Have you ever wanted to buy a watch on the roof of the world? Now you can, at more than 3,000 metres in altitude on the Col de Pillon near the chic resort of Gstaad in Switzerland.
You get to the aforementioned Col by means of a cable car, which whisks you perilously up and away into a white winter paradise. The 20-minute ride to the top, gently rocking you over a mountain road and above several snow-capped peaks, is occasionally suspended due to high winds, and isn’t recommended for anyone suffering from vertigo. It doesn’t get much better once you’re up there too, as the first thing you are confronted with is Europe’s only suspension bridge that’s suspended between two mountain peaks. The whole thing is sponsored by Tissot, and at the end of it is what is billed as the highest watch shop in Europe. Quite literally, it takes horological retail therapy to new heights.
You’re left in no doubt that the suspension bridge is only rooted to the ground at each end. It sways like a drunken lambada dancer, but there’s nothing to worry about: it’s a mere couple of hundred metres to the jagged ground below. To tell the truth, you don’t really notice the vertiginous drop as it’s the biting cold that gets to you first. At 3,000 metres, the weather is bitter: especially at your extremities. By the time you have carefully negotiated the narrow bridge and reached the opposite peak with a Swiss flag firmly planted on it, you feel a bit like Sir Edmund Hillary. The air is thin at this altitude; it’s surprising how much you sense the lack of oxygen even after just a little exertion.
It’s a relief to get to Europe’s highest watch shop afterwards, because as well as watches and Swiss souvenirs (including miniature cowbells) it also contains heat. As expected, Tissot dominates the display, with a wide range of models available. But if I had to choose one, it would be the gold Tissot PRX that I would walk off the mountain with, which is very James Bond. You have a good choice of mountains at the Col du Pillon, with the Jungfrau to your left and Mont Blanc to your right. The gold PRX isn’t subtle, but it’s perfectly matched to the classic 1980s vibe of Tissot’s PRX design, which to my mind, is their best yet: offering ageless looks with stunning value. For those looking to make a cheaper mountaintop purchase, there’s also a wide range of Swatches available: including some designs that are exclusive to Switzerland. If you ever wanted to own a watch decorated with images of the Edelweiss – the Swiss national flower, often found high up in the mountains – then this is the place to come.
And it’s not just watches that the locals spend their money on. Back down on earth, the annual Gstaad classic car auction boasted everything from vintage Bentleys to the latest Porsche GT3. Not to mention a Volkswagen Beetle cabriolet and one of the last Citroen 2CVs, because being rich is all about discernment as well as brute spending power. Now, about that gold Tissot…
Anthony Peacock works as a journalist and is the owner of an international communications agency, all of which has helped take him to more than 80 countries across the world.
Photographs by Anthony Peacock