Swiss watchmaker Christian Bédat crisscrosses the globe for inspiration. A peek inside his suitcase reveals what makes him tick.
Who would have thought that a mischievous Swiss DJ could infiltrate the stuffy upper echelons of watchmaking?Christian Bédat abandoned spinning records at age 24 to follow in the footsteps of his watch-designer mother, Simone Bédat. He first collaborated with her at Raymond Weil in Geneva, then worked at a Benetton watch factory, and eventually returned to Weil to lead the design group. Five years ago the mother-and-son team launched Bédat, their own line of luxury timepieces. "All of my watches are inspired by the early part of the last century—the 1920's, 1930's—but they're also contemporary," says Bédat, now 39. "I don't want to make a watch that looks like an antique." Currently one of the top brands in the United States, the label was acquired by the Gucci Group two years ago. Masterminding a global watch company means clocking a lot of time away from home: Bédat takes marathon journeys—from his home in Geneva to New York and then Hong Kong, Paris, and Japan—often scheduling trips back-to-back. "Travel opens my mind to what's going on in the world," he says. Here, more of the peripatetic designer's movements.
INSIDE INFORMATION I like to discover authentic local places—restaurants, stores—when I travel. They're much more fun than the trendy spots. In London a friend just took me to the Library, where I bought great jeans, camouflage pants, and fluorescent-green suede Converse sneakers. It's the same with food; I like the real thing. There's a Chinese dive in New York called First Wok that has no attitude and serves cheap, real Asian cuisine. Of course if I'm in New York, I always stay at the Four Seasons (I ask for the cheapest room every time). The hotel has the best linens in the city. (The comforter was so divine, I bought one and took it back to Geneva with me.) I feel at home there—in fact, I've made it my office. It's centrally located for business, especially for the fashion industry. My philosophy is, when you do something you are passionate about, the work doesn't stop just because you leave the office. I can be on a beach in the Philippines, and suddenly I'll think about a design that's more sporty. If I see everything is a certain color at the Yves Saint Laurent fashion show in Paris, I might look for that shade in leather to make a strap.
LAST RESORTS I love Turtle Island in Fiji; it's where The Blue Lagoon was filmed. It's almost $1,500 a night, but everything is included: you want three bottles of Moët & Chandon every day and lobster for each meal, you get it. The staff come to you in a little boat, carrying your basket of food and a walkie-talkie, saying, "If you need anything else, you let us know." But as much as I adore Turtle Island, I have not yet found a resort that I like better than Amanpulo in the Philippines. The island is about three miles long, an hour's walk from end to end. There are just 40 casitas—you have your own golf cart, your own freshwater pool.
FOOD (AND WINE) FETISH I go to Las Vegas every year for work, and I love to sneak out to eat at Noodles, a restaurant at the Bellagio. All my staff is busy, but I get in a taxi and say, "This is noodle time." Seriously, though, I've learned to appreciate wine over the past several years, and I love trying new vintages when I'm abroad. During a nine-course lunch at Jean Georges in New York, I recently sampled five or six different wines; one of them, a Vouvray, was incredible. It smelled like saffron.
BODY BASICS When I'm on holiday, I like going to a spa and getting la totale: a facial, a massage—everything but nail polish. The best treatment ever is at the Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa, in the Maldives. During the massage, you look down at a crystal bowl full of tropical fish. As far as staying in shape goes, I try to go to the hotel fitness center wherever I stay. The Delano in Miami Beach has every piece of equipment imaginable. In Milan, the Hotel Principe di Savoia's 10th-floor gym is fantastic—it's big, with great music and a nice view of Milan, from the Duomo all the way to the mountains. I work out in my Prada Sport shoes, which I also wear to meetings, with jeans and a jacket.
SWISS BLISS When I'm not traveling for work, I love spending time at my vacation home—a chalet in Villar, Switzerland. All my friends live in Gstaad, but I wanted my children (I have four kids, ages 1 to 12) to be in a place that's quieter and more family-oriented. We go every weekend in the winter and one or two weeks in the summer. The rest of the time, we're in Geneva. My favorite restaurant there is Contre Jour; it's so stylish.
CHILD'S PLAY Children need places where they can make noise. Every summer we return to Forte dei Marmi in Italy—it's kind of the Hamptons of Florence. We rent bikes and go to the beach. At night there are games in the main square for kids. And I always bring back presents. Whenever I'm in the States, I stock up on Gap Kids. I always shop during my last day in town: I buy two or three duffel bags to fill up, then head straight to the airport and check the bags.
TRAVELING LIGHT: BÉDAT ON PACKING
• WHAT HE'S CARRYING I prefer a suitcase that opens in the middle, and I never check my personal luggage—so it must be small. If the bag is too big, everything's a mess when you open it. I usually carry on a soft Gucci satchel or a leather Louis Vuitton case without wheels. (There's no class to a bag with wheels, no matter how many LV 's it has on it.)
• NEVER LEAVES HOME WITHOUT. . . Of course, I take a watch. I collect many types but I wear only my own designs; right now, it's the new No. 7. But I sometimes come home without it, because I've given it away.
• TOYS I'm never without my cell phones (yes, that's phones, plural). One is a Sony Ericsson—the coolest phone—and my Nokia Communicator, which holds my schedule. I bring a DoCoMo phone when I go to Japan.
• MORE TOYS I check my e-mail all the time, so I pack my little Sony Vaio laptop. I have to confess I always bring computer Scrabble on my trips. I love it because you never play the same round twice. My new favorite game is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I've won three times; a check for a million dollars with your name on it flashes on the screen.
• THE EXTRAS As for toiletries, I love Issey Miyake cologne; I've worn it for years. Rembrandt whitening toothpaste is the best. And I prefer Aveda hair gel, but I don't bring a comb or brush. I just use my hand.
• PRESSING MATTERS Because I bring so little, I always have all my clothes cleaned and pressed. Often, when I return home, I have no dirty laundry. I bring only things I love—and need.