The watch-making industry of Switzerland is generally concentrated in the western part of the country, the region where the Jura Mountains, having stretched from Geneva in the south to Basel in the north, are situated. Tourists have called the area Watch Valley. The production of timepieces, having united tradition and high-tech, bearing the most eminent brand names makes this lovely region internationally famous.
Visit the City of Geneva
The initial Genevan clock and watch models date back to the 16th century. In 1541, a prominent reformer Jean Calvin banned wearing luxurious clothes and jewelry items. So, as a way out, the goldsmiths had to join their efforts and develop a new, independent craft of watch-making.
Jean Calvin himself was well-known for his passion for punctuality that made him issue an edict imposing fines on anyone who was late for a church service or was daring enough to leave earlier. As the result, there appeared a few tower clocks around the city not to give the citizens any chance to make an excuse that they had no idea of the right time.
By the end of the century, watches created in Geneva were well-known and appreciated for their high quality, and in 1601 the city’s watchmakers were united into the Watchmakers’ Guild of Geneva.
The thrift of watch-making in Geneva may be explained by a few historical factors. In 1685, when Louis XIV of France repealed the Edict of Nantes having restricted the rights of French Protestants, this unit of society had to move away from the country to seek for refuge in Protestant-friendly Geneva. Among them there were a lot of watch-makers who brought to the Swiss their skills and knowledge in the field of watch and clock making craft. It greatly contributed to the economic development of the country. The great-grandfather, grandfather and father of the prominent philosopher and thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau represented one of the watch-making families of Geneva.
The Vallée de Joux
The city of Geneva became naturally almost crowded with watchmakers, so some of them moved to the suburbs. In 1740 they founded the first watch-making workshop in the Vallée de Joux, the region situated at about 1000 meters (3,300 ft) above sea level. During the winter time the heavy snowfalls made the Vallée de Joux cut off from the rest of the world. The craft of watch-making brought additional income to farmers when they were not busy working in the fields.
The process of fulfilling one’s work at home was quite wide-spread in the days preceding the industrialization. It was first of all implied to the textiles manufacturing. The raw materials were delivered to workers at their own homes, and then the special agents took away the finished articles. The same procedure was also applied to the area of watch-making. The watch pieces as well as the finished watches were greatly appreciated by the workers for their small size which made them easily transportable and much more popular than lace-making, which used to be put into common practice during the long winters.
Watch Valley and Engineering Tools
Besides the watch-making manufacture, the Vallée de Joux comprises a number of factories producing the engineering tools and equipment, the factor which also not only supports the economy but effectively fights the unemployment problems in the area.
Being an important part of the Swiss engineering industry, some of these factories have been successful in becoming the world leaders in the production of particularized niche products, having contributed to the revolutionizing of the Swiss watch making in the 1880s.
Before a watch movement is being assembled, numerous watch parts should be initially manufactured. The Ajoie area, famous for producing the jewels acting as watch ball-bearings, is placed not far away from the Porrentruy city, where the watch faces and cases were made.
Nowadays, watches have become an internationally known symbol of Swiss precision. Tourists interested in traditional and modern technology are welcome to visit various well-known manufacturers, such as Audemars Piguet or Jaeger-LeCoultre, situated in the valley. The majority of tourists enjoy the opportunity to study the technology and history of the Swiss watch-making before they make up their mind to acquire a reliable timepiece.