Masters of Time: A Watchmaker’s Tour of Switzerland and Germany

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View of old city center of Bern with the Aare River.
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Total Trip:

9 Days
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Countries Visited:

Germany, Switzerland
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Places Visited:

Montreux, Neuchâtel, Bern, Basel, Zurich, Schaffhausen, Le Brassus, Schonach, Geneva, The Black Forest
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
The Swiss are masters of time, establishing themselves as the world’s greatest timekeepers. Luxury watch craftsmen spend weeks, if not months, handcrafting the meticulous mechanisms. The hands of a luxury mechanical watch smoothly tick with nearly silent motion, a perfect blend of the traditional and the timeless. Tinker with an open watch to reassemble the pieces. Admire the chiseled woodwork of an artisan cuckoo clockmaker and listen to the call of the world’s largest cuckoo clock. Uncover the

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Day 1

Geneva – Arrive and Indulge in the Fascinating Ambiance of Switzerland

The city of Geneva represents a sophisticated, cosmopolitan ambiance reflected in the gorgeous waters of Europe’s largest lake. Switzerland’s second largest city towers over cobbled streets hosting the headquarters of the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, International Committee of the Red Cross, and more than 200 other international organizations and non-profits. Ample global business has given rise to an abundance of luxury hotels and boutique jewelry shops glistening against a backdrop of swans floating on the waters of the eponymous lake.

The city won its independence from the House Savoy in the 17th century and joined the Swiss Confederation by the early 19th century. The narrow stretch of land along the northwest shore connects the city to greater Switzerland, but France otherwise borders Geneva. Your flight lands at Geneva Airport, where your private transfer greets you upon your arrival. The mountain air contains hints of chocolate and pastries emanating from confectionaries around the city. You notice the plume of water spouting over the city, deriving from the Jet d’Eau, a grand fountain on the lake’s surface shooting water 475 feet into the air. You find luxurious comfort at your hotel located in view of the Jet d’Eau and the fascinating white-capped peak of Mont Blanc in the distance.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

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Day 2

Montreux – Visit a Watchmaking Boutique and Artisan Workshop

At breakfast, the scent of delicious hot chocolate fills the dining room, accompanied by freshly baked bread perfect with an assortment of marmalades or honey. The familiar plume of water arches over the lake and your guide greets you, eager to introduce you to the watchmaking traditions of the city, as well as the ways Zurich has modernized the trends inspired by its heritage. The Rhone River rushes beneath the hillside of the old city. The picturesque architecture lines the cobbled lanes leading to the dramatic façade of the cathedral. Your exploration begins at the Franck Muller boutique, a company established in 1991.

The timepieces are known globally for their sleek style and superior Swiss manufacturing. The store’s interior shimmers with watches displayed under soft but showcasing light. The brand highlights the complexities of watchmaking with modern style, being one of the first to allow its wearers to view the mechanics of the working watch, such as using a visible triple-axis tourbillon, which was unconventional for the time. Since founding the company, Muller has gained 36 world-firsts and other patents resulting in a recognizable signature style. The noble art of watchmaking becomes clearer as your guide unveils the reasons Muller is known as the “Master of Complications,” with each component given individual attention.

Your immersion into Switzerland’s world-famous watchmaking world continues in Vevey, a town between the slopes and waters of Lake Geneva at the crux of the Alps with a quiet promenade and gorgeous central square. You enter one of the private artisan workshops of Lionel Meylan, a professional focused on authenticity, passion, precision, and beauty. The workshops within the boutiques concentrate on sharing their desire and knowledge of their work, as well continuing in the traditions of their trade, even when pushing the boundaries of modernism.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Neuchâtel – Explore Audemars Piguet Museum, a Historic Watchmaking School, and Enjoy a View of the Haute Horlogerie Workshop and Museum

The bold aroma of chocolate and sweet pastries swirl through the gallery of Zurcher on Avenue du Casino in Montreux. The café has more than a century of experience and remains a favorite for locals throughout the day. You find enjoy the aroma of hot chocolate at breakfast before traveling out of the shadow of Montreux’s charming 13th-century lakeside chateau. The village of le Brassus in the Jura Valley overlooks the lush meadows sweeping to bordering mountains. The quaint steeple of the Protestant church acts as the skyline to the serene township and surrounding landscape.

The quiet village also hosts the headquarters and factory of the luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet. The craftsmanship focuses on the connection between body and mind, integrating geometry into the performance for a balance of function, structure, and style on display in the original factory built in 1875 with expansions made in 2008. The workshop is located on a flat area of the valley with large windows looking over the tranquil stream. The watchmakers work on the movements of the skeletonized gears, revealing the extra-thin tourbillon of the Royal Oak Openworked design. The effortless movements and sleek style begin with the gears before anchoring the barrel.

