From Piz Gloria in OHMSS to James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 and the Furka Pass. Check out our guide to Bond in Switzerland...
Sean Connery’s James Bond 007 leans nonchalantly against the svelte flank of his Aston Martin DB5 on the Goldfinger DVD cover. It’s one of the iconic Bond poses and the 1964 movie is one of several 007 adventures filmed in Switzerland. Two feature the country particularly prominently in their stories. Others, including From Russia with Love and GoldenEye are associated with Switzerland more obliquely. In the former it’s by reference to Bond’s journey through the Alps aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. In GoldenEye it’s because one of Switzerland’s tallest dams stands in for a Soviet chemical weapons facility – and delivers the most impressive stunt in Bond-movie history...
Swiss Bond film locations
For Bond fans and lovers of stunning Alpine scenery alike, compact little Switzerland makes it easy to visit several of the franchise’s most famous filming locations in the course of a few days’ spectacular road-tripping. Starting with the breathtaking panoramic views of the Bernese Alps (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), it’s a short drive to Canton Uri’s Furka Pass and Andermatt (Goldfinger) before continuing down the Ticino valley to GoldenEye’s Contra Dam filming location.
Bond and Switzerland – always closely linked
Bond and Switzerland have always been inextricably linked. As Andrew Lycett’s extremely readable biography describes, Ian Fleming regularly visited Switzerland before writing the Bond novels. No surprise then that he made Bond the product of a Scottish-Swiss marriage and featured the alpine republic so prominently in 007’s adventures – complete with occasional references to Bond’s Rolex, no doubt inspired by his own Rolex Explorer Ref. 1016.
As Jason Heaton discovered on his post-Baselworld 2019 excursion, it’s not far from Geneva, Basel or Zürich to Piz Gloria’s revolving restaurant, atop the 2970-m Schilthorn high above Mürren. If time allows, try to include a stay at one of Mürren’s quintessentially Bernese mountain hotels – maybe the village’s Hotel Jungfrau or the Palace Hotel used by the OHMSS crew during 1969’s filming. Car-free Mürren, perched on the precipitous ledge above the deep U-shaped Lauterbrunnen Valley, is renowned for its amazing views of the nearby Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau – from experience, best appreciated after hours when the day-tripping crowds have left for the valley…
Journey to Piz Gloria
In 1963’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, perhaps inspired by a 1924 trip to the Engadine, Fleming set Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s mountaintop lair above Pontresina. However, having just been constructed when the OHMSS team was scouting locations, the Schilthorn’s Piz Gloria could have been purpose-built for a Bond movie. Just as described in the novel, it’s a remote mountaintop location that’s only accessible by cable car or helicopter. Now, 50 years on, Piz Gloria (complete with revolving restaurant and interactive ‘Bond World’) is a top 007 attraction.
With plans for the CHF 90 million Project Schilthorn 20XX to replace the existing cable car, now’s the time to experience the four-stage ascent while it’s still pretty much as it was in 1969. That’s when George Lazenby, making his only appearance on the 007 walk of fame, sported his Rolex Submariner Ref. 5513 as James Bond (mission name ‘Sir Hilary Bray’). Early in the film, look out too for the Rolex pre-Daytona chronograph Ref. 6238 that Lazenby sports. Interestingly, in the novel, Fleming only refers to Bond wearing a Rolex Oyster Perpetual on an expanding metal bracelet. Ultimately, Bond uses the watch as a knuckleduster while escaping from Blofeld’s eerie.
Making On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
To learn about filming On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, read Charles Helfenstein’s fascinating book. Then watch the DVD and marvel at Peter Hunt’s cinematic interpretation of the tenth Bond novel at locations including Piz Gloria, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald and the Susten Pass road. In the movie, the Susten was where a snowplough, a dead sheep and lots of red colouring delivered the spectacularly gory demise of yet another Bond pursuer. Incidentally, it’s the same road where, four-years later, David Janssen and Senta Berga raced ‘his and hers’ Ferrari Daytonas in The Swiss Conspiracy.
