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.
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.
There is a lot more to Bienne than “just” Omega and Rolex. But there is no denying that, when it comes to the brands that animate passionate discussions among watch enthusiasts around the world, those 2 grab the most headlines. They also happen to be the 2 brands generating the most revenue in the watch industry (although in some estimates, Cartier is in front of Omega). Those are the reasons why they are the focus of first 2 “DIY” published on Made in Bienne. Others will follow.
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
Almost exactly one year ago, Swatch and Omega, both owned by Bienne-based Swatch Group, took the industry by storm with the launch of the MoonSwatch: a variant of the Omega Speedmaster made by Swatch with a quartz movement in a bioceramic case. We all know what happened next, from the insane waiting lines to Groundhog Day-esque store visits over the weeks and months by hopefuls trying to get their hands on their favorite pick among the 11 models.
Being the capital of Swiss watchmaking is a title that a few cities can legitimately claim. Geneva, of course, including its suburb Plan-les-Ouates, is home to Rolex and Patek Philippe, the hard-to-dispute champions in their respective categories. It is also where the main industry get-togethers are held, Watches & Wonders and Geneva Watch Days, especially now that Baselworld is out of the picture. More generally, it is the front window, between the boutiques and brand signage above the lake, for Swiss watch companies to the world via one of its most cosmopolitan cities.
25 years ago today, Charles-Louis Muri opened his magnificent vintage watch and clock boutique, in the Bienne Old Town. 15 years before that, he had started his trade on the same street, Rue Basse, just a few meters away. Even if Mr Muri often regrets not having as much to offer than two decades ago, there are always great finds, very reasonably priced, behind his door. Over the past few years, an Omega split seconds pocket chronograph, a 1960s Tudor Ranger, several Vulcain Cricket alarm watches and even a rare book are among the purchases that friends or myself have made here
When writing a new blog post, I always try to look for a catchy title. Not clickbait, of course, but something that briefly summarizes why, in my humble opinion, it’s worth taking a few minutes to read it. That usually implies correlating the object or person being discussed with a broader inspirational or aspirational theme.