Local History

Val-de Travers, Bovet SA, Château de Vauxtravers/Môtiers. Photo/Foto: www.fleurier.ch

Swiss Rhythm in Fleurier

The roads in the Val-de-Travers in the Jura Mountains of the canton of Neuchâtel form an east-west connection. Since the Gallo-Roman era, there have been settlements, and this valley has been an essential link in the trade flows from Franche-Comté to the Swiss plateau.

Since the eighteenth century, however, the valley itself has become an industrial area for the production of textiles, asphalt, absinthe drinks and, above all, watches. The heart of the Valley still beats to the rhythm of the watchmakers today, especially in Fleurier, a medieval village.

The first mention of Fleurier appears on a document dating from 1284. The town was first administered by the Lords of Vautravers and then by the Counts of Neuchâtel from the 14th century onwards. Since 1814, the village has been part of the canton of Neuchâtel.

In 1730 David Vaucher (1712-1786) introduced the first watch industry in Fleurier, in 1800 there would be 200 watchmakers. Edouard Bovet (1797-1849), a young watchmaker from Fleurier, began a business trip to China in 1818, opening the doors of the Great Empire to the watchmakers of Fleurier.

The Chinese market was a huge boost, and a lot of manufacturers were active to supply the Chinese market. In 1900, more than 2,000 people worked in this sector in Fleurier, and the population had risen from 800 in 1800 to more than 3,300 around 1900.

After the crises of the Napoleonic wars (1800-1813), during the interwar period (1918-1939), the world wars (1914-1945) and especially after the appearance of Japanese and American quartz watches and the oil crisis in 1970, the watchmaking of the village (and Switzerland) showed great solidarity, a steadfast determination and an impressive innovative capacity.

The opening of new markets and the genius of some entrepreneurs ensured that the village (and the Swiss watch industry) could recover quickly.

That is not only a capacity of Fleurier but of Switzerland, the real European Union of languages, cultures, entrepreneurship, the rule of law and democracy. (Source and further information: www.fleurier.ch).