wednesday October 4th, the streets of Bienne will feel like a giant art gallery. Covering a lovely path from the train station to the old town, the Arty Show is back, for its 5th edition.
Founded in 2018, the initiative mixes public space and art by bringing together shops, restaurants and cafés across the city with artists from around Switzerland and the world. The artwork will be displayed in the storefronts across over 30 locations.
If you think the logo looks like a vegetable, you’re right. And while the pun kind of works in English or German, it’s perfect in French: “artichaud” (artichoke) is literally pronounced “arty show”.
The Swatch HQ boutique in Bienne is officially a Drive-Thru. You can come with your car, order via an intercom and collect your watch at the window a few meters away without leaving your seat. Some special boutique watches are even delivered in a burger box!
Of course, you can also just walk into the store, and, most importantly at a time of much needed eco-consciousness, there is a bus stop and a shared bike station on site. You can also drive over and park right in front, or, if it’s full, on the free “blue” spots a 2 minute walk away, by the Suze river. Unlike just about everything else in Switzerland, the store is open 7 days a week.