The project was ambitious but necessary: to renovate the Joux Valley Museum of Watchmaking and make it a modular attraction that was international in stature, in keeping with the region and the canton; a “new generation” museum with multiple objectives. The first step was to safeguard and showcase the expertise indigenous to the region; then to encourage future professionals; and lastly, to reorganise the pieces of the jigsaw to create a consistent entity that would strike a chord with visitors from near and far, since the goal also was to promote tourism. For a project of this scale, collaboration was the key.
Entrepreneur and designer Vincent Jaton is the brains behind the museum renovation project. “If you love history, heritage and the art of watchmaking, you can’t remain indifferent to a place like the Museum of Watchmaking.” His ambition was to redefine the museum’s vocation, to attract members of the general public aged 7 to 77, be they watch enthusiasts or new to the world of horology, and to educate and entertain. He wanted to create a space that would give pride of place to training and apprenticeships and that above all would spread the word about watchmaking; in short, a modular and educational attraction. “Displaying exceptional old exhibits is all well and good. But bringing them to life with innovative interactive communication media is both unexpected and guaranteed to make an impression!” For this multi-faceted entrepreneur, the virtues of the project were self-evident. All that remained was to raise the necessary funds.
Georges-Henri Meylan is one of the founder members of the museum’s Foundation. But it is as President of the Paul-Edouard Piguet Foundation that he was able to finance the project from the outset: “We made an initial investment, and then supported the initiative for the first three years. The aim thereafter was that it should operate independently.” A former CEO of Audemars-Piguet, he also quickly identified the additional requirements of private museums. “The Museum of Watchmaking is for the industry as a whole. Including brands no longer in existence that were instrumental in the history and expertise of our Valley.”
“There is a need for solid foundations. The region can’t fail to benefit as a result. And in terms of tourism, new avenues will open up,” remarks Cédric Paillard, the director of Joux Valley Tourism, who is convinced of the project’s merits. If the region already supported the old museum, this renovation promises great things for the Joux Valley. New, longer opening times will attract more visitors from near and far and allow them to visit more often. The museum’s dynamic and entertaining character promises to bring in members of the public of all ages, from schoolchildren to pensioners. Lastly, the visitor’s card, distributed to all people staying in the Joux Valley, guarantees that the message will get across. This card offers all holders free transport and many tourist reductions. Cédric Paillard sees the new museum as “a real trailblazer, with a unique character that complements other private museums. The challenge now will be to make sure visitors come back!”
Naturally, the commune of the Vallée de Joux also support the project. “Watchmaking has always been the region’s mainstay, particularly with the prestigious firms that are all around us. Regarding the new museum, efforts have focused on its renovation and dynamic character,” explains Jeannine Rainaud, the Mayor of Le Chenit. The commune is also providing long-term finance to the project. “We’re expecting a real change from everyday tourism.” Joux Valley residents meanwhile are behind the project and have rallied to the cause.
The most prestigious brands also support the renovation. “This proposal complements the activities of private museums owned by Joux Valley manufacturers,” notes Jérôme Lambert, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. “Private museums are limited to one brand. The Museum of Watchmaking brings together a series of collections consisting of movements, watches, clocks, tools, photographs and documents. This makes it perfectly feasible to envisage extending individual visits with an introduction to the Joux Valley Museum of Watchmaking. It is highly likely therefore that visitors will be offered more comprehensive visits.”
For his part, Lucien Bachelard, director of the Joux Valley Technical College (ETVJ) has collaborated with the museum for many years. “Our training establishment has its origins in watchmaking, which it nurtures by bringing new blood into the industry. The museum is an excellent shop window for our activities.” The ETVJ has more than 260 students, more than half of whom are future watchmakers. However other disciplines are also studied, such as micromechanics, microengineering design and jewellery. What could be better for students than to hone their skills on prestige models in the Gidéon collection or other exceptional watches in need of renovation? “The collaboration works both ways. The Technical College also holds a collection belonging to the commune of Le Chenit, part of which is loaned to the museum,” notes Lucien Bachelard. “In addition, Silvia Rougnon, one of our lecturers, received permission from the Department of Training, Youth and Culture (DFJC) to allocate part of her time to collaboration between the College and the Museum. While cultural mediator Dave Grandjean is involved in the exhibition side of the activity, he also represents the skills section and helps with preparation and maintenance. It can safely be assumed that the Museum of Watchmaking will bring many new students through the doors of its partner College in the years ahead.”
Everything points to the fact that a watchmaking region such as the Joux Valley, enjoying an international reputation, would be incomplete without a watch museum. This goal has now been attained.