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.
Spoiler alert for the clever minds who think they can comfortably lie in their car listening to music while others camp in the middle of the night for a MoonSwatch or Blancpain collab: nice try but the Drive-Thru window is closed for special launches!
Part of a full-experience campus
The boutique is just one part of the full equation forming the new Swatch/Omega campus inaugurated in 2019. The Swatch corporate buildings and the new Omega manufacture were designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban. A building connecting Swatch and Omega hosts both brands’ museums. Facing the green Jura hills, the largely pedestrian area is a soothing environment for employees and visitors alike.
My first experiences at the boutique were always very good. Friendly, helpful staff, kind with kids, patient with everyone. But then, in such a nice setting, is it that surprising? Foot traffic was never that huge, between the odd tourist, a few locals and mostly Omega and Swatch employees.
And then came the MoonSwatch
The game changer was of course the MoonSwatch. On March 26, 2022, a crowd like never seen before invaded the plaza outside the Drive Thru. For the following months, people would drop in at any moment of the day, rarely with the intention to purchase a Gent, Big Bold, Flik Flak or Pay, but rather asking for something that was not in stock: a MoonSwatch, and, as availability for most versions increased over time, a specific one, especially the Moon and Neptune.
As if that was not enough, other large gatherings were created by Moonshine editions and more recently the Blancpain collab. Every time, the Swatch boutique team arrived at 6 am to fill out the warranties and make sure everything was ready to sell like hotcakes for opening, 4 (long) hours later. And now, they have to deal with daily pop-ins not just for a MoonSwatch but also for Blancpain models.
Over the past 18 months, I’ve become a regular visitor of the place. Sometimes to buy a “normal” Swatch, for my kids, or as a gift. Occasionally to get a MoonSwatch or now Blancpain for friends struggling to acquire one where they live. Often also to find out about availability, out of curiosity and to update folks on Instagram, who regularly ask.
What has struck me consistently throughout, whether as a customer or observing others, has been the team’s attitude. Always friendly, upbeat, positive. Never projecting an ounce of complaint or irritation from the early and long hours, or annoyance at customers moaning about availability. The store, like the brand, remains a fun place at all times.
Even more importantly, the boutique staff has shown systematic respect for every person passing the door. You don’t speak French, German, or English? No problem, so many languages are spoken among the sales team that sometimes they struggle to fit all the flags on their name badge! And even if your language is not one of them, they will patiently find a solution. You want to take 10 minutes at the counter to fill out a duty-free form to save the price of a cup of coffee on your purchase? That’s OK too! You come in with 10 watches for a free battery change when others in line just want to buy one: sure thing, your batteries can be changed right away.
At the Swatch boutique in Bienne, everyone feels welcome. For a brand that’s all about inclusion, embracing uniqueness and diversity, the team here has consistently proven to be a fantastic ambassador. Considering the volume of traffic in a store that was not designed for it, I find this accomplishment impressive. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team and encourage all of you who have not yet been here to come experience it yourself!