Swiss watchmaking spent centuries evolving into the global juggernaut it is today. After John Calvin banned jewelry making in the 16th century in Switzerland—an effort to curb perceived idolatry—a shift toward watchmaking took hold in the country. By 1601 the first Swiss watchmaking guild took form in Geneva. The 18th and 19th centuries would see continued growth in the Swiss watchmaking industry. During this time Switzerland truly cultivated a reputation of timeless quality, based on expert engineering. Switzerland being a neutral country during World Wars 1 and 2 meant continued horological business through the early 20th century. After the advent of industrialized watchmaking in the 19th century—and stable business throughout the first half of the 20th—Switzerland solidified its reputation as the veritable epicenter of modern watchmaking. Tied to this reputation is Switzerland’s geographical region known as the Jura Arc.
Virtually all of Switzerland’s historical milestones can be attributed to what is known as the “Watch Valley”. But what is the Watch Valley in Switzerland? Well, it’s a section of the country along its western border. It spans the entire Swiss Jura Arc—which travels north-to-south from Basel all the way down to Geneva. It borders France and is often referred to as the Franco-Swiss Jura Arc, as a result. This shared border has led to most Swiss watchmakers adopting French names—though the country is multilingual. Geography of the region includes a border with both the Rhine and Rhone rivers, and the highest peak of the Jura is located near Geneva (in the south). Because of its riverside locales and mountain-hugging cities/towns, the region was already ripe for industrial growth. Watchmaking has flourished there for over 400 years in no small part due to this geographical reality.
La Chaux-de-Fonds and Geneva
There are two locations along the Jura Arc where a strong majority of Swiss watch companies take up residence—Geneva (in the south) and La Chaux-De-Fonds (located around the middle of the region). Some of Geneva’s most well-known residents include Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Piaget, among other heavy hitters. In La Chaux-De-Fonds tenured brands include Breitling, Cartier, and TAG Heuer (to name just a few). While these two locales tend to get a lot of buzz, every nook of the Jura Arc from Basel (home of the famed Baselworld convention) to Geneva has Swiss watchmaking gems tucked into it. And as an honorable mention, just north of the Jura, IWC takes up residence in Schaffhausen—at the Swiss border near Germany.
A Locale for the Books
Other Watch Valley brands include Tissot, Chopard, Zenith, Oris, Omega, Longines, Ulysse Nardin, Corum, Blancpain, Vacheron Constantin, Hublot, and more. Each of these companies is built into the centuries-long history of Swiss watchmaking in the Jura Arc “Watch Valley”. While today most of these companies are owned under the umbrella of larger parent companies, they each have a story all their own. What’s more, each of those stories ties together a rich history of Swiss watch engineering—much like the Jura Arc ties each brand together geographically. Without a little bit of push from John Calvin in the 1500s, we might be calling the Watch Valley the “Jewelry Valley”. Thankfully tradesmen in this region took up the horological mantle centuries ago. From there, a series of peaks and valleys gave us the Swiss watch industry we know today.
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.