Earlier this week, I had a class field trip to Lausanne to visit Audemars Piguet watch manufacturing factory. It was my first time in Switzerland and a very short trip (less than 24 hours), but it was such an honor to actually visit one of the premier watch manufacturers.
My classmates and I had an authentic fondue dinner at Café de L’Évêché. As soon as you stepped into the restaurant, your olfactory senses were overwhelmed with the distinct smell of stinky cheese. Despite the way it smelled, it was delicious (and extremely filling) and so nice to have real fondue with unpasteurized cheese (an impossible feat in the United States). I desperately needed some meat to balance out all the cheese, bread and potatoes. My friend and I split a ribeye steak, which was also perfectly seasoned Florentine style– just salt and pepper. If you only have one night in Lausanne, I would definitely recommend Café de L’Évêché for a reasonably priced dinner.
The next morning we drove to the Vallée de Joux, which was a real treat for me because I felt like I was visiting a historical site. Earlier in the school year, I had written a 25-page research paper on the luxury watch industry so I learned all about the history of Swiss watches. The Vallée de Joux is up in the Jura mountains and is the birthplace of Swiss horology. The original inhabitants were mostly farmers, who tended to their crops and livestock. In the 19th century, during the harsh winter months, these farmers were cut off from civilization and stuck indoors. Due to their religion, staunch Protestantism, idleness was frowned upon. In the winter, men worked on wooden puzzles and toys. Over time, their handiwork would focus on clock mechanisms and finally, watches. When spring arrived, they would travel back into the main towns to sell their work.
I was not allowed to take photos inside the factory, but it was incredible to watch these experts work with such tiny pieces of metal to form beautiful timepieces. All day, they have to look through a magnifying glass to do their work. I feel like I’d go blind after a day. Some of the high-end watches require 1,000 man-hours! On top of visiting the factory, we also got a private meeting with the CEO of Audemars Piguet, Francois-Henry Bennahmias. It has been incredible the type of access to luxury we’ve received by being students of ESSEC’s MBA in International Luxury Brand Management.
I can not wait to visit Switzerland again. Even though my time was short, I was completely captivated by the charm of Lausanne and how beautiful it is. There is still so much of the country that I want to see and hope that I have a chance to visit Zurich, Geneva or Lugano soon.