Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Time Defines the Towns: La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle as a UNESCO World Heritage Site

In this season, when I hear the term ensemble, I think of it in human terms -- motion picture awards,  red carpets, designer gowns, striking tuxes, and fabulous jewelry.

Little did I expect to find La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle described as a watch making urban ensemble by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) -- demonstrating "outstanding universal value"... "entirely dedicated to a single industry."

Like Hollywood, the two Swiss communities taken together have a single production focus.

To wit: Hollywood makes movies; La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle makes time. 

Located within several kilometers of each other in the Swiss Jura Mountains, the towns were recognized in 2009 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site joining 11 other sites in Switzerland and over 1000 sites worldwide.

According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites' 2009 report to UNESCO supporting the nomination of the towns as a World Heritage Site, "This [industry dedication] has led to led an urban planning scheme consisting of parallel strips which is both rational and pragmatic, a close and sustainable intermingling of housing and workshops, and an architectural idiom that is directly related to working practices."

Images of La Chaux-de Fonds from https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/la-chaux-de-fonds.html

Today, a number of watch companies have their headquarters in the area including Girard-Perregaux, Ebel, TAG Heur, Corum and JeanRichard.

Along with this line-up, there are many watch company factories there including Breitling, Patek Philippe, Ulysse Nardin, Jaquez Droz, and Tissot; plus a plethora of watch component suppliers making  movements, dials, hands, etc.

Curiously, the only watch company that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site partner is Jaeger-LeCoultre headquartered in Le Sentier, Vaud, Switzerland. A site partner since 2008, Jaeger-LeCoultre's support has been devoted to bringing "critical resources and public awareness to the 50 marine World Heritage sites."

My hope is that the watch companies nominally headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds  / Le Locle or having a manufacturing presence there as well as the component makers will  become UNESCO World Heritage Partners.

Doing so will demonstrate their corporate commitment to recognizing and preserving World Heritage Sites which are in themselves defined by Time.