The section floats, meaning only a single side connects to the greater piece for an even smoother look. Workers build titanium cases and complicated resonating boxes. They shape the masculine frame of the Royal Oak and the distinctive features of the Millenary 4101, a watch known for inspiring spirited reactions. One common theme in the workshop is that everyone remains focused and dedicated to their specialty. You continue to La Chaux-de-Fonds, the oldest applied arts school in Switzerland, established in the 1870s.

The vocational college teaches students about micromechanics and overall design necessary to compete in today’s global markets. The town has gained UNESCO recognition due to its preserved architecture and connection to manufacturing watches. The straight streets were erected to conform to the needs of the watchmaking industry as it grew, symbolizing the growth of the business and its indelible connection to La Chaux-de-Fonds. The galleries inside the school showcase the grand and delicate creations from the town over the past 150 years, including clocks decorated with gold plating.

By the afternoon, you enter into the famous doors of Corum, a manufacturer dedicated to adding modern touches to time-honored traditions, with over 50 years of experience. The exclusive tour begins under the guidance of a watchmaking professional for an immersive discovery of the grand world hidden in the small gears. You gain insight into the importance of the springs, escapement, and balance wheel. Your guide watches as you take apart a sample watch and replace each piece in its exact position before hearing the watch tick back to life.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

Bern – Discover the Swiss Capital and the Choreography of the Clock Tower

In the morning, you enjoy the view of the foothills leading up to the Jura Mountains and the splendor of the medieval architecture of Neuchâtel rising along the waterfront. The aroma of pine fades as you depart the city and reach the Swiss capital of Bern. The city resembles a postcard with a preserved Old Town bordered by snowcapped peaks. Folk figurines dance on the 16th-century decorative fountains, and covered arcades span nearly four miles across the city.

The medieval center boasts cobblestone streets and sandstone architecture dating back to the early 15th century. Each of the 11 fountains depicts different stories from local folklore, including the Kindlifresserbrunnen, a giant snacking on the city’s children. Climb the lofty spire connected to the Gothic cathedral, which provides stunning views of the Aare River and the medieval center’s terraced rooftops. Your guide leads you to the Zytglogge, a landmark clock tower built in the early 13th century.

The tower stands 75 feet tall and hosts a remarkable astronomical clock. The clock begins chiming three minutes before the hour with a show consisting of the Fool, the Knight, the Rooster, and the Piper amidst a cast of characters. Stone steps inside the tower ascend to an observation platform. The pendulum swings and keeps the massive gears clicking, offering insight into the steps between the clock’s ticking hands to the movement of the mechanical figures and the rooster’s third crow.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

Basel – Relish the Style of Basel Before a Chocolate Experience

After breakfast, you travel to Basel, a city known for its fabulous concentration of culture with at least one museum per half-square mile. The architecture around Old Town preserves medieval churches, cobblestone streets, and painted facades overlooking whimsical fountains. Six bridges span the Rhine River and connect the two sides of the city. Marktplatz, the main square of the antique city center, hosts the vibrant red façade of the 16th-century Rathaus, the town hall. The city also hosts Baselworld, an International Watch Fair bringing together more than 2,000 exhibitors from over 45 countries and attracting nearly 95,000 visitors from around the world.

The first show opened in 1917 for watch manufacturers and has since grown to include jewelers and companies specializing in precious gems for their connection to the watch industry. Your guide uncovers the secrets of Basel on a remarkable private tour focusing on the city’s captivating artistry. The cathedral crowns a small hill and soars over the surrounding rooftops with painted patterned tiles and marvelous spires. The 18th-century plaza was erected over the ruins of a Roman fortress and leads into the cathedral.

The 14th-century Gothic architecture shimmers with red sandstone taken from the Vosges Mountains. The 12th-century Romanesque stone carvings continue to decorate the doorway of St. Gallus in the north transept. After traversing the streets of the city, you enter a confectionary brimming with the enchanting aroma of chocolate. Few delicacies are more associated with Switzerland than the fine art of chocolate; indulge in the aromas, flavors, and process of crafting the dessert. Your instructor guides you through the processing and refining of the cacao beans within the traditions of the Swiss method to craft creamy, bold, and seductive chocolate on your own before adding specialty flavors or ingredients.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

Black Forest – Travel to Germany to Visit the Home of the Cuckoo Clock

While Germany’s Black Forest is less than 75 miles from Basel, the ambiance after crossing the border between Switzerland and Germany is noticeable, including at breakfast when you find juicy sausages, different cheeses, and boiled eggs, as well as slices of famous Black Forest ham. After the meal, your guide greets you in the lobby and escorts you around the glistening banks of Lake Titisee. The trees fill the air with an herbaceous aroma reminiscent of spiced pine.

