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The weekend takes place in Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds, in the Jura-massif in North-West of Switzerland


Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds
View of Neuchâtel, Switzerland 

Neuchâtel (having about 33,000 inhabitants) and La Chaux-de-Fonds (ca 37,000 inhabitants) are the two most important cities of the Neuchâtel canton, situated in the Jura mountains, in the North-West of Switzerland, the French-speaking part of the country.

The area has been occupied since prehistoric times, leaving to us a large number of archaeological remains now at display at Laténium, the largest museum of archaeology in Switzerland. The history of the canton always has been marked by political and cultural influences from neighbour France, Germany and German speaking Switzerland. Since the early 18th century the canton was ruled by Prussia, but after the revolution of 1948 it became a Republic and integrated itself fully into the Swiss confederation.

The canton was, since the 17th century, known by its strong and early industrialisation, as a result of Huguenot immigrants. A century later it became one of the main centers of Swiss watchmaking and cotton printing ("indienneries"). Today it is the national centre for micro- and nanotechnology.

The capital of the canton, the city of Neuchâtel is to a large part situated on the banks of the Neuchâtel Lake (the lower parts, "dans le bas"). In addition to its role in the textile and watch industry, the town became famous in the 19th century thanks to the Suchard chocolate factory in Serrières, to the West of the city.

La Chaux-de-Fonds, situated in the heights of Neuchâtel ("dans le haut") originated from the watchmaking industry. Its layout, its history, its economy, they all bear witness of local industrial traditions - and for this reasons the town in 2011 was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The town also was the birthplace of the architect Le Corbusier, who here realised its early works - including the famous White House (the 'Maison blanche'), built in the north of the city.


La Haute école Arc Conservation-restauration
The 'Haute Ecole Arc' in Neuchâtel

The Haute Ecole Arc is a school of higher education of the HES-SO (Hautes Ecoles Spécialisées de Suisse occidentale - the Specialised Schools of Higher Education of Western Switzerland), offering training in 4 domains: Management, Health, Engineering and Conservation-Restoration. The Conservation department,  La Haute école arc Conservation-restauration (HE-Arc CR) is part of the Swiss Conservation-restoration Campus (Swiss CRC) which includes four Swiss trainings in this field. HE-Arc offers a Bachelor's and Master's training in two schools:

  • conservation-restoration of objects of archaeology and ethnography (CRAE)
  • La conservation-restoration of heritage of science, technology and watchmaking (CROSTH, 'Conservation-Restauration des Objets Scientifiques, Techniques et Horlogers')

    CROSTH  is at present, together with the training at the Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft in Berlin, the only specialised school for conservation and restoration of industrial and technical heritage.
    HE-Arc CR is also engaged in applied research (R&D), offers services to museums, public authorities, associations and private companies, and supplies lifelong learning to professionals. The institute is in touch with a large number of partners in Switzerland and abroad (e.g. museums, laboratories, professional organisations, volunteer associations, training networks)


The Observatory of NeuchâtelThe observatoire of Neuchâtel

The chronometrical observatory of Neuchâtel, established in 1858, is one of the rare examples of observatories being, from the beginning, conceived for the determination of the exact hour and for measuring time. Thus is was of course an important scientific partner of the watchmakers, and also an economic stimulus because of the certificates it delivered them and the competitions it organized. The Observatory delivered exact time to telephone and telegraph administrations, public authorities and railways companies all over the world, and to all public clocks in Switzerland. More than being a simple research center, the Observatory became a symbol of Swiss punctuality and precision, a regional symbol witnessing the industrial and scientific tradition that designed the town and the region.
In 2007 a reform splitted the Observatory in two divisions, one being the Centre Suisse d’Électronique et de Micro techniques (CSEM, Swiss Centre of Electronics and Microtechnology) which continued the research and the service to the watchmaking industry. The other part was allied to the Science Faculty of the University of Neuchâtel. The heritage of the Observatory is now represented by the original building (1858-60) and the Hirsch Pavillion (both protected historic buildings since 2003) and by a unique and extraordinary collection of 19th and 20th c. scientific instruments, now being subject of a research project of HE-Arc CR.


