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The City as a Large-Scale Workshop – La Chaux-de-Fonds

A good story starts with a lovely legend. In the year 1665, a horse dealer entrusted a young blacksmith by the name of Jean Richard with the repair of a defective pocket watch. However, the young man didn’t only repair it. He copied the mechanical marvel from a London watchmaker and started to produce timepieces by himself.

Impressions of the city landscape and working on watches of la Chaux-de-Fonds

La Chaux-de-Fonds is located in the Swiss Jura region at an altitude of 1,000 meters. The local people lived widely scattered across the area and a harsh climate forced them to make most of their everyday tools by themselves. That’s how they became particularly skilled craftsman.

The upswing of the watchmaking industry at the end of the 18th century gave birth to a new building type. Three quarters of the town had been destroyed by a devasting fire in 1794. It was decided to rebuild the town following a modern grid street plan. The city was designed by and for watchmakers. Karl Marx called it a “huge factory-town” in Das Kapital (1867) to describe the unique link between the horological industry and the urban layout. La Chaux-de-Fonds was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.

Girard-Perregaux headquarters in La Chaux-de-Fonds with the company logo on the image

Girard-Perregaux

The origins of Girard-Perregaux date back to 1791. The luxury manufacture has recorded more innovations and prizes than hardly any other watch brand since then. Its famous Tourbillon with Three Gold Bridges was awarded a Gold Medal at the 1889 Paris Universal Exhibition and it serves still nowadays as the Maison’s distinctive motif. This technical masterpiece was fitted for the first time into a wristwatch in 1991. On the occasion of the brand’s 225th anniversary in 2016, a classic experienced a comeback with the relaunch of the Laureato, which has been the collection’s distinctive face from then on.

TAG Heuer timepieces at car races with the company logo on top of the image

TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer is marked, like no other brand, by a world that embodies at first sight exactly the opposite of the delicate and almost silent art of watchmaking: the world of motor racing. The striving for precision has brought TAG Heuer in the course of its history to measure and display time to a hundredth of a second, then to a thousandth of a second and finally to a ten thousandth of a second. The style-defining models Carrera, Monza, Autavia or Monaco are all deeply rooted in motor sports. The brand’s history can be admired by appointment at the TAG Heuer museum, which has an intriguing circular design.

Image of La Maison Ebel with the company logo of the same name on top of the image

Ebel

A famous son of the town is the architect Charles-Édouard-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. He built the Villa Turque in 1916. It was commissioned by Auguste Schwob, who was – how could it be otherwise – a watch manufacturer. The watch brand Ebel acquired the villa in 1986 on the occasion of its 75th company anniversary. The name Ebel combines the names of the couple Eugen Blum and Alice Levy (the second E stands for the French “et”, which means “and”). The bond was sealed by a kiss, represented until today by the mirrored “E” in the brand logo. Ebel’s Sport Classic collection has been a sales success ever since its launch in the 1970s.

Watchmaking Museum

The international watchmaking museum “Musée International de l'Horlogerie” (MIH) is entirely dedicated to the history of horology. It houses more than 4,500 exhibits, including 2,700 watches and 700 wall clocks, as for example the first ship’s chronometer made by Ferdinand Berthoud, masterpieces from Abraham-Louis Breguet and an organ clock from Jaquet Droz. Several themed areas tell the history of Swiss watchmaking. The painstaking craftsmanship of a watchmaker is brought to life through multimedia presentations and it is explained how movements and cases are manufactured. The museum’s underground building was built at the beginning of the 1970s and is surrounded by a park, where a remarkable carillon (chime) completes the exhibition.

Female employee working on watches in the museum of La Chaux-de-Fonds
Detailed of exhibited watches in the museum of La Chaux-de-Fonds
Detailed view of several ancient timepieces in the watch museum of La Chaux-de-Fonds

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