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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Just for fun, a quick shot I took last weekend of one of the brief moments when the subdial hands overlap after about 2 hrs 17 mins of running the chrono. At first I didn't take to this overlap design, but over time it becomes an interesting detail.

Zenith O1969 overlap.jpg

Now for my main question. I'm heading to Switzerland in three weeks for a visit with family. I know that many forum members have had the pleasure of visiting Le Locle and even to tour the inside of the Zenith manufacture. I was wondering if you could guide me in selecting some of the more interesting sites specific to Zenith. Does the manufacture have a small museum within the main building? Is there any prospect of getting a tour of the factory (without being a forum moderator, right Dan ;-))? What other locations in Le Locle should be of interest relative to Zenith? I know that the Musée d'horlogerie du Locle offers many things to see, but I'm looking for something more current (sadly I'm a philistine when it comes to historic clocks).

Some producers are very welcoming. For example, Jaeger Lecoultre has their own museum, whereas Blancpain (pictured below from my last trip in 2012) clearly don't accept visitors. I'd like to find out which type Zenith is.

Blancpain.jpg

Any input would be much appreciated, and I promise to return with photos!
 

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Well, it has been a year, so things could have changed. But the little section where we waited for the powers to be gather would have made a for a very limited visit. Perhaps better than BP, but not compared to JLC. Only worth the effort if one was making it in conjunction with several other stops.

FWIW, the site owner, Ernie, helped set things up even though sadly, he did not make it. But the plant tour was spectacular to say the least. But let's keep in mind that it was done for myself, Ernie, and Hartmut (even if I was the only one that showed).

If my contact still works there, I'll pose the question and see what the response is.

Hope to be back soon with a reply.

Regards,

Dan
 

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Just for fun, a quick shot I took last weekend of one of the brief moments when the subdial hands overlap after about 2 hrs 17 mins of running the chrono. At first I didn't take to this overlap design, but over time it becomes an interesting detail.



Now for my main question. I'm heading to Switzerland in three weeks for a visit with family. I know that many forum members have had the pleasure of visiting Le Locle and even to tour the inside of the Zenith manufacture. I was wondering if you could guide me in selecting some of the more interesting sites specific to Zenith. Does the manufacture have a small museum within the main building? Is there any prospect of getting a tour of the factory (without being a forum moderator, right Dan ;-))? What other locations in Le Locle should be of interest relative to Zenith? I know that the Musée d'horlogerie du Locle offers many things to see, but I'm looking for something more current (sadly I'm a philistine when it comes to historic clocks).

Some producers are very welcoming. For example, Jaeger Lecoultre has their own museum, whereas Blancpain (pictured below from my last trip in 2012) clearly don't accept visitors. I'd like to find out which type Zenith is.



Any input would be much appreciated, and I promise to return with photos!
Interesting to see that even the hands overlap!

In the immediate neighbourhood of Le Locle is les Ponts-de-Martel. There the old Martel building is still standing, which is where most Zenith movements were produced in the 1960s (until it was closed in 1975). That is the humble stable where the Zenith El Primero was born. All the pictures you can make of that are welcome, although we already have some pictures in the Martel thread. If you're more into modern Zeniths, you could go to the other side of Le Locle: Crêt-du-Locle, which is the location of Sellita, the producers of Zenith's new three hand movements, but it seems they just have an ugly modern factory building, not really interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
If my contact still works there, I'll pose the question and see what the response is.
Thank you very much Dan! This is far more than I could ever have asked of you! The work that you, Harmut and Ernie have put into WUS and its Zenith section over the years has certainly earned you a place as some of Zenith's most important partners and representatives. As a simple forum participant I don't expect any special contact within Zenith, but any opportunity to learn more about the manufacture would be very welcome indeed!

In the immediate neighbourhood of Le Locle is les Ponts-de-Martel. There the old Martel building is still standing, which is where most Zenith movements were produced in the 1960s (until it was closed in 1975). That is the humble stable where the Zenith El Primero was born. All the pictures you can make of that are welcome, although we already have some pictures in the Martel thread. If you're more into modern Zeniths, you could go to the other side of Le Locle: Crêt-du-Locle, which is the location of Sellita, the producers of Zenith's new three hand movements, but it seems they just have an ugly modern factory building, not really interesting.
Thanks for this recommendation, the old Ponts-de-Martel building would certainly be worth a look, even just from the outside. I remember seeing it in my favorite Zenith related video on Youtube, the Sauvetage du El Primero:


I'll look it up in the related threads. As for Sellita, I imagine that their factory is similar to their movements, focusing on generic functionality. I have owned a Bulova Calypso with the SW200 movement and it was a very good watch so I have no prejudices against the company. However, its relationship to Zenith is something I'm less enthusiastic about, so I may stick to the more historic Zenith properties.;-) Thanks again!
 

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I was there last week.

The Martel building in Ponts-du-Martel is still there, and is unchanged since the 2011 picture posted in the Martel history thread. I have a pic that I will add to that thread in the next week or two. The building is now occupied by a watch bracelet company.

Ponts-du-Martel is really a tiny working-class village and there's nothing there to do. If you drive there, expect to make your pictures and drive back-the drive is gorgeous. I struggle to imagine Charly Vermot living in Ponts-du-Martel, though. We romanticize the watch industry overmuch, I think. PM me and I'll point out the building on a map for you--it took me two tries to find it despite the small size of the village.

