La Chaux-de-Fonds, a centre of watch-making
In La Chaux-de-Fonds, everything revolves around time. Or around watches, to be precise.
This former centre of the watch industry is still of global significance today and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site for over 10 years now. It is well worth a visit, for fans of watches as much as for aficionados of architecture. La Chaux-de-Fonds surprises with its unique cityscape and is the birthplace of “Le Corbusier”, an icon of architecture whose work has featured on the prestigious UNESCO list since 2016.
Tip 1: A place to delight watch aficionados
When walking through the streets of La Chaux-de-Fonds, it’s not uncommon that you can observe a watchmaker at work at their workbench through the workshop window.
The prestigious watch-making company Corum provides an exclusive insight into its studio. During the tour through the company’s own museum and workshops, visitors are initiated into the secrets of the watchmaker’s craft.
At the “Le Garde Temps” training centre, visitors can assemble their own watch during a workshop. Under the guidance of a master watchmaker, participants slip into the role of watchmaker and select the components, such as the watch face, hands, strap, etc., for their own hand-assembled watch.
Visitors can learn all about “Humankind and Time” at the International Clock-Making Museum (MIH). This is dedicated to the history of measuring time and is home to a globally unique collection showcasing the technical, artistic, social and economic aspects of the history of watch-making.
Tip 2: Architecture and cityscape
Following a fire in 1794, the city was rebuilt in a chessboard pattern. The apartments and workshops were closely connected in those days, and the large windows of the manufactories attest to the key importance of daylight to the work done at the workbenches.
The cityscape is defined by watch-production sites, simple apartment blocks of at least three storeys for the “ouvriers” (workers), Art Nouveau villas for the “patrons” (bosses), and also traces of the architect Le Corbusier. Thanks to the unique symbiosis of urbanism and the watch industry, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009.
- Urban planning based around the watch industry At the “Espace de l'urbanisme horloger” centre, the former auction hall, a dedicated multimedia showroom has been installed that demonstrates how the city’s urban planning is based around the watch industry.
- Tourist train – City tour Explore the connection between urban development and watch-making in comfort.
- Espacité Tower The 60-metre-tall Espacité Tower offers the best view of the city’s chessboard pattern.
- Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier The La Chaux-de-Fonds Fine Arts Museum exhibits works by the world-famous architect.
- L’Ancien Manège – a unique residential building Behind an unassuming façade lies a splendid courtyard with frescoes, friezes and little fountains dating from the 19th century. The L’Ancien Manège, a former riding hall and now a residential building arranged around the richly decorated courtyard, today contains a restaurant on the ground floor.