The museum of horology: the Musee International d'Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds is one of the best known watch museums in the Suisse Romande area--and with good reason.

AuteurMcCarthy, Helen
Fonction Business

Set in what resembles an underground nuclear bunker, the museum has a fascinating collection of watches, clocks and a smattering of musical boxes. Here, you can trace the course of watchmaking history, and investigate and admire the many clocks and watches--pendants, bracelets, pocket watches--some encrusted with jewels, others brightly painted in enamels, or etched with scenes and figurines.

A video (without dialogue) displays the mechanisms of several clocks and a very, realistic birdcage. Nearby is a mechanical representation of a Basel street in days gone by; the video shows the extraordinary detail of one person chopping wood, another sharpening a knife, while a woman pumps some very realistic water.

Measuring Time

Early versions of navigational equipment are also on display and the search for a method of determining longitude is chronicled. The British Government offered a reward for the best idea, which was won by the Englishman John Harrison, but prior to this, many ideas and experiments were put forward, some of which you can see in this museum.

There are sundials, quadrants and marine chronometry from France, Germany and Britain as well as Switzerland. In fact, Britain was one of the greatest centres of horological production in the Eighteenth Century. The museum also houses a centre for the restoration of antique clocks and watches, including museum holdings as well as private collections, while giving professional training to the technicians.

Attention To Detail

The second floor of the museum holds the equipment used to make the watches, with benches and tools on display, some reproduced many times their size. Some of the tools and equipment used were as intricate as the items they were producing. Another video (available in French, German, Italian and English) shows how the watches were made...

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