Having broken new ground with the Audemars Piguet Museum in Le Brassus, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) doubles down on its bold intervention into Switzerland’s Vallée de Joux with a neighbouring property, the recently completed Hôtel des Horlogers. Once again realised by Swiss practice CCHE, the new, Audemars Piguet-owned building conforms to the disruptive nature of the museum that sits beside it.
However, unlike the exhibition space, which vividly charts the area’s horological history with the strategic use of a spiral structure inspired by a watch’s hairspring, the hotel takes advantage of the topography to present itself as a series of zigzagging ridges declining gently towards the valley floor, internally reflected in an equally dramatic passageway that runs the length of the building connecting its five floors.
The effect is to reduce the building’s exposure to the Rue de France, on which Audemars Piguet’s historic atelier sits, while offering each of its 50 rooms unobstructed views of the Vallée de Joux – a centre of Swiss watchmaking and the home of Audemars Piguet since its founding in Le Brassus in 1875. The famed producer of the Royal Oak watch (which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year) purchased the site in 2003 with a view to refurbishing a historic lodging rebuilt in 1984, for the benefit of the entire region. However, following a full brand review in 2011, aimed at restating the company’s values around origin and craft, and in step with the growing demand for more eco-friendly accommodation, the decision was taken to replace it with a new building compliant with the stringent Swiss Minergie-ECO certification.
The result, besides being strikingly atypical in its design, is a hotel that more than meets the requirements of a 21st-century traveller. Manifested in its scrupulous attention to detail is a determination to minimise energy consumption and waste: hot water and heating is provided by a local wood-based heating network, boosted by 126 photovoltaic panels and the recycling of its bio waste. Furthering its goal to become plastic-free, in-room amenities include biodegradable slippers and eco-friendly pencils (rather than pens). Meanwhile, the spa offers 100 per cent Swiss-made Alpeor products made using plants and flowers from the Vallée de Joux and the Valais region.
Elsewhere, a bar that doubles as a social hub for locals offers Swiss-made beers and spirits served under imposing light fittings inspired by the large rock formations that populate the valley, while upwards of 70 per cent of the ingredients used in the hotel’s two restaurants, Le Gogant and La Table des Horlogers (both overseen by three-Michelin-starred French chef Emmanuel Renaut), are sourced locally. In this way, the interior design by AUM reflects the hotel’s fealty to both the area’s surroundings and its culture.
Majoring on stone and wood, guest rooms are spare rather than spartan, while the lobby blends local spruce surfaces and smooth concrete with a dramatic stand of bleached-white trees that appear planted in the ceiling, a nod to the Risoud Forest, which lines the valley. Beneath them, a raised seating area offers a library of books dedicated to the history of watchmaking, further linking the property to the region’s crucial role in the development of high-end mechanical watchmaking.
In the same spirit, the hotel – which a few months after breaking ground in 2018 was awarded the Leisure Led Development Future Project Award at the World Architecture Festival – provides watchmaking tours, including visits to nearby manufactures such as Jaeger-LeCoultre. Clearly, for Audemars Piguet, reimagining a village landmark is a chance to show its commitment to the entire region, as well as the watchmakers who have placed it on the world map.
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