In the cradle of Swiss watchmaking

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by pmwas, Mar 12, 2020.

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  1. pmwas

    pmwas Registered User

    Dec 12, 2010
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    Hi again!

    This thread is intended to share my trip to Switzerland with you all. I managed to make a short stop - on my way from Geneva to Alsace (France) - in what is known as 'the cradle of Swiss watchmaking' (on UNESCO list, BTW), which covers the area between LeLocle and Chaux de Fonds in North-Western Switzerland (practically this extends to the nearby towns - like Neuchatel or St Imier as well).

    It was about noon when I arrived to LeLocle. If you want to visit the Museum, don't stop in the very centre of the city, just follow the signs in your car, as the Museum is… some way out of town (or technically above it). In fact - you can walk the way, but it will take like 45 minutes or so.

    Now - it is North-western Switzerland, so the terrain is barely elevated and in fact - most Swiss watches have nothing to do with the refreshing 'alpine breeze' ;)

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    On my trip I have a Xicorr chronograph watch, which is kinda against my own rules. Usually for trips like that, I take a watch that's somehow related to the place and here I have a Polish watch with Chinese (Sea-Gull) movement inside :)
    On the way, within the city of LeLocle you'll pass the Georges Favre Jacot factory (better known as Zenith) - this was a very emotional encounter for me, as the first 'serious' vintage watch I ever had was a Zenith (BTW a historical piece once owned by Mr A.Baranski, who used to be a school principal and - for 4 or 5 days in 1939., before the Germans entered - deputy President of the city of Sosnowiec).

    It was quite an effort to make the busted piece run again, but it's just fine now and I still wear it on special occasions :)

    But back to the subject...
    The LeLocle Clock and Watch Museum is located in an old palace above the city…

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    The Museum is… excuse my for this childish way to express it - nice and cosy.
    I will once get back to this, but it is arranged in this pleasant, accomodating way.
    On the ground floor there is a nice exhibition showing the evolution of watches from the old times until the electronic era...

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    There also are some wall clocks, very old (and stunning) pocket watches…

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    ...and automatons of different sizes and a movie that shows them work (!).

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    There also is a... Soviet Molnija! The Serkisoff I've enlarged - it is a Soviet Molnija, clearly marked USSR on dial.
    I know Jacot made watches for Turkish market, but a Molnija… well - whatever. If you say you can't afford a 'museum quality' watch - there you go ;)

    The 'Molnija' display starts our tour on the 1st floor, where mostly smaller watches and clocks are displayed and described…

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    Of course, you can get an audio guide, but Alsace was still a long way ahead, so I just popped in and out, without listening. Always late… that's me :)

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    A good way to start (or finish - as you please) is to listen to this elegant gentleman (he's moving :O !!! ). When he's done - I'm off to LeLocle city centre again.

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    An empty and sleepy town at the time I came (maybe wrong day and time, or maybe that's how it is there…). Not very entertaining, but obviously exciting an a very simple way… watchmaking of course!

    Who has not heard of LeLocle:???: So many brand names (on WUS someone just mentioned Ulysee Nardin ;) ), I don't even want to try to mention them all…
    Jacot, Moser, Tissot all made watches here. At a point of time, LeLocle watches were exported all over the world, not to mention they took almost entire Imperial Russian market around 1900...

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    Just a taste :) One Russian, one Canadian - all over the world.
    The regulator spring for my 'heritage' Zenith mentioned came to me from Argentina.

    One more thing I like to mention, though, is the - slightly forgotten - name of Mr Olivier Quartier, who - in the first half of 19th century - made first efforts to establish a factory similar to what we know from much later times…

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    Not what we're all used to - usually the parts are NOT interchangable and - obviously - he used old technologies of the period, but definitely Mr Quartier was a prominent figure almost completely forgotten (I fruitlessly tried to find Quartier in the Museum), yet his watches appear frequently (mostly devastated) on both continents of Europe and North America.

    That's all for today - next stop... Chaux de Fonds :)

    Now - I'm NOT sorry for the pictures quality - don't look at the photos, go see for yourself!
     