Association pour la création d’un Musée de la Science et de la Techniques à Neuchâtel - Association for the creation of an museum of science and technology in Neuchâtel

AMSTN is a not for profit organisation which is promoting the establishment of a museum of science and industry in one of the buildings of the Observatory. A part of one of these, the Hirsch Pavillion (named after the first director of the institute) still keeps most of it's fixtures and fittings and the instruments as they were installed in 1912. The building has been protected by Law for its architectural value and interior decoration by the École d'Art de la Chaux-de-Fonds (Sapin-style). The building, as it is, is almost a real museum.The dome holds a triple refractor constructed by Zeiss in 1910, unique in the world and also a more modest antique telescope. In the basement one can see a seismograph built by Piccard and Quervain in the 1930s, and also astronomical pendulum clocks under a glass bell - once being reputed to be the most keepers of time before the introduction quarts crystals.
The director's house is empty fo the time being and AMSTN proposes to use it for housing an exhibition on the know how of Neuchâtel in the measuring of time and  transmission of time data.


Le Musée international d’Horlogerie de La Chaux-de-fonds -
International Museum of Watch-making of La Chauds-de-Fonds
Le Musée d'Horlogerie
© Musée International d’Horlogerie

The museum stems from the collection of the schoof of watchmaking of La Chaux-de-Fonds. The Musée Internationale d'Horlogerie (MIH) holds the largest collection on watchmaking in the world: watches, mechanical and electronical clocks, marine chronometers, automatons and astronomical instruments.
MIH regularly organizes temporary exhibitions showing and explaining facets of watchmaker's trade. Until January 19th they show the life and works of Georges-Frédéric Roskopf and the watch he designed 1867 , nicknamed « la Prolétaire », which is considered to be the first cheap watch common people could afford.


The Suchard factory in SerrièressUCHARD
Pont Berthier (1810) devant « l’usine rouge », un des bâtiments de l’entreprise Suchard

Established in 1826 by Philippe Suchard (who moved to Serrières in 1825), the chocolate factory was the start of the economic development of this town. In the beginning Suchard only was a small confectioner, but he became a pioneer when he transfered his business into an old disused mill. Most of his earliest machinery were self-designed and constructed, and from then on the plant knew a rapid development. Returning from a voyage to the Near East he had a house built, in an unexpected and until then unknown style, "Le Minaret" - to which he added an immense parc where he kept the skeleton of a whale and an enormous bird cage. The 'dining room' for his birds, at present a parish meeting room, was 20 m long and 10 m large.
To house their workers the Suchard company constructed in 1887 a series of workers houses, today known as "la Cité Suchard".


The asphalt mines of la PrestaThe asphalt mines of La Presta
© Tourisme neuchâtelois

Après près de trois siècles d’activité, l’exploitation industrielle des mines de la Presta a pris fin en 1986. Deux millions de tonnes d’asphalte en ont été extraits, creusant dans la montagne un réseau de galeries approchant les 100 kilomètres.
Cette industrie a joué un rôle prépondérant dans le passé industriel du Val-de-Travers. Sa production s’est exportée à travers le monde, donnant à la région une renommée internationale.
Aujourd’hui, ces mines sont ouvertes au public et des guides expérimentés font découvrir aux visiteurs la magie d’un voyage au cœur de la montagne à une température de 8°C et dans un décor qui renvoie à la rudesse des conditions de travail des mineurs.


And for those staying for a longer time in the region, there are a lot of other interesting places and sites to visit in the Neuchâtel canton





2015 - European Industrial and Technical Heritage Year


European Industrial and Technical Heritage Year
Année européenne du patrimoine industriel et technique
Jahr des Industriellen und Technischen Erbes
Anno del Patrimonio Industriale e Tecnico Europeo
Año Europeo del Patrimonio Industrial y Técnico

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