ExpatCH: My first (and second) Swiss watch
Christmas shopping in Switzerland? A Swiss watch may be the perfect present for your loved one - although choosing will not be easy.
Hey you Swiss immigration officers, please note that today my wife significantly enhanced my cultural integration by buying me a Swiss watch. This would be an appropriate moment for all of us here in CH to sing the Swiss national anthem, except most Swiss don't know it (a story for another time).
Sweet Maïf surprised me with a beautifully wrapped present on the morning of my 60th birthday. My present was this beautiful Tissot watch.
As you can see, it is quite something with its gold Roman numerals and hands, and, most interestingly, written in fine script on the face, the name of the town where it was made, Le Locle, which is just a 20-minute train ride away, and is where Maïf's family comes from (and which was once voted Switzerland's most boring town, another story for another time). This watch has a lifetime guarantee.
Elegant, n'est-ce pas?
Alas, as Maïf knows, I am sometimes a little shy of "elegant." Her affectionate nickname for me is "caveman," which should tell you something. So when she offered to let me exchange the stately Le Locle for a watch more fitting to my paleological predelictions, I happily grunted in the affirmative.
Shopping for a Swiss watch in Switzerland is a proven path to madness. Even in our little Neuchâtel train station the magazine kiosk usually has at least 16 glossy magazines devoted just to Swiss timepieces. Any jewelry store window has dozens of options, and inside there are hundreds more. Prices range from 3 figures to oil-sheiks-only. I've got my eye on a pretty cool mid-range Hublot as soon as I have an extra $15,000 lying around.
And yet, after a little online research last night, I stumbled upon exactly the watch I wanted, and it costs about two-thirds of the elegant Le Locle. It's called a Nomad, a name I don't hate, and it's made by Wenger, one of the two legacy companies that make Swiss Army Knives. (Victorinox's watches lack imagination.) This watch is multi-talented: easy to read with both analog and digital readouts for time, day, date and -- the clincher for this dizzy caveman -- a compass.
I do not have the best sense of direction. When I go to a new city and get lost (as intended) and then wonder how to get back to the train station, my inner compass is usually a smudgy 100 to 200 degrees off. So a back-up wrist compass proves quite handy.
This morning I went to the town of Délémont, an hour's train ride from our home in Neuchâtel. Délémont has a Wenger factory store -- 10% off everything! CHF 378 for the Nomad. I'm amazed I resisted also buying 5 or 6 knives, backpacks and sleeping bags. I instantly fell in love with the Nomad. It's like my wife -- attractive and a whiz at multi-tasking. It even has green threads lining the velvety silicone band.
All of which is just to say, if you need to know what time it is, or which direction you're headed, I've got your back.
By Bill Harby.
Bill Harby is an award-winning writer, editor and photographer based in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and Volcano, Hawai‘i. Yes, he loves chocolate and fondue, but raclette and Heidi make him nauseous.
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