  2. Allan C. Purcell

    Allan C. Purcell Registered User
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    Feb 9, 2013
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    Very nice introduction, here in Germany we were planning a trip with the DGC to Switzerland, since the Chinese Cough, we have put it to one side till next year. Most interesting so far is that chap Quartier. My impression is he learned his trade in Liverpool and Coventry, did you by any chance take a photograph of the hallmarks on that last photograph of yours above. Looking forward to the next piece, maybe on Swiss Roskells:cool:

    Allan.
     
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  3. pmwas

    pmwas Registered User

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    Swiss Roskells, yes, they do look Quartier-ish ;)
    As for my Quartiers - base metal cases and one seems gold plated. no hallmarks :(
     
  4. tick talk

    tick talk Registered User

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    Thanks for sharing this wonderful report, brings back fond memories. May I also tempt you with an invitation to walk the Jura Trail and visit some of the villages where farmers hammered out rough pieces for the watch industry. We did so in 2013, here is a link to a trip report on another forum: Montblanc - Walking the Jura Trail
     
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  5. pmwas

    pmwas Registered User

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    Beautiful - thanks!!!
     
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  6. pmwas

    pmwas Registered User

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    Driving a few kilometers east from LeLocle, one reaches the town od Chaux-de-Fonds, on the other end of the UNESCO listed cradle of Swiss watchmaking.
    On the road I passed what seemed to be a nice old town, but the goal is elsewhere.

    The Chaux-de-Fonds museum is in the totally uninteresting eastern part of the town...

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    The Museum is large, and was built in ugly 1970s...

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    The outside look brign to my mind the brutalist (non existant) Katowice main railroad station, also built in the period.
    Tons and tons of concrete, monumental, but not a hint of charm and beauty in it.

    Not like it's not worth visiting, though… no. The Museum houses a large collection showing the whole world's (not just limited to the region) watchmaking...

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    Large and small, thick and flat, mechanical, electric and quartz, Swiss, English, American timekeeping mechanisms, from all over the world and each end every period.
    Also there are displays commemorating the genius minds that contributed to what watchmaking is today (in the pic - Guillaume).

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    Just a handful of photos… again - one has to visit oneself, no need to post tons of them.
    The Museum is kinda 'sterile' and - IMO - not that inviting.
    Not like the charming old palace in LeLocle or Glashuette...

    But definitely well worth a visit, as it shows a complete history of world's watchmaking, all gathered in one place - quite impressive, I say.

    Getting back to Chaux-de-Fonds itself - it is a name everyone who collects old Swiss watches must have encountered.
    In my collection I only have one watch from there (and a 'frankenwatch' as well, with replaced movement.

    It is there, where the famous Russian Petrovskie watches were made...

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    This logo, with Peter the Great monument, is desired by collectors around the world, as it's Imperial Russia's desirable brand.
    On the cuvette...

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    This never had 23 jewels, these Swiss-Russian watches marked 23 never exceeded the count of 19.
    The movement had once been replaced, but I think the replacement movement is a 'twin' one...

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    This is a large,not-bad quality Swiss movement of the era, probably a G.F.Jacot ebauche.
    Cap jewels all over the top side are typical of the '23j' watches.

    The dial was likely replaced with the movement, as Petrovskie dials were usually (always?) signed...

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    That's it for today… around the 'cradle' there is plenty more to see, but time was running out and I took my leave north to France... reaching Alscae at nightfall...
    Thanks for looking :) !
     
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  7. pmwas

    pmwas Registered User

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    To conclude this trip around North-Western Switzerland - I'll show you three movements made with the same, supersized ebauche attributed to Jacot's factory in Locle.



    The first one is a ‚23 jewel’ GFJ LeLocle (they marked the better grades 23j, but they never were), with bi-metallic balance and screw-down hairspring stud.

    Second is of somewhat lower grade, but also ‚23j’. This is marked Chaux-de-Fonds. Also with cap jewels on the top side. Like I mentioned, the S/Ns of the case and movement do not match, but this is what the movement should look like, so… let's just forget about this 'detail'.

    And the third one - marked 15 jewels (actually 11 or 13, as far as I remember). This is marked Brenets.

    All three were exported to Russia - somewhere around 1900, when these gigantic movements 'ruled the land'.
     

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