Hotel des Horlogers Fassade

The new Hôtel des Horlogers in check: a weekend in the Vallée de Joux

Until now, the Swiss Jura has not been a mecca for fans of contemporary hotel buildings with international appeal. This is likely to change with this year’s opening of the Hôtel des Horlogers in the Vallée de Joux. A building with a wow effect that makes design-savvy people go into raptures. And which also offers a really stylish base for a break in this mystical high valley.

We took a close look at the newly opened hotel and at the same time took the opportunity to explore the wonderful nature of the Vallée de Joux on foot and by bike.

Neues Hideaway im Vallée de Joux

Wedged between two Jura chains, the Vallée de Joux with the lake of the same name forms a tranquil high valley at first glance. But don’t let that fool you. For around three centuries, the Vallée de Joux has been considered a stronghold of watchmaking. Audemars Piguet is one of the numerous well-known luxury watch brands that still have their headquarters here today. In 1875, two young and ambitious watchmakers, Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet, set up a workshop in their home village of Le Brassus.

Today, the architectural ensemble of the Audemars Piguet headquarters offers not only an insight into the filigree craftsmanship, but also a cross-section of the company’s history. After the opening of the spiral Musée Atelier in 2020, another milestone was reached this year with the completion of the Hôtel des Horlogers (as a replacement building for the Hôtel de France, founded in 1857). Both futuristic-looking buildings are designs by the Danish Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which were implemented in collaboration with the Swiss architectural firm CCHE.

For both BIG and the French interior design firm AUM, the landscape of the Vallée de Joux served as inspiration for the concept designs. For example, local spruce wood was used, which was combined with exposed concrete and large window fronts. The most exciting thing is probably the zigzagging structure that follows the course of the terrain. Inside, and especially in the rooms, the accents have been placed in a restrained way. The main protagonist here is the wonderfully unobstructed view over the meadows to the over hundred-year-old spruces of the Risoud forest.

Hotel des Horlogers Entrance
Hôtel des Horlogers Lobby
Hotel des Horlogers Zimmer

A pretty perfect day in the Vallée de Joux

The first impression is promising. With the Hôtel des Horlogers as a base, you can experience both relaxing and sporty days in the Vallée de Joux. We hadn’t made any big plans for excursions in the run-up to our stay. “Let’s see what the weather is going to be like,” is our motto. This one meant well for us. After a wonderfully quiet night, we wake up with a view of thick clouds of fog. Beautiful!

Le Brassus Morgenstimmung

7:00 a.m. Forest bathing at the Grand Risoud

This impressive atmosphere lures us out of bed earlier than expected and we used the morning hours for a short round through the Grand Risoud. The Grand Risoud stretches for 15 kilometres between the northwest side of the Vallée de Joux and forms the natural border with France. For a long time, the Grand Risoud was an almost impenetrable wilderness. Its fabled image has endured to this day.

From the Hôtel des Horlogers, follow the footpath through the centre of Le Brassus towards La Combe. At the hamlet of Tribillet, you can either take the ascent towards Les Grandes Roches on the left or continue straight ahead following the typical Jura pastures to La Thomassette and from there enter the depths of the forest.

If you are in the mood for more than “just” a short morning walk through the forest, you can follow the forest paths to the French border at the Refuge Rendez-Vous des Sages and from there hike back to Le Brassus via Refuge la Marocaine and Le Sentier. This 18 km circular hike takes around 5 hours.

Vallée de Joux Landschaft
Juraweiden Vallée de Joux

10:00 a.m. Breakfast Happiness

The early morning trip to the Grand Risoud is grounding and makes you hungry at the same time. It’s high time for a refreshment! The breakfast buffet is served in the cosy atmosphere of the Hôtel des Horlogers’ main restaurant, Brasserie le Gogant. The breakfast buffet includes everything I could wish for, from crispy croissants to cheese and scrambled eggs to healthy, green smoothies. I was particularly impressed by the use of regional products, including the teas from the nearby Grünenfelder organic herb farm.

11:00 a.m. Bike tour around the Lac de Joux

The Vallée de Joux is criss-crossed by various cycling and biking routes and can be explored very well by bike. The Hôtel des Horlogers is aware of this and therefore offers its guests a selection of e-bikes. We decide to take a tour around the Lac de Joux and follow the signposted route 7 (Jura route) in the direction of Les Charbonnières in the first section. For the section between Le Lieu and Les Charbonnières, we branch off onto the Jura Bike. A good decision – on this section we meet a few chamois, which are not at all disturbed by our appearance and continue to graze unimpressed.

Velotour Vallée de Joux

In Pont we make a stop at the restaurant Les Combières. The restaurant is one of the two breweries located in the valley, whose beers can also be found on the drinks menu of the Hôtel des Horlogers. A lunch stop that is worth it. The place is usually very busy (there are also many locals among the guests, which is always a good sign).

From Le Pont we follow the road with little traffic to L’Abbaye (this section is not marked as a cycle path). From L’Abbaye, take the “Mont Tendre Bike” route back to Le Sentier/Le Brassus. You can find the route on the map below. We were on the road for almost four hours, including a stop for refreshments.

Lac de Joux

Ps. for ambitious female bikers, the 30 km long Grand Risoud Bike as well as the full Mont Tendre Bike circuit offer even sportier alternatives.

15:00 Relax at the Spa by Alpeor

Back at the hotel, the next highlight is already on the agenda: I enjoy a 45-minute massage in the Spa by Alpeor, which belongs to the hotel. What a treat! In addition to classic massages, various facial treatments and wellness rituals with high-quality Alpeor products are also offered.

In addition, the Spa by Alpeor also includes a small wellness area with sauna, steam bath, emotional showers and relaxation room. All this in a fairly compact space. For this reason, I would not call the Hôtel des Horlogers a “wellness hotel”. Rather, the spa rounds off the overall experience.

Hotel des Horlogers Design
Hotel des Horlogers Brassus

18:00 Local drinks

What you should not miss during a visit to the Hôtel des Horlogers is the detour to the bar. As in the brasserie, the oyster-shaped lamps are striking eye-catchers. The contrast can be found in the drinks menu. This is positively down-to-earth and we are pleased that we find both the locally brewed beers and signature drinks based on local spirits of the Distillerie du Risoux in it. My tip: Try the risoud tonic.

19:00 Dining at Brasserie Le Gogant

After the aperitif is before dinner. And here it should be said in advance that we came to the Hôtel des Horlogers with high expectations. Finally, as a guest, you are made aware at various points that the French 3-star chef Emmanuel Renaut was involved in the development of the kitchen concept. In addition to Brasserie Le Gogant, it is also planned that a small fine dining restaurant called “La Table des Horlogers” will open in the future.

The brasserie menu includes a compact selection of around five seasonal starters and main courses, as well as four desserts (including a cheese dessert). That’s exactly what we want. I don’t think there’s anything worse than having to work my way through a multi-page menu first. So far, so good – at least for one evening. From the point of view of a guest who spends two nights at the Hôtel des Horlogers (and is not a meat or fish lover per se), it should also be noted that (at least as long as the Table des Horlogers is not yet in operation) the offer of an additional dish of the day would be worth considering. Our conclusion: there is definitely room for improvement.

Brasserie le Gognant

But when it comes to culinary delights, we are certainly also discerning guests. Apart from that, the Hôtel des Horlogers was able to live up to our expectations. And let’s be honest: the Vallée de Joux has definitely lacked such a stylish retreat until now.

Practical tips for your stay at the Hôtel des Horlogers

  • Accommodation prices at Hôtel des Horlogers vary depending on the season and day of the week. An overnight stay in a double room costs from 375 CHF including breakfast.
  • The spa is open daily. Due to limited space, access is by appointment. The cost of massages and treatments starts at 130 CHF.
  • If you want to make sure you have a table at Brasserie le Gogant in the evening, it is best to note this directly when reserving your room.
  • While hiking and cycling are in the foreground in summer, the Vallée de Joux is a veritable cross-country skiing paradise in winter. More than 220 km of cross-country ski trails are practically right on your doorstep.
  • In rainy weather, it’s worth taking a detour to the “Espace Horloger” watch museum in Le Sentier.
  • Every year at the end of September, the Fête de Vacherin attracts fans of the unique Vacherin Mont-d’Or from near and far to the Vallée de Joux.
  • You can also find more tips on the Vallée de Joux and impressions of the Fête de Vacherin in this slightly older blog post.

Please note: this stay was supported by the Hôtel des Horlogers. All impressions and opinions are, as always, ours.

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