Yes, it's expensive. Heart-stoppingly expensive. Clinique La Prairie, located in Montreux's lakeside Clarens district, is billed as the world's leading wellness facility and anti-aging institute, and it charges accordingly.
Given the clinic's price list, it should come as no surprise that it attracts a jetset clientele. It made its name treating Pope Pius XII in 1953 and since then has been a firm favorite with Russian oligarchs, the Argentine polo set and the Hong Kong billionaires club. They all come for the same reason: to feel and look better than when they arrived.
A Swiss health farm for the jet set might not at first sound likely to contribute much to the sum of human knowledge, but in fact the research and development carried out at this exclusive retreat filters down to the rest of us in the form of more advanced medical procedures, not to mention creams, gels, and lotions to make us feel better about getting older and maybe even keep a wrinkle or two at bay.
Clinique La Prairie's leadership in medical recovery and anti-aging treatment comes through its innovative research using the embryonic cells of sheep. These are used to strengthen the human immune system and speed recuperation after surgery or illness. Only black sheep will do, thank you, as they are the most resistant to illness; to control totally the entire medical process from start to finish, Clinique La Prairie maintains its own flock in a remote area of Switzerland.
Clients often return for follow-ups to previous treatment. Some stay for extended periods; one woman reportedly stayed a whole year in order to lose weight before her wedding (and she did). Husbands, wives, or friends often come to the clinic together for simultaneous treatment; the celebrated Revitalization therapy begins at just over CHF 20,000 for a six-day programme... and goes up from there, depending on choice of accommodation and full length of stay. On staff are more than sixty doctors, ranging from physiotherapists and dieticians to neurologists and cardiologists.
Two areas where the feel is definitely not clinical are the living quarters—five-star rooms and suites worthy of any luxury hotel—and the cuisine. The rooms also facilitate the presence of friends or relatives keeping the Clinique's clients company during treatment. Clinique La Prairie's stylish restaurant meets even the most complicated dietary requirements, with meals prepared by a kitchen staff who understand that taste and flavour need not be sacrificed for good nutrition.
In order to make the health experience less alien from daily life, Clinique La Prairie introduced a new shopping avenue in which to pursue another kind of treatment known to chronic shoppers as retail therapy. Clients can now go shopping without leaving the grounds, facilitating the maintenance of their diets and treatments while keeping a low profile. This is not traditional retail, however; there are no shops here, only displays. The shops come to you with an array of items for your consideration in the privacy of your five-star suite. Another successful formula devised by La Clinique? It would seem so; a US$40,000 handbag was sold the day after its vitrine debut.
If all the digits in the prices seem excessive, it must be remembered that Switzerland is home to one of the world's densest concentrations of high net-worth individuals, with that term defined as having assets above $100 million. The fact that the country happens to be beautiful attracts all the other ones for visits, if not for residency. A more impressive figure than the cost is the number of people who can afford a stay there. How many hospitals have patients clamouring to get in?