Part three of the Zurich City Guide features the must-see museums and bars for any visiting watch geek.
Upstairs, in a scene typical of high-end European watch retailers, clients sip espressos and nibble Swiss chocolates while fastidious salespeople shuttle watch trays from brightly lit vitrines to discrete meeting tables. This is Beyer, one of Zurich’s premier retailers of high-end timepieces. Whether you’re mulling a new watch purchase or not, be sure to ask for a ticket to the store’s internationally renowned museum—unexpectedly tucked away in the basement is one of the world’s most prestigious independent horological collections that spans centuries of horological history.
Alongside early mechanical devices you’ll find pocket watches from the likes of A.L. Breguet and the very Rolex Explorer worn by Sir Edmund Hillary on his ascent of Everest in 1953. The centerpiece of the collection is an incredibly rare Breguet Sympathique clock, considered by history’s most famous watchmaker to be his greatest achievement. When you’re finished at Beyer, walk over to Breguet’s Zurich boutique, directly next door, home to the Swiss watchmaker’s rare and unusual creations. On a recent visit, I had the unexpected opportunity to go hands-on with the Marie Antoinette Watch replica, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. — Jonathan Bues
A 45-minute train ride from central Zurich is the IWC Schaffhausen manufactory. Within this building, the museum’s curator, David Seyffer, has arranged an experience that befits the company, which turns 150 next year. The collection, spread across two wings, highlights a selection of the most historically important IWC pocket and wristwatches alongside some other very interesting timepieces from the region.
The West Wing includes the earliest IWC movements, the so-called Jones Calibers, which were the work of the legendary American founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones. It was Jones who had the foresight to build his factory on the banks of a river and harness hydroelectric power for manufacturing. In addition to the Jones Calibers, other highlights include rare digital pocket watches, the Albert Pellaton anniversary watch, the collectible “club” watches, and Porsche Design watches produced by IWC. The East Wing focuses more on the heritage of the product families such as Portuguese, Pilot, and Aquatimer, which form the pillars of the modern IWC brand. As a testament to the meticulous recordkeeping, you’ll find ledgers that contain information on every production model since the company’s opening in 1885. — Jonathan Bues
Don’t forget your jacket if you want to blend in—Zurich’s well-heeled crowd congregates at the mahogany bar to sip the signature Ladykiller (gin, Cointreau, apricot brandy, pineapple juice, and passion fruit juice) amid Chagall’s stained glass window, Picasso’s sketches, and furniture by Swiss sculptors Diego and Alberto Giacometti. A haven for artists and writers since it opened in 1921, rumor has it the Kronenhalle was a meeting place for spies during WWII. The only clandestine operations these days are the handwritten recipes barman Peter Roth keeps stored in his notepad, a go-to resource for the seemingly endless cocktail list. —Laura Itzkowitz