France & Switzerland
by foie gras
We then crossed the border at Aqaba to Eilat, and returned to Tel Aviv by plane. A day later I flew to Geneva via Swissair.
The area around the Lake of Geneva (Lac Leman)
is of course strongly associated with watchmaking. Unfortunately, events conspired to more or less ruin my one day visit. I did have a chance to visit
the Patek Philippe showroom,
which turned out (unexpectedly) to be the highlight of a disappointing day. First, the Geneva Horological museum was closed during the morning I planned to visit it. Then, I took the train to nearby France planning to eat a sumptuous dinner at a favorite restaurant,
La Belle Epoque,
which turned out to be closed for 6 weeks for their “annual holidays.” I’d hoped to buy a few tins of foie gras while in France, but the local stores had only poor quality stuff. So this trip was a complete bust spent alternately wandering the streets of the small French town in a driving rainstorm, and waiting almost two hours in the dingy unheated train station for the next train back to Geneva.
Fortunately, the next morning, the last day of my trip overseas, worked out much better. After the brief flight from Geneva to Zurich, I had 6 hours until my departure for San Francisco. After stowing my carry-ons in a locker at the Zurich Airport, I took the short train ride into Zurich, and wandered the Bahnhofstrasse and adjacent side streets.
For those who do not know, the Bahnhofstrasse is one of the most glamorous (and expensive) shopping streets in the world. Unlike the shopping in Singapore, most everything related to shopping is at street level. The concentration of watch stores is very high, with several stores carrying virtually every significant Swiss brand, and these stores are often literally only a block away or across the street from their nearest competitor.
One store I visited was
known for its extensive watch collection as well as the famous Turler Clock pictured above. This clock, commissioned by Franz Turler, is located inside the Turler shop, near the entrance, and began operation in 1995. It is absolutely unique, modeling celestial bodies in the cosmos, and the perpetual Gregorian Calendar. Even though it is fully mechanical, the timing is synchronized by radio pulse with Coordinated Universal Time (“UTC”) from Germany. The power needed to operate the radio receiver and to automatically update the clock is supplied by solar panels located on the roof.
The sales personnel at Turler are exceptionally friendly. They spent quite a bit of time showing me the Turler Clock, gave me requested watch catalogs, and even sat down to compile a list of the watch brands they carry, which include: AP, Piaget, Lange, Cartier, BP, Ulysse Nardin, JLC, Breitling, Tag, IWC, Turler Mendici, Turler, Baume et Mercier, Omega, Tissot, VC, Movado, Zenith, Ebel, Longines, and Chopard.
The reception I received at Turler was in stark contrast to what I got at another shop almost across the street. I was attracted by the
which included an announcement of an IWC historical showing in their “museum.” Unfortunately, the “museum” (actually just some display cases downstairs) was only open in the afternoon, and my flight out precluded returning to see it later. It would have been a simple matter for the sales lady to walk me downstairs for a couple of minutes after I told her I was flying out that afternoon. She did not offer to do so. Also, I inquired about their rather extensive collection of clocks which she demonstrated no interest in showing me or answering questions about. I might actually have bought one had she been accommodating. She appeared to have concluded that I could not afford to buy what they had to sell, and her annoyance at my presence was obvious. Perhaps, had I exposed the Lange watch I was wearing she would have treated me differently, but I’d rather not do business with stores that treat potential customers that way, so I simply walked out.
Walking to the end of the Bahnhofstrasse, I was greeted by an unexpected sight; the street, perhaps a km. long extending out from the main railway station, ends at the
Lake of Zurich,
with a statue of a boy and a seagull at its edge. You are not far away from nature, even while visiting Switzerland’s premier shopping street.
Unfortunately, the time arrived for me to return to the airport, and board my
for the return to Idaho via San Francisco.