La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle

Two towns laid out like Manhattan but resolutely more human in size. Two towns that are the product of rational and ordered urban planning, where houses and workshops sit side by side on the same street. Two towns that are a concrete expression of a body of contemporaneous thought. From the 19th to 20th century, the towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle would evolve to become a “single watchmaking workshop”, a position that has endured to the present day.

La Chaux-de-Fonds/Le Locle, watchmaking town planning ©Presence Switzerland
Facts & figures


Typical urban landscape of the watchmaking industry, built after the city fires in the 19th century.


La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle (both in the canton of Neuchâtel)

UNESCO inscription



Outstanding example of an architectural ensemble which illustrates significant stages in human history (Criterion 4 of UNESCO Operational Guidelines).


La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle are unique records of an era in Switzerland’s industrial history. These towns, their streets, buildings and factories were built by and for the watchmaking industry. Great care was taken to construct towns which met the needs of not only industry but also of the workers. In the interests of both economic efficiency and the workers’ quality of life, production facilities and housing were built close together. Buildings were designed to maximise light and the urban structure facilitated access to these hitherto remote towns. At first glance, La Chaux de Fonds and Le Locle may appear particularly dazzling, but their historical and architectural value is unique and beyond doubt. It is remarkable that both have continued to be home a major industry that prizes tradition and innovation without sacrificing the authenticity of their townscape.

World Heritage and Swissness

Quality, precision, uniqueness, reliability, tradition, design, innovation … these are just a few of the words that sum up the Swiss watchmaking industry and Switzerland itself. Switzerland is inextricably linked to watchmaking, a craft that matches with how the Swiss perceive themselves and how others also perceive them. Watches are chocolate are Switzerland’s most famous exports. For centuries, watchmaking has been a major driving force of Swiss industry. To find out more about the rise of Swiss watchmaking, what makes Swiss watches so special, how and where they are made, and the imaginative and whimsical timekeeping gems that were created in Switzerland, check out our Swiss Special.

Virtual tour

UNESCO world heritage - La Chaux-de-Fonds/Le Locle, watchmaking town planning
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA