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Watchmaking introduced to Fleurier
The story of Fleurier (because we have to start with him, since it was he who was the cradle of watchmaking in Val-de-Travers), the story of Fleurier, I say, begins a bit like a fairy tale: Once upon a time, in distant times, there was a very small village, very poor but already very pretty. Its first houses were first supported at the foot of the mountain which, to the south, separates the Val-de-Travers from the Pays de Vaud. Later, other farms were built to the west, near the village of Buttes. Then the poor little village moved north; he had reached the green lawn, on the side of the impressive rock faces of the Signal and the Chapeau de Napoleon. The little village had barely two hundred inhabitants. Almost all of them were very modest peasants. Fleurier lived happy, peaceful, in the middle of the clear waters of its three rivers, including the Areuse with its tasty trout, and its abundantly flowered fields. Already, it well deserved its name of “Village of flowers and flower of villages”. Then the years passed, many years. And now at the beginning of the 18th century, the chronicle speaks of the lace industry, then flourishing in Fleurier, which was the great occupation of all the village women. But, the machine supplanted the skilled workers, and the cushions disappeared, relegated to the garrets! This piece of iron, this copper shuttle moved by a little steam, thanks to which lace was henceforth made, was going to usher in a new era for the village—and for the Val-de-Travers. Indeed, in 1730, watchmaking made its appearance in Fleurier, brought by David-Jean-Jacques-Henri Vaucher, known as “the watchmaker”, who, according to tradition, had done his apprenticeship with Daniel JeanRichard and his was revealed there as a talented worker. It was for Fleurier the beginning of a remarkable development, which was hardly going to contradict itself for more than two centuries, although it was more than once compromised by crises. From the outset, Fleurier watches knew how, by their solid qualities, to impose themselves on the markets of Germany, France and England. The counters multiplied and soon a good part of the population found its livelihood in the manufacture of all kinds of watches, to use an expression of the trade. At the end of the 18th century, Fleurier had ten to twelve clock manufacturers. At that time, many watches were made to mark true time and mean time; all were for a long time with fusee, with escapement with wheel of meeting. Fleurier quickly became the main locality for small-volume watchmaking, while other branches developed in Couvet and Travers; it had centralized all the activity of the neighboring localities. Large and small minute strikes were made there with comma and cylinder escapements. Already the ruby holes had also been introduced. The first Pierrist of the Val-de-Travers was Ehe Jeanrenaud, from Travers, who had "learned" in London. Lever and duplex escapements made their appearance around 1810, also under the influence of England. A great improvement, introduced in 1820 in horology by Cesar Vaucher, was the application of the number of 18,000 vibrations which, from Fleurier, was later adopted by the whole factory. As a little-known specialty of Fleurier, we must mention automaton watches, probably made for Geneva merchants; some of these pieces even included very nimble subjects...despite the supervision of the courts and the Venerable Class (Company of Pastors)! For a very long time, our exports of watches were made by watch peddlers who, just as the lace peddlers had done in the past, went on the roads of the Mountains, then of Geneva, then of foreign countries, sell Val-de-Travers products. Later, watch merchants went even further; they were soon found in Spain and Portugal. From 1820, our watches were sold in Paris, London, Brussels and, above all, at the famous Leipzig Fair. Our first relations with North America also date from this period. Besides terrible disasters, brilliant successes were recorded in this vast overseas market.
Bovet-de-Chine is revolutionizing Flemish watchmaking!
As for others, legend has taken hold of the story of the “Bovet-de-Chine”. This story is one of the most captivating, but quite different from what has been said and repeated in Le Vallon for several generations. First of all, the Bovets (de Fleurier) were far from being the first to introduce horological objects into China. What can be said, on the other hand, is that they reorganized the watch trade in the Celestial Empire and contributed the most to spreading this object in the country by introducing into it types of watches of a fairly high price. low, but of very good quality, made in Val-de-Travers. For a very long time, the Bovets exercised a veritable monopoly, so much so that the Chinese came to call a watch a “Bovet”, and this “Bovet” constituted, at a given moment, a veritable currency within the country. . It was in 1814 that three Bovet brothers, dissatisfied with the political regime imposed on the country of Neuchâtel, left for London. Four years later, one of them, Edouard Bovet, went to China to represent a London house there. Arrived in Canton, after a four-month voyage aboard a ship of the "Honourable East India Company", Edouard Bovet realized the benefits that there were to be made in watchmaking. It was then that he suggested to his two brothers who remained in Europe that they found an association, “having the aim of trade in watchmaking with China” and having its headquarters in Fleurier. This is how Edouard Bovet was the founder of the “Chinese watch” in the canton of Neuchâtel. The originality of this Chinese Fleurier watch resided above all in the engraving of its movement. Various types of engraving were executed on the bridges: intaglio, the same deeper or "old style" and the much more practical thread engraving. There were valuable masters in these various fields at Fleurier. As for the case, it was extremely simple: bowl-shaped, in polished silver shining like a mirror. The dial was domed, with elongated Roman numerals; the seconds hand was in the center; it was the key room. For the case of the luxury Chinese watch, Fleurier depended on the Geneva workshops; several of their best artists worked on these decorations, in enamel painting and representing rustic scenes, Chinese busts, hunting motifs and especially floral motifs which were particularly popular with the Chinese. The manufacture of the Chinese watch in Fleurier was a real revolution... at the same time as the beginning of a remarkable boom in our watch industry. Fleurier had, around 1890, about thirty houses manufacturing for China, but also for many other countries: Turkey, Egypt, the United States, Great Britain, Spain, France, not to mention than the main outlets. But, after having brought not a niay of wealth, and even glory, to Fleurier, the manufacture of the Chinese watch had to give way to new genres. China, while modernizing, gradually adopted the same watches demanded by Western Europe, America and Japan. The Chinese watch was to become a souvenir, which is highly sought after by collectors today.