Made in Bienne stemmed from a mix of candid enthusiasm and a sense of injustice. Injustice because when you talk to watch people around the globe, how many will answer Bienne, or Biel, when asked about the world capital of watchmaking? Geneva, primarily, or even Le Locle, La Chaux-de-fonds (for those who can pronounce it) and the Vallée-de-Joux will be much more common answers. As we say in French, I wanted to humbly contribute to remettre les points sur les i – literally: “put the dot back on the i”.
The blog, started about 3 years ago, depending on how you count (I’ve only been truly active for the past 18 months), has a few thousand regular readers (thank you!), been well received and even promoted by local authorities and watch brands. It’s offered me an incredible opportunity to meet some of the most fascinating people in the industry, from company founders to collectors and of course watchmakers. Hopefully, it helps bring some people over, benefiting a few hotels, restaurants and watch shops, who certainly deserve it.
What sometimes gets me uneasy is that I don’t want to contribute to ruining what makes the whole thing so special. The beauty of the Bienne watch vibe is precisely that it’s so natural, so organic, so local. In many ways, people here don’t really give a sh*t, and I mean that in the most positive way. As I wrote in what several readers have told me is there favorite post on the blog, the watch culture here is “refreshingly un-bling”. At opposite ends with the glitzy (and in my view twisted) atmosphere of a Geneva auction.
By “packaging” Bienne as a watch tourist destination, by making it more accessible, visible, easier to plan a trip to, this blog is, at its modest scale, taking part in denaturing it. If one day (let’s think big) buses of European, American and Asian visitors are parked while their passengers take selfies in front of the original Rolex site, explore the Omega Museum or shop the Glycine boutique in the old town, well, a lot of the charm, a lot of the magic will have been lost.
I’ve been very invested personally in Made in Bienne. I have a lot more planned for the blog, including covering many brands I haven’t yet written about, such as Hermès, Norqain, or Milus, to name a few. I want to write about the history of the city, the quartz crisis, radium, the creation of Swatch. I want to go into the supply chain, talk about Estoppey-Addor, Cendre et Métaux and Microndor. I’m even about to launch a much better looking version of the blog, with professional help. And yet, part of me still has some doubts. What is the right balance? Where does sincere sharing stop and objectifying or denaturing begin? As often in the watch world, time will tell. In the meantime, your thoughts and comments are of course always most welcome and appreciated.