If they weren’t so incredibly reserved, they could fill countless newspaper columns, even entire bookshelves: Ronald and Peter Neufeld lease out three dozen properties in Zurich, primarily in Districts 3 and 4. They operate five hotels in three cities, one of which is located in Turkey. Sometimes, they choose a more adventurous path, like taking over a bottling plant in the Czech Republic or installing a roller coaster in Siberia. And they laugh about the fact that this or that project was worth it for the experience alone. René Beyer on the Neufelds: “I don’t know anyone more modest – or more honest.” Today, however, we are taking a trip to what is by far the quietest branch of the Neufeld’s imperium: Zurich’s “other” clock
and watch museum. It’s called the Uhrenmuseum zum Rösli because it is located on Röslistrasse in District 6. It was recently lovingly restored. Hardly worth mentioning for Ronald and Peter Neufeld, who, as always, do big things, but choose not to talk about them. However, they were rather pleased when René Beyer asked them if they would be interested in participating in an “encounter” for beyond. After all, a) they are friends of René’s, b) they live nearby, and c) it seems nothing is more important to the Neufeld brothers than the legacy of their father, Hans.
“WE’VE EATEN EVERY LUNCH TOGETHER AT THE SAME PLACE FOR 40 YEARS.”
And this includes the Uhrenmuseum zum Rösli, which was established with a great deal of passion and the support of a kindred spirit, Marta Gisler. Peter and Ronald Neufeld collect René Beyer at Beyer Chronometrie. A gold 1972 Chevrolet Beauville is waiting around the corner. As a passionate operator of a rental company for American classic cars, the Neufelds took the opportunity to bring their golden treasure out of the garage. Their collection also includes a patrol car, a hearse and a school bus.
And all of them have more than a few signs of wear and tear. After all, the vehicles are intended to serve as realistic elements of the ads and films in which they appear in order to transport the viewer back in time. The cars are also available for stunts, although the Neufelds prefer to film those scenes themselves. The bus stops in front of a neat little house with a small garden. This is Marta Gisler’s childhood home where she lived until her death in 2017. Her father purchased it as a school house and taught lessons there. But his free time was devoted to watchmaking – a hobby that he practiced in the attic – and growing the clock and watch collection that his daughter would one day continue. Visitors today can still see his workbench in its original condition under the pitched roof.
MARTA GISLER’S HOME
Armon Defilla, the museum’s curator and restorer, is already waiting in the doorway to greet the guests and guide them into the first floor. The wooden floor boards creak pleasantly underfoot. René Beyer is impressed – not only by the collection of clocks and watches, but also by the authenticity of the building and its irregular floor. “It feels like you’re standing on the deck of a ship,” he says. Armon Defilla explains: “Marta Gisler lived here on this upper floor – with all the
comforts of the 19th century – until four years ago. Central heating was not installed until after her death.” Marta Gisler primarily collected clocks and watches that were made in Switzerland across all eras, while Hans Neufeld mainly concentrated on international clocks from the Renaissance period. Sadly, he did not live to see the opening of the museum in 2005. He passed away shortly before, surrounded by his clocks.
FROM REAL ESTATE TO ROLLER COASTERS
In addition to the real estate imperium he founded, Hans Neufeld was also interested in unusual investments, as Peter Neufeld tells us, chuckling: “One time, he was sitting next to a lady from Vienna on a flight and she told him about her roller coaster in the Prater.” Their father was so impressed that he pulled out all the stops in order to lease a plot of land there. And this is how the Neufeld brothers ended up today as operators of the Megablitz roller coaster and a go-kart circuit in the Prater. René Beyer wants to know: “Which one of you is responsible for which parts of all these different endeavours?” The two brothers respond practically in unison with the perfect answer: “Both of us do it all, of course!”
Indeed, Ronald and Peter Neufeld are able to perform a magic trick that very few heirs have managed: not only not to bicker, but rather to come together in total brotherly harmony. They attend every meeting together, make all important decisions as a team, practically always agree with one another, and have eaten lunch at their own restaurant every day for the last 40 years. “We are a walking cliché of identical twins,” says Ronald Neufeld, grinning. “We are completely and utterly symbiotic.”
When René Beyer stops in his tracks, captivated by an old musical box, Peter Neufeld smiles and says: “We have something like this that is even more impressive, but we didn’t have room for it in the museum.” The largest “Chilbi organ” ever produced, made by the legendary manufacturer Gavioli, is permanently installed on a lorry trailer and is controlled using perforated tapes. “Maintenance is a nightmare,” Ronald Neufeld admits. “All of the instruments need to be tuned regularly!”
“WE ARE A WALKING CLICHÉ OF IDENTICAL TWINS.”
On the ground floor, René Beyer is fascinated by curator and restorer Armon Defilla’s spacious workshop. They talk shop about the difficulty of procuring spare parts from manufacturers today. Insider tips are exchanged, and by the end it’s clear that this will not be the last interaction between the Uhrenmuseum zum Rösli and Chronometrie Beyer.
The return trip in the direction of Paradeplatz is a bit more difficult than the outward journey because evening rush hour has set in. Ronald is back behind the wheel and getting annoyed at how quickly the light turns red and the sluggish responses of other drivers. “Peter!” he yells to his brother in the back seat over the Chevy’s rumbling V8 engine, “We should have taken the patrol car. We’d be much faster with a siren and flashing blue lights!”
A world apart: The Uhrenmuseum zum Rösli is home to around 500 timepieces – and an extraordinary atmosphere.