The monumental Tissot clock
6 August 2023
The Neuchâtel mountains (the Jura) are considered the historic cradle of Swiss watchmaking. Farmers began in these isolated mountains and valleys as early as the 17th century to make mechanisms to keep them busy during the long and cold winters.
These parts were collected and assembled in workshops, known as comptoirs or ateliers, mainly in La Chaux-de-Fonds. And so it was that this town, at an altitude of 1,000m, became a watchmaking centre of international importance, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A watchmaking metropolis in need of clocks
And yet, in 2018, at the inauguration of the 8th Biennial of Watchmaking Heritage – during which the region’s many factories and ateliers opened their doors to the public – the President of the Confederation Ignazio Cassis expressed his astonishment: how is it that there are so few public clocks in the streets of La Chaux-de-Fonds? And isn’t it surprising to enter one of the world’s watchmaking capitals without the time being displayed at any of the town’s entrances?
The CEO of Tissot accepted the challenge. The watch manufacturer Tissot was founded in 1853 in Le Locle. The headquarter is still located in this city. He launched a competition for students from the School of Applied Arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Since the town is accessible by three main roads, the students were asked to design three monumental clocks representing the past, the present and the future.
A 3-metre-long pocket watch
Loïc Chatton’s creation was chosen, an antique pocket watch in perspective, with the dial, movement and case installed at a distance from each other. The art installation is on the station square in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The work measures 13 metres long, with the central part 3 metres high and some features weighing more than 800 kg.
Tissot is planning to donate three monumental clocks to La Chaux-de-Fonds, and the next two, at the eastern and western entrances to the town, should symbolise the present and the future.
Lars Kophal, editor and journalist
Mechanism of a simple watch, around 1980. Ebauches SA. Neues Historisches Museum Biel