La Chaux-de-Fonds is one of the most important watch towns in the Canton of Neuchâtel in the Swiss Jura mountains. It is the seat of famous companies such as Breitling, Ebel, Corum, Dubey & Schaldenbrand, Eberhard & Co, Girard-Perregaux, Daniel JeanRichard, Omega, Parmigiani, and Tissot. During the early part of the 20th century, as much as half the world's watches were produced in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
La Chaux-de-Fonds is located a few kilometers East of the related Swiss watch town of Le Locle and is often considered the Western apex of the Jura triangle. The Val-de-Ruz lies to the south, with the Franches-Montagnes and Vallon de Saint-Imier to the east.
There is also one of the major watchmaking schools in Switzerland, the Ecole d'horlogerie.
Watchmaking was well-established in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the 19th century, and the city dramatically expanded home production of watches and components in the second half of the century. By 1900, La Chaux-de-Fonds featured hundreds of watchmaking suppliers and dozens of producers of finished watches. But the city was at the crossroads of mechanization versus home workshops. Some, including Charles Couleru-Meuri, were outspoken critics of mass production and instead advocated electrification as a means to continue home watchmaking work. But larger factories were already being constructed in the city, notably along the road to Le Locle to the West.
By the turn of the century, some of the first larger factories in La Chaux-de-Fonds were those of Courvoisier Frères, Charles Léon Schmidt, Wille & Co., and Maurice Blum. The largest new construction would be Election, which built a large complex at the end of Rue de la Paix in the Eplatures district. This factory, finished in 1905, would employ over 250 workers and would dominate watchmaking in the city for two decades. Girard-Perregaux also built a new factory in the city for 100 workers, as did Electa.
The next large expansion of production occurred in the 1920s, with companies like Universo building more factories west of the city. The Montbrillant Watch Manufactory, home of Breitling, was one of the first to be constructed in the hills above town in 1884 but it was soon joined by others as the city expanded.
Consolidation of the watch industry in the post-war period saw La Chaux-de-Fonds become one of the focal points for the industry. Many groups were centered there, along with Geneva and Bienne. But the crash of the 1970s hit the city hard and many companies closed and jobs were lost.
In the 1990s to today, La Chaux-de-Fonds has once again emerged as a home of watchmaking. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is home to such notables as Greubel Forsey, Corum, and TAG Heuer. It also remains important for watch components, with Universo, Sellita, and La Joux-Perret located there.
Watch Company Headquarters
- Auréole (Auréole, Remo, Shell)
- Ball Watch Company
- Breitling (former)
- British Masters (former Graham and Arnold & Son)
- Cortébert (former)
- Ebel (founded)
- Ernest Borel
- Greubel Forsey
- Girard-Perregaux (founded)
- Achille Hirsch/Montres Invar
- Arthur Imhof (Imhof/Melissa)
- Jean d'Eve
- Movado (founded)
- Omega (founded, moved to Bienne-Biel)
- Le Phare
- Schwob Frères (Cyma/Tavannes)
- TAG Heuer (moved from Marin)
Watch Company Factories
- Montremo (dials)
- Cronal (engraving)
- Oréade (cases)
- Universo (hands)
- Sellita (movements)
- G&F Châtelain (Owned by Chanel and also produces for Bell & Ross)
- La Joux-Perret