In pursuit of Auric Goldfinger
OHMSS had just been published when the movie of Fleming’s seventh James Bond adventure was being planned. Read Goldfinger and you’ll find that much of the book’s Swiss action is set in Fleming’s real-life haunt of Coppet on Lake Geneva. However, in the movie, extensive filming took place in central Switzerland as Bond, in his unmistakeable silver-birch Aston Martin DB5, follows Goldfinger and Tilly Masterson over the Furka Pass. Only 25 silver-birch DB5s were manufactured, with Bond’s (BMT 216A) becoming one of the most-iconic film cars ever. Along with 13 Harold Radford-built DB5 shooting brakes, the 007 DB5s are among the rarest of all Astons. And with 2019’s DB5 record-breaking $6.4m (£5.2m) auction sale, the most valuable too.
Having descended from the Furka Pass into the beautiful Urserental, the film’s journey continues to the famous (sadly demolished in the 1980s, though the associated hotel remains) Aurora Tankstelle. Then it progresses to Goldfinger’s gold smelter (actually the Pilatus aircraft factory at Stans, near Luzern) where Bond spies on his quarry. However, having established Bond’s presence at the smelting works, the ensuing chase, ejector-seat and DB5-crash sequences were filmed at Pinewood Studios…
It’s easy to visit the Swiss Goldfinger locations
Since 1964, the sinuous Furka Pass road has been improved considerably – but by no means beyond recognition. Once-sleepy Andermatt has also been transformed from the 1960 bucolic alpine idyll of the 1960s into Sammy Sawiris’s modern Andermatt Swiss Alps resort. Yet, it’s still easy to visit locations such as the famous 49-kilometre post where Bond observed Goldfinger’s party and would-be assassin Tilly Masterson. Or the arrow-straight Furkastrasse (Cantonal Road 19) between Realp and Zumdorf where the DB5’s tyre shredder put Masterson’s Ford Mustang convertible into the ditch.
The definitive James Bond watch?
For more about making Goldfinger, and many more fascinating insights into James Bond’s Swiss connections, brush off your school German and check out James Bond und die Schweiz by Michael Marti and Peter Wälty. Even if you don’t speak German, the pictures alone are worth a look – the colour spread of the DB5 entering Andermatt’s Aurora filling station is a gem… Then watch the movie again and spot Connery’s iconic Rolex Submariner Ref. 6538 on its multi-coloured fabric band. The definitive Bond watch?
South to Canton Ticino
From the Bernese Oberland, it’s an easy day’s run (including plenty of time for sightseeing stops) to Andermatt via Meiringen, the Grimsel Pass, Oberwald and the 2429m Furka. Andermatt is packed with accommodation, ranging from the lowly Hotel Bergidyll on Gotthardstrasse (where EON’s Goldfinger crew lodged and Connery had Room 21) to the super-luxury Chedi at the heart of Sawiris’s resort empire. Then you’re back on the road and heading south to Locarno to visit the Contra Dam where 1995’s GoldenEye title sequence was filmed.
The Contra Dam jump – the best movie stunt ever?
As with the opening sequence to 1985’s A View to A Kill (Vadretta di Scerscen in south-east Switzerland) the Contra Dam stood in for another non-Swiss location the fictional Arkhangelsk Chemical Weapons Facility – in GoldenEye.
Located in the Verzasca valley near Locarno, the impressive Giovanni Lombardi-designed dam is a short drive out of town. Feeling adventurous? How about emulating one of cinema’s best stunts with a 220m (720 ft) bungee jump – one of the world’s highest – from the dam’s crest …
For gentler recreation, check out Antoinette Schwab’s Dreh-Ort: Wandern in Schweizer Filmkulissen for a great walk to the dam. Then, if you’re like me, ask yourself why, given the book’s Goldfinger cover image of Connery and the DB5, the opportunity was missed to include one of the great walks near Andermatt and the Furka Pass. Like the true colour of that watch band on Connery’s Rolex, it’s a mystery!
Plan your own ‘Bond in Switzerland’ trip
From Ian Fleming’s early travels to writing the Bond novels and making 25 Bond movies (26 including the original Casino Royale), Switzerland’s been inextricably linked with 007’s creator and his hero.
As a slew of online articles and books prove, and with Bond 25: No Time to Die due for release in 2020, interest in James Bond and Switzerland has never been greater. Do you wear a genuine Bond Rolex? Is your favourite Seiko beater watch on a Geckota Bond nylon strap? If you love Bond and the Swiss Alps, making your own James Bond in Switzerland road-trip should be a must-do mission.