5 Watch Museums to Visit

The grand complication and métiers d’art ateliers are in the center of the spiral, with more than 300 watches displayed in the remaining 900 square meters. A highlight is the 1899 Universelle pocket watch, among the most complicated timepieces ever produced by the watchmaker with 19 different complications and 1,168 components.

In February, Audemars Piguet introduced the Code 11.59 Ultra-Complication Universelle RD#4, a wristwatch homage to the Universelle that boasts 23 complications and 40 functions. To mark the occasion, “Simply Complicated,” an installation that tells the story of the new timepiece’s creation, was commissioned from the Swiss kinetic artist Pascal Bettex. It is to be displayed until the end of the year.

Route de France 18, CH-1348 Le Brassus; tours are offered Tuesday to Friday, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.; admission is 30 Swiss francs ($32) and reservations are required; museeatelier-audemarspiguet.com

Le Locle, Switzerland

The museum shares the grounds of the original Zenith factory, opened in 1865 — and the oldest watch in its display is from the same era: an 1870s Zenith Billodes pocket watch.

The 547-square-meter space, which currently is being expanded by around 180 square meters, displays about 3,000 items. Among the more than 2,000 wristwatches and pocket watches is an 1890s pocket watch signed by the founder, Georges Favre-Jacot. Many of the brand’s more than 2,300 prizes for chronometry, the science of accurate timekeeping, are shown alongside pieces like an early-20th-century chronometer that watch retailers displayed in their windows so passers-by could set their own timepieces.

The main highlight of the museum tour is a visit to Zenith’s famous attic: In 1971, as inexpensive quartz watches from Japan were overwhelming the Swiss watch market, Zenith was bought by a Chicago-based radio company that decided to stop making mechanical watches. In 1976, a workshop foreman, Charles Vermot, hid in the attic the equipment needed to produce the house’s signature El Primero movement, the world’s first high-frequency automatic chronograph — and told no one until 1985. Along with the tools and equipment, footage of an emotional Vermot recounting his story to Swiss television in 1991 is shown there.

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