Known as ‘the cradle of watchmaking’, Switzerland is by no means the only destination for watch geeks. Our resident watch expert, Arthur Touchot, has been clocking up the miles for Haute Time this year in order to cover the latest novelties. Today, he shares with us his favourite hangouts, and reveals the watchmaking industry’s favourite five-star destinations.
The Business Trip: Mandarin Oriental Geneva*****, Geneva
As you can imagine, covering the watchmaking industry requires spending quite a bit of time in Switzerland, whether I’m attending the auctions held in Geneva, or visiting the dozens of manufactures, sprinkled across the Western front of the country. More often than not, I’m visiting Switzerland on a day-trip from London, but when I’m able to stay overnight, one of my favourite hotels is the Mandarin Oriental. It has two advantages over other luxury hotels: its riverside location and its heritage. Picked by discerning travellers, it has been home to quite a few watch collectors over the years. The last time I stayed there, back in October, a large contingent of the jury of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève could be found inside the hotel’s bar, discussing their picks just hours after making them official during a secret ballot held next door. There is no better way to end the day than by talking watches with a fellow enthusiast, and that happens quite often at the Mandarin Oriental.
Mandarin Oriental Geneva: 00 41 22 909 00 00
The Home Away From Home: Hotel Palafitte*****, Neuchâtel
If I’m on my way to Hotel Palafitte, that means I’m on my way to one of the top manufacturers nearby: Greubel Forsey, Richard Mille and Cartier are all within a few miles of this five-star hotel located in Neuchâtel. Constructed more than 10 years ago as part of the National Expo 2002, Hotel Palaffite is the only hotel in Europe built on stilts. So get your watch out for a stunning wrist shots! The rooms offer extraordinary views onto the Neuchâtel Lake and the snowcapped mountains that surround it. It’s a fantastic spot to relax and enjoy the views, and in that sense, Hotel Palafitte delivers in abundance. Chef David Sauvignet took over the reins of “La Table de Palafitte” kitchen not long ago, and serves a seasonal menu favouring local market produce. Before brunch, I recommend diving head first into the lake for an efficient and natural wake-up call. If I’m my way out of Hotel Palafitte, I’m moments away from feeling nostalgic for it already.
Hotel Palafitte: 00 41 32 723 02 02
The Spa Retreat: Dorint Maison Messmer*****, Baden Baden
Baden-Baden. A city so pretty they named it twice, and the unlikely setting for the launch of the new Harry Winston Opus watch this November. That’s right: Sometimes, Swiss brands choose to unveil novelties outside of their own frontiers, although inviting press from all over the world to reconvene in this reclusive town was definitely an unusual move. One of the more unexpected trips of the year, my two day stay in Southwestern Germany turned out to be one of the most relaxing too, in as much as I would be checking in to the Dorint Hotel. The 800m² spa is what most people come for, and usually, that’s all they will see of Baden-Baden. It’s easy to spend the entire weekend locked inside, but it’s worth braving into the legendary Black Forest that surrounds this charming city. Leisurely walks through its beautiful parks are the best way to reset the clock, but those who crave a bit more excitement can also access the city’s infamous Casino through an underground passageway, but shhh…I didn’t tell you about it!
Dorint Masion Messmer: 00 49 7221 30120
The Sports Fix: Terre Blanche Hôtel Spa Golf*****, French Provence
I discovered Terre Blanche this time last year, when I joined Rafael Nadal for a round of golf in French Provence, a warm-up to our interview regarding his passion for watches. The Tennis champion was in Provence for the Richard Mille Invitational, an international tournament held annually in this quiet part of the world. Two world-class, 18-hole courses, designed by Dave Thomas regularly serve as the stage for the Pro-European Tour circuit, and with 115 suites and luxurious villas overlooking the fairways, it’s the ideal location to catch some of the world’s most talented professionals practise their game on a sublime course. Inspired by the natural surroundings, the Riou Golf and The Chateau are both technical courses featuring winding fairways and fast greens that reward strategic and precise golfers. But, if you’re as skilled with a driver as me, fear not. This 5-star hotel features a 3200sqm spa, with indoor pool, hammam, and sauna, as well as a stunning infinity pool. For its international clientèle, the hotel offers four excellent restaurants, including «Le Faventia,» a gourmet restaurant that is the envy of the region.
Terre Blanche Hôtel Spa Golf: 00 33 4 94 39 90 00
The Getaway: The Dominican****, Brussels
Even watch enthusiasts enjoy some time off-the-clock. Since I spend so much time in Switzerland, I tend to stay away from it during my down time. Instead, as soon as I have the chance to get away from a few days, I hop on the Eurostar straight from London to Brussels. Door-to-door, it’s a two and a half hour trip, meaning you’ll be able to schedule your departure after tea time and still have plenty to unwind with a local brew (or one of the 3000 on tap) at Délirium Café. Perfectly located in the heart of the city is The Dominican is a beacon of elegance since it opened in 2007. Starting life as a Dominican abbey in the 15th century, the now beloved local institution has been re-interpreted with elegance and thoughtfulness by the prize-winning Amsterdam agency, FGStijl. But the hotel also features state-of-the-art conference suites in case you’ve got to jump back into action. Should you want to blow off some steam, the hammam is a welcoming feature, especially after a round of sparring in the gym’s vintage-inspired boxing room. A superb international staff, including outstanding concierges will guide you through the city with ease, and there’s lots to choose from in Brussels. No weekend is complete without a visit of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, which holds one of Europe’s finest art collection, including works by Bruegel and Magritte, and none should end before a night out at the Bozar, which regularly plays host to the world’s most talented orchestras. A poignant performance there by the Orchestre de Paris during my last visit, just 24 hours after the attacks on France’s capital on November 13, still resonates with me today.
The Dominican: 00 32 2 203 08 08