Watchmaking in Geneva

From Omega and Breguet to Longines and Swatch, watchmaking is alive and ticking in Geneva and the Jura Valley.

Nov 20, 2012
  • Cité du Temps exhibition centre, Geneva
  • Lake Geneva, Switzerland
  • Patek Philippe, Geneva
  • Patek Philippe Salon, Geneva
  • Longines display, Geneva
  • Longines timepiece, Geneva
  • Breguet, Geneva
  • Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
  • Watchmakers at Girard-Perregaux, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
  • Clock mechanics, Greubel Forsey, Geneva, Switzerland
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Located in the heart of Geneva, the Cité du Temps exhibition centre hosts a variety of exhibitions and activities focusing on watchmaking, including a permanent collection of Swatch watches.
Mirjam Bleeker
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The silvery calm of Lake Geneva penetrates deeply into the heart of the city. As you wander between right bank and left, the immense plume of the Jet d’Eau fountain becomes a kind of Pole Star.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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Patek Philippe remains a family-owned firm, with all of its workshops and manufacturing centres located in and around Geneva.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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The Salon Patek Philippe is on Geneva’s Rue du Rhône, while the Patek Philippe Museum is housed in an Art Deco building in the Plainpalais area of the city.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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Saint-Imier, in the Jura Valley, is home to Longines, which in 1867 was among the first watchmakers formally to adopt a logo, the winged hourglass.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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Longines was one of the first watchmakers to industrialise. It was renowned worldwide as the watch company that timed Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight across the Atlantic.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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Situated on Rue du Rhône is Breguet, founded by the great watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet and still producing timepieces that are objects of desire.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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The Musée International d'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds is the largest museum in the world devoted to watchmaking.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker
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The Girard-Perregaux factory is a delightful amalgam of craft and science. The entranceway is splendidly Art Nouveau, while the assembly rooms, filled with white-coated workers at huge windows peering through their magnifiers, are as sterile and silent as operating theatres.
Photograph Mirjam Bleeker
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Greubel Forsey specialises in complications, and specifically the tourbillon. The company's latest model, the GMT, features a rotating globe that shows time around the world.
Photography Mirjam Bleeker

It’s a revelation to many that a number of the world’s finest watch brands make their  homes in the Jura Valley of Switzerland, a mountainous area of the country northwest of Geneva. You can get there in an hour and half or so by train or car from Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva.

In Canton Jura, you’ll want to make stops in towns such as Neuchâtel, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Biel/Bienne, La Locle and Saint-Imier, which grew up around watchmaking and have now been collectively designated  a World Heritage Center by UNESCO. You’ll find museums devoted to the trade in La Locle and La Chaux-de-Fonds, the latter boasting the largest museum in the world devoted to watchmaking (the Musée International d’Horlogerie), and Saint-Imier, where the town’s museum chronicles the history of Longines, a brand that dates to 1832. Omega makes its home in Bienne, where it has a museum and offers tours of its factory in multiple languages. Or visit an authentic guillochage workshop in Saignelégier and see how craftsmen create the intricate engraved decorations that grace the faces and metalwork of fine timepieces. For more detail about the watchmaking region, go to www.juradreiseenland.ch.

But don’t overlook the opportunity to explore the international city by the lake before you start your adventure, since it is here that many of the industry’s best watch brands maintain headquarters. In Geneva, you are never very far from a remarkable timepiece, and you can experience watches here as almost nowhere else. Walk the city today and you’ll see that its pride in the glittering history and continuing pre-eminence of its watchmakers is everywhere.

 


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