History of Watchmaking in Fleurier
The historical account of watchmaking in Fleurier commences in the early 18th century when David-Jean-Jacques-Henri Vaucher, known as "the watchmaker," introduced this craft to the village. Despite facing intermittent crises, Fleurier's watch industry gained traction in Germany, France, and England, becoming a primary source of livelihood for the local populace.
Fleurier emerged as a center for small-volume watchmaking, incorporating innovations such as minute repeaters, the cutting of holes for jewels, and the adoption of lever and duplex escapements around 1810. Noteworthy among these developments was Cesar Vaucher's introduction 18,000 vibration balances in 1820, which was subsequently embraced by the entire industry. Fleurier also specialized in automatons, catering to Geneva merchants.
During the 19th century, Fleurier watches found markets beyond Europe. Watch peddlers, akin to their lace-selling predecessors, ventured through the Mountains, Geneva, and foreign territories to sell Val-de-Travers products. By 1820, Fleurier watches reached international trade hubs such as Paris, London, Brussels, and the Leipzig Fair. The village established trade relations with North America, witnessing both setbacks and successes.
Fleurier became a center of knowledge of complicated watchmaking in the mid 19th century, with students taking this knowledge west to the Vallée de Joux and east to Ponts-de-Martel, Le Locle, and Saint-Imier.
The Bovet family adds complexity to Fleurier's watchmaking narrative. While not pioneers, the Bovets played a significant role in restructuring the watch trade in China. In 1814, dissatisfied with the political regime in Neuchâtel, three Bovet brothers left for London. Edouard Bovet, later in Canton, recognized the prospects in watchmaking, leading to the establishment of the "Chinese watch" in Fleurier. This watch's distinct feature was the engraving of its movement, executed by skilled Fleurier artisans.
By around 1890, Fleurier boasted approximately thirty watchmaking houses, catering not only to China but also to Turkey, Egypt, the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and France. However, as China modernized, preferences shifted towards watches favored by Western countries and Japan. The Chinese watch, once a symbol of prosperity for Fleurier, transitioned into a collectible souvenir.