Neuchâtel, another out of the way city that I visited in Switzerland in 1997, although for this case, I went to Neuchâtel because I had this crazy idea to check out the manufacturer’s address of a Zodiac brand mechanical Swiss watch that I had bought previously. Neuchâtel is renowned for it’s watch industry (although I didn’t know that back then).
Located near the French border, Neuchâtel is decidedly French just as Locarno is Italian. Like most Swiss towns or cities, Neuchâtel is built beside a lake and well connected by railway and highways.
And yes, I had this crazy idea to look for the manufacturer of my Zodiac automatic watch. I also wanted to check if they would supply some spare parts like the outer dial. On the warranty card, they had listed their address as in Neuchâtel. And since I was in Switzerland for an extended time, I thought I would look them up.
In an age where GPS and smartphones didn’t exist, it was down to paper maps and asking people for directions. Finally I found the address and what a let down! It was a small office address in a row of shophouses, and it was closed for the weekend. So the lesson I learnt that day is that many Swiss watches are just brands which are marketed, and the actual manufacturing of the watches are out-sourced to unknown factories. Anyway, Zodiac is now part of Fossil Inc. who bought them over in 2001, and they don’t produce automatic watches anymore, just the mass produced consumer quartz models.
Now that my main purpose in coming to Neuchâtel was dashed, I decided to look around the city. It’s a small city and you can explore it on foot. The main attraction is the Castle of Neuchâtel, and the Old Town with it’s many street fountains. I made my way to the main Castle but didn’t enter, as the castle is used by the Cantonal government as offices, although they do organize free guided tours of the interior at regular times. Instead, I spent my time looking around the surrounding areas.
Should you visit Neuchâtel? I would, if I had the chance again since I didn’t get to appreciate this city during the previous visit. Neuchâtel would also make a good stop over if you are going towards Geneva from central Switzerland.