Most people know the Black Forest for its sweet treats like Black Forest cake, but the western region in Germany is also the birthplace of the celebrated cuckoo clock. You reach a family-owned artisan shop that has been hand-making cuckoo clocks since the 1860s. The scent of wood shavings fills the workshop. Outlines of past cuckoo clocks and different designs decorate the walls. The handmade quality of the work ensures each clock is distinct. The craftsman happily welcomes you into the workshop and presents the evolution of the gears and different styles of the clock, including the different movements of the interior, offering 30-hour or eight-day clockworks. While some manufacturers have installed quartz battery-power into their clocks, purists continue to use weights made from cast iron in a pinecone shape to move the clock gears.

The cuckoo sound emanates from two tiny pipes with bellows attached, echoing with puffs of air as the timekeeper strikes. The tradition of the clock dates back to the 1620s but has seen modifications over the centuries, including the addition of music boxes. The town of Schonach also possesses the world’s largest cuckoo clock, which chimes twice an hour and possesses 13-foot long pipes. The clock itself is 15 feet long with a cuckoo weighing 330 pounds. The clock was built consistent with traditional models using weights and driven by a pendulum to propel the cuckoo from its resting place. Construction on the clock took five years to complete, ultimately finishing in 1994. Before leaving town, you enter a pastry shop and indulge in the fluffy, smooth texture and decadent flavor of a traditional Black Forest Cherry Cake.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Zurich – Visit Schaffhausen, Rhine Falls and a Premier Watchmaker

In the morning, you leave the succulent flavors of chocolate and cherries in the Black Forest, crossing the border back into Switzerland to the town of Schaffhausen. The town contains elements of German architecture due to its proximity to the border. Bay windows decorate houses colored with pastels. Pedestrianized streets lead to ornate frescoes. The Munot Fortress climbs the hillside above streaks of vineyards.

Your private driver takes you first to the Rhine Falls, the largest waterfalls in Switzerland, located at approximately 2,000 feet above sea level. Nature’s power erupts from the Rhine in the form of white water, mist, and thunderous noise. The viewing platform provides a wonderful view of the cobalt river, thrashing whitewater, and medieval architecture rising along the riverbanks.

You continue to the International Watch Company (IWC) Museum, which opened in 1993 on the 125th anniversary of the company’s founding within the historic headquarters. The first floor of the main building represents the quality of the international luxury brand as shown in the attention to detail, dedication to progress, and commitment to timeless art and functionality. Production now exists in a more spacious factory away from the original headquarters. The museum offers multimedia presentations documenting the history of IWC as well as highlighting the 230 curated items exemplifying the mission and history of the company, including the Portugieser and Portofino collections in the East Wing.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

Zurich – Enjoy the Contemporary Trends and Classic Beauty of Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and embodies the familiar ambiance blending preserved cultural heritage with contemporary life. The Limmat River feeds into the glassy blue waters of Lake Zurich as trams travel down the Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world’s most expensive retail shopping avenues. Zurich’s main downtown street bustles with spouting fountains, public art, and fashionable boutique shops displaying stunning high-end jewelry, coats, bags, and shoes in their window displays. Follow your guide on a fabulous tour through one of Europe’s trendiest destinations.

In Zurich, the past seamlessly blends with the present; old factories have become the heart of contemporary cultural activates and creative spaces. Trees line the quiet street of Lindenhof, erected over the Roman fortified settlement. The Kunsthaus Zürich remains one of Europe’s top art museums with roots connected to an 18th-century society of artists. Post-Impressionists and modern art theories overtake the gallery, along with stunning displays of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and an entire room dedicated to the works of Marc Chagall.

The Fraumünster, the Protestant Church of Our Lady, was originally established as an abbey in the 9th century. The Gothic nave was erected between the 13th and 15th centuries. Your guide leads you beneath the stunning vaulted ceilings and above remains of the ancient crypt to view the five stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. The glass acts like murals, telling five tales consisting of Elijah’s ascent to heaven, Jacob, scenes from the life and times of Jesus, an angel trumpeting the world’s end, and Moses.

The vibrant colors add new dimensions to the stories in addition to the details of the church. In the evening, you indulge in the delicious cuisine at a Zurich staple known as Kronenhalle. The high-top wooden counters develop the ambiance embellished by Picasso and Chagall paintings along the walls. The bar offers 300 different cocktail recipes made with precise measurements of a range of ingredients. The food menu changes daily, offering International tastes with a Swiss twist.