The Zenith factory is not open for tours and Dan is the only person I've heard of who got a tour. This is true for most of the factories. Even the Tag-Heuer 360 museum is not open to the public.

Longines maintains an interesting museum at their original St. Imier factory about 15 or 20 miles from Le Locle. A visit there requires an appointment; see their website. It's worth half a day--the tour is accompanied and takes about two hours. It is not, however, a factory tour.

JLC visits must be arranged through a dealer, but different dealers get different numbers of visits, as described to me by the manager at the Geneva boutique. The Geneva JLC boutique gets the most at 15 visits a year, so that would be the place to start in the hopes one of those aligns with your visit. Most dealers--even big Swiss retailers like Kirchhofer--are only allotted one visit per year (Bucherer may get more). JLC has the best factory tour of any of them, by all accounts, if you can time it right. Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux is much closer to Geneva than it is to Le Locle.

Most of the big names have factories in either Le Locle or La Chaux-de-Fonds, or in between in Crêt du Locle. You can drive by them all in an hour. From Sellita's parking lot in Crêt du Locle, you can see the new Cartier factory, a large Patek Philippe facility, and the Jacquet Droz factory. Tissot had their traditional factory in Locle, but they are building a monstrous big factory down the street from Tag-Heuer in Chaux-de-Fonds. (Tissot has several factories elsewhere, too.) AP's movement maker, Renauld and Papi, is in Locle, and Ulysse Nardin have facilities in both towns. Etc. Etc.

But it takes real pull to get tours. I didn't have it. I could not even get a tour of the Villa Turque (owned by Ebel) and I may own more of their watches than any American. The Villa Turque is two blocks from Girard Perregaux, and they have a museum in the Villa Marguerite, but it is also not open to the public.

The International Museum of Horology in La Chaux-de-Fonds is much more interesting in general than the Chateau Monts in Le Locle, but both are nice. I like clocks as much as watches, and Le Locle also has automata. For watch lovers, the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva is the best of them all.

Omega maintains a museum open to the public across the street from their headquarters in Biel/Bienne, about an hour from Le Locle. Neuchâtel is probably the best place to stay in the region.

There are also medieval churches and castles everywhere, particularly in Neuchâtel and Valangin (between Neuchâtel and La Chaux-de-Fonds).

But this is not really a tourist area, and the locals are unused to American tourists. We had as much fun doing urban exploring for different watch companies, past and present, but Zenith-related stuff is over and done in ten minutes of that.

Rick "still going through pictures" Denney
 
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Indeed an excellent write up! I am not having much luck in Le Locle. I would take what Rick says and go with it. My wife and I enjoyed the time in Geneva as well. If you look around, you can't lose either way (watch related or not).

Cheers!

Dan
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Hi Rick,

Thanks so much for posting these suggestions in such detail. You've confirmed my impression that access to the various manufactures is quite exclusive and difficult for the uninitiated. I get a kick out of the concept of a "museum not open to the public". Then again, watch makers probably want to avoid WIS lining outside their factories. They'd rather have visitors fill their boutiques, not their shop floors. ;)

Thanks for reaching out to Le Locle Dan. I very much appreciate it and understand how things work relative to giving any customers access. It's true that the boutiques in Geneva (and even just in the airport!) are enough to keep any watch fan busy for days. I expect to be content with admiring some Zenith landmarks from the outside. I'll aim to pass by, take some pictures and maybe continue on to the various national parks in the area for a hike.

Rick, on another note, I've noted your numerous posts on the subject of Ebel and its relation with the El Primero. I've also got a soft spot for the brand, which I've filled with a Discovery automatic housing the quirky Ebel 080/Longines 990/Lemania 8810. It's no EP, but it has interesting features: dual spring barrels and a date that can't be damaged by using the quick set function at night. Where do you get the proprietary straps and bracelets for these things though?

Ebel Discovery.jpg

All the best!
 

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I will get straps from Ebel--call the MGI service center in Moonachie, New Jersey. They tell me they can get straps for any Ebel, even if they have to have them made. They are not cheap, but much less than I thought they'd be. I haven't needed one yet; they are very well made and durable.

Bracelet links are another matter. I trawl EBay for those. They have links for the later models, but not always the first-gen 1911 bracelets. (They will supply two extra links for free if you bought the watch from an AD.)

The Longines 990 is every bit worthy of company with, say, the Zenith Elite. It is quirky, but at 2.96mm I think it remains the thinnest central-seconds automatic ever made, especially with date and full rotor. I took a couple of pics of Longines-vintage 990 movements at the Longines museum--certainly a worthy swan song for that storied manufacture.

If you go, you'll notice that Ebel's old building in the Rue de la Paix in La Chaux-de-Fonds is now occupied by a polishing company, as of January, when Ebel moved into the newly acquired Silver Tower (HQ of MGI Luxury Group) next to the train station in Biel/Bienne. MGI has also refitted a new factory in Biel/Bienne, too.

ImageUploadedByTapatalk1398825899.867549.jpg

Rick "whose expensive Switzerland purchases included that Ebel Classic 100 and a Zenith Star Elite for the Redhead" Denney
 
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