I’m up in the cool, crisp air in Switzerland’s Jura mountains, in the somewhat obscure little town of Le Locle. Just like its neighbour, La Chaux-de-Fonds, this town owes its existence to one of the country’s many claims to fame: watch production.
The two towns are protected by UNESCO because the architecture reflects the needs of the watchmaking industry, or as they put it: the ‘symbiosis of socio-technical needs and responses’:
The watchmaking urban ensemble of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle demonstrates outstanding universal value as these twin manufacturing-towns constitute an exceptional example of organic urban ensembles entirely dedicated to a single industry. They have been constructed by and for watchmaking. They are the product of an extremely close symbiosis between socio-technical needs and responses provided by town planning choices.
The world’s watchmaking capital then, is somewhat off the beaten track. The towns were laid out to reflect the needs of watchmakers, their working and living needs – homes, workshops, homes with workshops, and more recently, factories. Nothing pretentious or flighty or fancy, but simply working towns, dedicated to making timepieces of the highest quality: Patek Philippe, Omega, Rolex, and many others.
And the results speak for themselves. In 1867, Karl Marx analysed the industry and found these towns in the Jura mountains to be prime examples of efficient industrialisation. And today, this is still where some of the world’s most sought-after watches are created.
The towns aren’t tourist destinations. La Chaux-de-Fonds’ Manhattan-like block pattern design isn’t exactly beautiful. Little Le Locle is more picturesque, with curious architectural highlights here and there, like the courthouse in the photo above. And all around is some of nature’s best.
World at a Glance is a series of short articles here on Sophie’s World, with a single photo, portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad or wondrous, unexpected little encounters.
La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, Watchmaking Town Planning is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited around the world.