Taking a watch from your own company to Switzerland feels a bit like taking your own sandwiches to a Michelin-starred restaurant: somehow not quite the done thing. But if you’re curious to see what the renowned chef thinks about your sandwich-making skills or are just wondering if they taste any different in the plushest of dining rooms, it begins to make a kind of sense. Especially if you’re not sure that you would be able to pay the bill in the top class restaurant in any case.
Gstaad, Switzerland - Image credit: WatchGecko
In a first world problem that Prince Harry would be proud of, you may have seen that there’s not been much snow in most European ski resorts over the winter. So, in order to take Geckota’s Sea Hunter to the top of the world in the heart of the country best-known for watchmaking, it was clear that we were going to have to aim high. More than 3000 metres high in fact, on the Col de Pillon near the chic resort of Gstaad in Switzerland.
Geckota Sea Hunter with "Pepsi" bezel - Image credit: WatchGecko
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.
Geckota Sea Hunter on the edge.... Image credit: WatchGecko
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 3000 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.
Europe's Highest Watch Shop - Image Credit: WatchGecko
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 PRX that I would walk off the mountain with. 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. The phenomenal commercial success of this watch shows that the market tends to agree, and it’s largely down to the popularity of models such as the PRX that innovative sponsorships like this one are even possible. The steel PRX chronograph is another watch that I would love to own, but 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.
Europe's Highest Watch Shop - Image Credit: WatchGecko
But what of the watch I had brought with me? The Geckota SeaHunter, priced at £499, has been on sale for more than three years now in its present guise, and is enjoying something of a renaissance. It’s a classically proportioned steel drive watch powered by a PT5000 automatic movement, and the example I took to Switzerland featured an equally classical ‘Pepsi’ bezel. At 40mm it’s easy to read without being too imposing, and one of the most pleasing features about it is the chunky steel bracelet, which feels reassuringly expensive to wear.
It’s designed for the bottom of the sea (with 200 metres of water resistance) rather than the top of a mountain, but wherever it went throughout Switzerland it didn’t feel out of place – and that applies just as much to the level of detail and quality. I showed it to a number of experts throughout my travels (including the man selling Tissots in the world’s highest watch shop) and they all agreed that it offered plenty of perceived value in a compelling package. It’s a watch that I’ve got so used to wearing that I almost take it for granted, but it often takes the perspective of other people to make you see things in a different light.
Geckota Sea Hunter - Image credit: WatchGecko
Even in the bright lights of Gstaad - a billionaire’s playground frequented by Bernie Ecclestone among others – the SeaHunter held its own among the Rolexes and Audemars-Piguets that are par for this particular course. And it’s not just watches that the locals spend their money on: the SeaHunter accompanied me to the annual Gstaad classic car auction, which 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. Maybe that’s why the SeaHunter went down so well: it’s a watch of taste rather than out-and-out wealth. I found it to be a great travelling companion that worked well on every occasion. Now, about that gold PRX…