Sunday, September 27, 2015

Watches, Soccer, Basketball, Chateaus Around Geneva, Switzerland

It's 35 miles from Lausanne (where I live) to Geneva. I used to cycle the 70 mile round trip but wasn't able to spend much time in Geneva because by the time I arrived it was time to head back, Now, I hop on a train and cycle back from Geneva.

Residential property in Geneva is very expensive--some of the most expensive in the world--especially if it overlooks or fronts Lake Geneva.  My past couple of visits to Geneva involved trying to find the estate of Saudi Arabia's king. The king usually makes a summer visit to Geneva and arrives with not one but, two 747 Boeing aircraft--with him in the first plane and his 400 servants in the second. Several years ago a newspaper published an aerial view of the property and I've narrowed down the area but, it isn't easy. Why? Besides Geneva being a financial center it's also home to dozens and dozens of world organizations such as the World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, International Red Cross and quite a few United Nations agencies.  Though Bern is Switzerland's capital and countries have embassies there--most countries also have embassies/missions here because of the UN presence. In this area stands a very large USA complex called the "Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva". The countryside around this area of Geneva is beautiful with heavily wooded forests, narrow winding roads and picturesque vineyards and tall walls surrounding huge estates with lots of security. Quite a few countries have large properties in this area--though not as large as the USA's. The area reminds me of cycling around the countryside of Greenwich, CT or Rancho Santa Fe, California.

Anyway, to give you an idea of the area the picture above is one of the entrances to the Rothschild estate (banking).
This wrought iron gate is the main entrance to the Rothschild estate. I'm heading back to Lausanne after again failing to find the Saudi king's home.
Over the summers of 2003 and 2004 I visited the head offices of more than 100 Swiss watch companies. In 2002 I visited Franck Muller Watchland and remembered the fantastic setting. It's just by accident I happen to cycle past the place today and am curious to see what's changed. The above picture is the original building on the property,  an 80,000 square foot, three-story neo-gothic 19th century building referred to as the "Manor".

Going around the backside of the manor you have this fantastic view toward Lake Geneva (don't forget if you click on any picture they'll enlarge). See the building (150,000 square feet) on the left side--there's a similar building on the right side but I couldn't get 'em both in the same photo. This is where watches are assembled.

 A view back to the "Manor". That green structure is new since my last visit.
This is a huge construction hole. See the name "Franck Muller" in big letters in the distance? That chateau behind the letters is also part of the property. In fact, the site covers 40 acres and the whole complex goes by the name Watchland. Started in 1991, founder & still boss Franck Muller hasn't done too bad--with sales of almost $300 million and over 400 employees. The average price of one of his timepieces;  $38,000.
A big billboard next to the country manor showing some of the watch brands Franck Muller owns.  To tell you the truth, after learning about the astronomical prices of property in the area I'm more impressed with Muller's business acumen in snapping up this estate back in 1994.
After leaving Watchland I'm just cycling around having a fun time and stumble upon this place.  Richemont, with over $11 billion in revenues, is the world's second largest luxury goods company (after LVMH). Cartier, Dunhill, Montblanc, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Alfred Dunhill and IWC are just some of the company's brands they own. I visited their head office twice--once in 1996 when they were headquartered in Zug, Switzerland and in 2003 when they were headquartered in downtown Geneva--both times I received an excellent reception. I had visited watchmaker Baume & Mercier years ago when their offices were near downtown Geneva.

Is this Richemont's new head office? It's Sunday and the only one around is the security guard who I converse via an intercom at a tall metal gate. He tells me nothing--probably because he knows nothing. *When arriving home I Google "Richemont" I find out this IS the new head office but, there's so much forest around I can't see how many buildings are here. Thanks to Google satellite map it looks like a campus-like setting with four buildings.
Switzerland is known for not being flashy so this big gaudy sign next to the highway from Geneva to Lausanne is out of the norm.  FIBA stands for Federation International Basketball Association.
The 60,000 square foot FIBA building was built in 2013 at a cost of $35 million. Pricey digs for an association of 215 members.
Only a few doors down from FIBA another association is building fancy new offices---FIM; Federation International Motorcycles.
 This privaterly-owned chateau in Coppet is closed today but, thought I'd snap a photo.
 Chateau de Coppet inside the gate.
I'm near Nyon, about 15 miles from Geneva. You can't see much in this photo as the structure fronts the lakefront. I'm not sure how many levels it has but, remember I told you lakefront property is very expensive? Well, guess who has their snazzy offices here. Ever heard of UEFA? It's the Union of European Football Association. UEFA is the governing body for soccer in Europe. Only 54 members belong to the union however, revenues for UEFA totaled $1.7 billion in 2014.
 This building is also part of UEFA and sits right across the road from the lakefront site.
 Nyon, population 20,000, front Lake Geneva. See the white castle up on the hill?
 Closer view of Nyon's castle.
 Front entrance to Nyon's castle.
Water fountain with mural on the wall in Nyon's old town area.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a watch nut and stumbled across your blog. It may be one of the biggest collections of watch factory photos on the web! It helped me locate factories I couldn't find elsewhere! Good job! Do you know if Raymond Weil's Geneva bldg. is just offices? I heard their new 88 Rue du Rhone brand (a coffee kiosk) is made in by another company in La Chaux-De-Fonds, so that's probably where RW is made too.