Watches The best boutiques in Switzerland
Where is the best place to buy a watch in French-speaking Switzerland? Between the undisputed world leader and independent shops with a strong local presence, the choice depends on a number of factors.
When the Geneva Watch Tour was created in 2012, Geneva had 100 watch shops concentrated in a few square kilometres in the city centre. Since then, around twenty of them have disappeared. Some of them have merged, others have been bought by bigger companies, some mono-brand boutiques were not as successful as hoped, and the last few have simply had to close down because they couldn’t find a buyer. The demise of the watch retailer is a worldwide phenomenon. Those that remain are the ones that have been able to adapt and become indispensable. The added value they bring their clients, whether Swiss residents or visitors, remains their best trump card. This might be in terms of the choice of brands they represent, the expertise of their staff, or the service they provide before, during and after the sale. In French-speaking Switzerland, three names stand out, and not simply because they are all part of Rolex’s retail network.
A l’Emeraude in Lausanne
Boutique A L'Emeraude, à Lausanne © A L'Emeraude
A l’Emeraude is the largest independent watch retailer in French-speaking Switzerland. For over a century, it has built up a reputation as Lausanne’s premier jeweller. It is the only Swiss retailer to offer clients both an integrated Patek Philippe area and a Rolex space in its Place Saint-François premises, and it also represents a wide range of luxury classic and sports watches. The Cremers family, who own the business, maintain an excellent relationship with independent watchmakers and artisans at the cutting edge of the industry. For some, they are the sole representative in Europe. A l’Emeraude’s jewellery selection attracts a female clientele in search of authenticity, and its impressive wall of Atmos clocks is a draw for lovers of exceptional craftsmanship and horological excellence. On the first floor, the watchmakers’ workshop stands next to an elegant lounge with a view of Lausanne, which is the ideal venue for private viewings and other special events.
Bucherer, Geneva’s gentle giant
La boutique Bucherer de Genève © Bucherer
Bucherer has an international presence, with over 80 boutiques worldwide, and has become the world leader in luxury watch retail. Its flagship store in Geneva’s Rue du Rhône holds court at the end of the Mont-Blanc bridge, a symbol of strength and great charm. Now fully open after three years’ renovations, it extends to five floors overlooking Lake Geneva. Rolex and other major brands fill the first two floors, jewellery occupies the next floor, and certified pre-owned watches are on the fourth floor, which has a clubby lounge feel. The elegant appointment of the various spaces inspires feelings of wellbeing and trust, which are further reinforced by the fact that this growing international business is still a family firm, established back in 1888. With a choice of almost 50 brands in practically every price range, and access to a large number of Bucherer stores around the world for after-sales service, you can’t go wrong. Bucherer also has around 15 points of sale in Switzerland.
Michaud in Neuchâtel and Verbier
La boutique Michaud de Neuchâtel © Michaud
For four generations, this family of watch lovers has focused on some of the less well-known luxury watchmakers, many of them independent brands with a strong emotional component: Chanel, Chopard, Franck Muller, H. Moser & Cie, Ressence, Rolex and Tudor, as well as Breitling, Hublot, TAG Heuer and Zenith. From the peaceful shores of Lake Neuchâtel to the festive peaks of Verbier, Michaud helps customers to build their collections, and also to build watches, accommodating clients who are keen to sit at a workbench and learn how to put a movement together, guided by an in-house watchmaker. When the human dimension is given pride of place, the entrepreneurial nature of a small firm expertly managed by brothers and sisters counts more to some clients than linear metres of showcases.