What's Included:

included

Accommodation

included

Tour

included

Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 9

Zurich – Depart for Home

The doors to the Beyer Museum open in the morning, revealing a large collection of watches and clocks from history. The galleries display Swiss clocks with wooden cogs, Nuremberg pendulum clocks, sundials, and also clocks that once used water to measure the passing of time. The aroma of coffee drifts through the doors of Odeon, a café opened in 1911 that proudly served Einstein, Vladimir Lenin, and James Joyce as patrons. Decadent confections fill the window displays at the Sprüngli House, a favorite for locals and visitors interested in sweet treats like bonbons, cakes, and their signature macarons. After breakfast, your private transfer greets you at the hotel and escorts you to Zurich Airport for your flight home, bringing an end to your timeless journey across Switzerland and Germany.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Step inside the world famous tower of Bern’s astronomical clock that inspired Albert Einstein to develop his theory of relativity
  • Experience the Haute Horlogerie workshop and reassemble watches under the guidance of expert clockmakers
  • Relish the artistry of Franck Muller designs that balances contemporary style and time honored heritage of watchmaking at the flagship boutique
  • Inspect the collection of nearly 250 watches displaying elegant, timeless style in the Museum of the International Watch Company
  • Tour the famous Audemars Piguet Museum in Le Brassus and closely observe the focus needed to craft a luxury watch by artisans
  • Delve into the heartland of the Cuckoo Clock in Germany’s Black Forest where the clocks are still handcrafted the same manner since its introduction
  • Visit the world’s largest Cuckoo Clock and listen to its captivating call as it comes to life every 30 minutes
  • Indulge in a hands-on artisan Swiss chocolate experience and taste the layers of flavor and variety of textures
  • Relish luxurious accommodations, private transfers, and exclusive guided tours across Switzerland and Germany
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Detailed Description

The fashionable world of luxury watches has a long and prestigious history in Switzerland. Your personalized tour of Switzerland and Germany’s Black Forest provides you with personal introductions to the extravagant styles and intricate mechanics of Switzerland’s best watchmakers including Franck Muller, Lionel Meylan, and the International Watch Company. Your journey through time focuses on the brilliant and often hidden complexities watchmakers face when designing new styles, from the face to the band. Every detail is deliberately selected, from visible gears to the size of the watch hands. The delicate balance of engineering and art culminates in a work that simultaneously pays homage to the heritage of watchmaking while appealing to contemporary aesthetics.

Your timeless exploration of Switzerland and the Black Forest begins with your arrival in Geneva. The cosmopolitan destination embodies Switzerland’s ability to balance the past with the present with multiple international headquarters juxtaposed with the historic architecture of Old Town. The city also hosts a variety of Franck Muller boutique shops within the borders shared with the lakeshore of France and a narrow strip of land leading deeper into Switzerland. The private workshop of Lionel Meylan celebrates the intersection of design and engineering while paying special attention to how an artisan watchmaker can innovate while paying tribute to their heritage.

The town of La Chaux-de-Fonds reflects the important effect the clock-making industry has had on the town since its inception, from the design of the streets connecting to the former warehouses and factories to the continued traditions of Switzerland’s oldest watchmaking trade school. The different applications of watchmaking take place inside the town, the school, and at the Corum Haute Horlogerie workshop and museum, which offers you an exclusive look at the production of extravagant watches. The capital city of Bern boasts history dating back to a Roman settlement and a city center shining with preserved medieval architecture. A guided tour of the city explores the fascinating artwork in the construction, design, and conservation of the city as well as in the mechanics of the 16th-century clock tower, one of the oldest clocks in the country.

Next. you venture to Basel, which immerses you in a city known for celebrating clockwork, annually hosting the Baselworld International Watch Fair. Enjoy the guidance of a local art expert as she introduces you to the city’s treasures beyond the clocks and watches; celebrate Switzerland’s other famous export on a boutique artisan chocolate cooking course.

Switch gears as you proceed over the border from Switzerland to Germany’s Black Forest, the birthplace of the cuckoo clock. While exploring the beauty of the landscape and hidden charms of the historical towns along the Rhine River, you will meet with an artisan craftsman who produces hand-carved cuckoo clocks, each design and sound unique to the carving. Before leaving the Black Forest, you will sample the famous Black Forest Chocolate Chery Cake and listen to the sounds of the world’s largest cuckoo clock.

The IWC, International Watch Company has a factory in the town of Schaffhausen. Explore the museum and an optional factory tour to view over 200 different watches on display. Explore the cobblestone streets of the city and the medieval ambiance, as well as the thunderous waters of the Rhine Falls before arriving in Zurich. Switzerland’s largest city boasts the complexities of modern luxuries with unspoiled antique architecture. Art emanates from modern and historical designs shining along the streets and in the different museums across the city. Stained-glass windows by Chagall mirror the beauty of the windows designed by the German painter and photographer Sigmar Polke. Cafes fill the streets with the scent of chocolate or coffee and your fascinating trail around Switzerland’s timepieces reaches its end.

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Starting Price

$3145 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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