We spent a beautiful weekend discovering the so-called Swiss Watch Valley – located in the Jura Mountains, in the canton of Neuchatel, just a few kilometers away from the French border. It’s where it all began – where over three centuries, the greatest names in watchmaking have been coming together. We spent three days discovering the region and learning about the heritage of this important Swiss industry. Sharing below the “what and where” to help you plan your perfect watchmaking trip.
Discover Le Locle
The town is known to be the cradle of the watchmaking. Together with La Chaux-de-Fonds is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you are here, by walking the streets you an see the extent to which watchmaking and urbanism have been linked thorugh their development here – for example the large windows of the houses here that had to provide good light for the workbenches. I would recommend exploring the town by one of the two ways below:
– “Visiting” the Exo Musee – strolling the streets with a map of the local street art scene. We did so and it was really a cool way to discover all the cobblestone streets of the old town. More info and a map HERE.
– Following the route of “Le Locle and Watchmaking” – with a map of the houses of people who marked the history of watches and watchmaking. Links to the maps and info HERE.
Visit the Zenith Manufacture
Zenith Manufacture is the first world’s manufacture that opened their door to public – the guided tour allows one’s discover the world of Swiss watchmaking in a very special way. I really enjoyed the experience. We went through the full production process of a Zenith watch, from raw materials to the actual final product. We learned about the past and future of the watchmaking, met the watchmakers and observed the process of creating the timepieces. As someone who always loved a good watch, I found this experience really educational and super interesting – seeing how much work goes into creating one watch and being able to see the concentration and precision needed by the watchmakers at work made me appreciate the industry even more.
The Manufacture is open to public on Fridays at 9:00 AM, the tour takes 3 hours and costs CHF 40. You can book it directly HERE.
Discover La Chaux-de-Fonds
La Chaux-de Fonds is the other watchmaking metropolis – the town was built to serve the purpose of watchmaking. It was a large village and after the fire destroyed it in 1794, it ws reorganised to favour the watchmaking industry and its population. At the Espace De L’Urbanisme Horlogie you get to discover and understand the rich legacy of this town and its current role as the watchmaking metropolis. It’s for free, accessible with strollers and dogs are allowed – plus the visit takes max 30 minutes and I think it’s really worth a stop. This place also serves as an information centre so you can get all the brochures that will help you descover the old town.
Assemble your own watch
I got a chance to make my own watch at the Apprentis du Temps- the watchmaking school in Le Locle. It was my favourite experience during this trip. The instructors here and the school are a real deal – they train watchmakers from the local companies all week long in movement and watch assembly and repair. That means that what you get here is a really authentic experience and what’s the best about it – you get to keep the watch you make. The experience lasts 4 hours and it’s available also in English. Can really recommend it! You can find more information about it and book it HERE.
Visit the Chateau Des Monts
Chateau Des Monts is a historical villa and a home to the Musée d’horlogerie du Locle – the watch museum. You’ll get to see an impressive collection of historic clocks and watches. This museum is a little bit off the beaten track – if you are interested in watches and their history or simply like charming architecture in historic walls – you should reserve 1-2 hours for visiting this magical place. My tip – get the iPod audio guide – it was very insightful!
Good to know: when you stay at a hotel in the region, you will receive the Neuchatel Tourist Card (NTC), which gives you free access to museums and transport during your stay. The Chateau Des Monts is covered with the card.
Where to stay:
Maison DuBois – (on the pictures below) now a charming B&B with 5 rooms available, but back in the past this building was a house to one of the most ancient Switzerland’s watchmaking firms – Philippe DuBois et fils. Staying there was a truly incredible experience – you feel like you’re back to the past when staying in such a historical place. We had dinner served in the kitchen on our floor and breakfast at the breakfast room with the views over the Le Locle’s temple. Pretty scenic and centrally located 🙂
Grand Hotel Les Endroits – located on a hill above La Chaux-de-Fonds is a perfect location for more relaxed stay. The hotel has a beautiful spa area with many saunas and indoor+outdoor swimming pools, fabulous restaurant (just go there for their cheese buffet, it’s heaven!!) and a cool wine bar.
Where to eat:
The restaurant is located on a farm near La Chaux-de-Fonds. The ambience is really unique and food beyond delicious. What makes the experience even better is the fact, that this farmhouse is steeped in the history of the peasant watchmakers. Our table was located by the old workbenches in front of the big windows – the farmers living from agriculture and livestok had to survive the cold months and needed to engage in other activities during the winter – from the 17th cenutry they were involved in the production of parts of clocs and watches – hence the saying that the cradle of the watchmaking industry is the farmhouse.
A nice Italian-style restaurant located in the city center, serving Brasserie-style and seasonal dishes. Really delicious food (I had pumpkin ravioli and it was soooo good, hands down!), cosy atmosphere and friendly service.
Haven’t tried it – but it came highly recommended by some of my IG followers. Apparently really tasty food and best Sunday brunch you can find in Le Locle.
This post was written in collaboration with Jura Trois Lacs. ALl opinions are authentically my owns. For more information about the Watch Valley and other experiences, visit the Explore Swiss Watchmaking website.