The towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, both located in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, are impressive illustrations of the successful combination of urban planning and the watchmaking industry. In June 2009, they were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
These towns are world-famous for their close links with the watchmaking industry, which became flourishing centers for the production of high-quality timepieces in the 18th century.
The Watchmaking Town Planning of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle is an outstanding example of the planning and architectural development that accompanied the industrial revolution.
The towns were laid out according to a grid plan that allowed for efficient use of space while ensuring a clear separation of living and working areas. This innovative urban planning was necessary to meet the needs of the expanding watchmaking industry.
Center for precision mechanics and watchmaking
The watch industry played a decisive role in the economic development of this region. La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle became centers of precision engineering, watchmaking and watchmaking tradition. The precise manufacture of watches became an important economic sector that made the towns famous worldwide.
Many renowned watchmaking companies originated here and the tradition of watchmaking is still maintained today. Here are some of the prominent brands that have their origins in this region:
This Swiss company, founded in 1839 by Antoni Patek and Adrien Philippe, is known worldwide for its high-quality luxury watches. Although the brand is now based in Geneva, its history began in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
With a history dating back to 1791, Girard-Perregaux is known for its innovative watches and its significant role in the development of the art of watchmaking. The brand was founded in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Founded in 1846 in Le Locle, Ulysse Nardin has a strong reputation for marine chronometers and innovative watch technologies. The brand is known for its precision and use of high-quality materials.
Founded in 1865 in Le Locle, Zenith is known for its precise watches and innovative technology. The brand has achieved important milestones in the history of watchmaking, including the development of the automatic chronograph “El Primero”.
The companies Patek Philippe, Girard-Perregaux, Ulysse Nardin and Zenith have shaped the history of watchmaking in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle. They have gained worldwide recognition for their quality and innovation.
The architecture of the cities reflects not only the industrial history, but also the influence of different stylistic periods. From neoclassical to art nouveau buildings, the variety of architecture is impressive. The watch museums in both cities offer a fascinating insight into the history and art of watchmaking.
Experience a UNESCO World Heritage Site on a city walk
We recommend exploring the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds with an attentive eye. There are numerous Art Nouveau buildings here, whose architecture places particular emphasis on the use of light. The characteristic cubic tenement houses and some villas designed by Le Corbusier, such as the “Maison Blanche” and the “Villa Turque”, offer architectural diversity.
The International Watch Museum – Musée International d’Horlogerie – provides a fascinating insight into the history of time measurement. A stroll through the city reveals not only its architectural beauty, but also its important role in watchmaking history.
The UNESCO World Heritage recognition in 2009 underlines the importance of these towns for the global development of science, technology and industry.
La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle are not only witnesses to the industrial revolution, but also guardians of a tradition of craftsmanship that has lasted for generations. Their status as UNESCO World Heritage Sites is a recognition of their unique heritage and their crucial role in the history of watchmaking.
La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, Watchmaking Town Planning (UNESCO/NHK)
Watchmaking Tourism Saga – La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle Region