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.
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.
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.
What do Martin Luther King, JFK, the Dalai Lama, Meryl Streep and Neil Armstrong have in common? They notoriously spent some of the most important moments in their life with a watch made in Bienne around their wrist. Like millions of people over the past century and beyond, special moments in their life, and most moments in their day, were marked by a special object telling time, from Bienne to the world