There is far more to Switzerland than cheese and chocolate. Switzerland has watches too!
Home to global watch brands such as Audemars Piguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre, La Vallée de Joux, is one of Switzerland’s most renowned watch making regions.
Watchmaking is woven into the valley’s past. Farming has always been a challenge, given the region’s high altitude and long winters, so the locals were always on the look out for additional ways to make a living.
Clocks, which became an important element of church design in the 12th century, were installed in local church turrets by clock makers from France and Germany. Before long, enterprising locals were tinkering with these heavenly instruments of time.
Over time, a passion for clocks merged with the local metal making industry and expertise from nearby artisans to produce some of the world’s most complex time pieces.
The history of the microscopic world of watchmaking is now beautifully laid out with a watchmaker’s precision in the Espace Horloger, a 500 m2 museum in the village of Le Chenit, a stone’s throw from Lac de Joux in the heart of one of Switzerland’s most important watch making regions.
The Espace Horloger, or Watchmaking Space, reopened on 9 June 2020 after an 18-month refurbishment. Carefully restored and remodelled under the watchful eye of a team steeped in the traditions and deft precision of watchmaking, the museum offers a journey back through time to the origins of this quintessentially Swiss metier.
The museum contains a permanent collection spanning 200 m2, a 20 m2 temporary exposition, a 30 m2 boutique, a 20 m2 workshop where watchmakers can be seen engaged in their craft and a cinema that presents 250 years of history in 3-D. A total of 135 items are on display.
The centrepiece of the permanent exposition is the Gidéon collection (shown above). This is a rich collection of time pieces collected from around the world.
Where: Grande-Rue 2, 1347 Le Chenit, Switzerland. Google Maps.
When: Tuesday to Sunday 1pm to 5pm. Closed Monday and on 1 Jan and 25 Dec.
Entry: Adults CHF 12, Students CHF 8, Children (10-16) CHF 6.
Website: Espace Horloger
And while the Vallée de Joux has an air of natural isolation, it is only 1 hour and 10 minutes from Geneva and Neuchâtel, 1 hour from Lausanne and 1 hour and 30 minutes from Bern.
A visit to the Espace Horloger can easily be combined with a meditative walk in nature or an action packed mountain bike on one of the region’s many trails. Lac de Joux, the local lake, famous for freezing over in the winter and popular with ice skaters, is beautiful in summer.
Vaud’s tourism website offers further practical information on the region.