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1,000 metres above sea level On the trail of luxury watches in the Jura

With its valleys, small lakes and hamlets dotted on pastures, the Joux Valley is a favourite destination for nature lovers both in summer and winter. It is also the cradle of the Swiss luxury watch industry.

Cut off from the rest of the world in winter, farmers in the Joux Valley in the 18th Century began to make watch components. It meant that they had an extra source of income. Brands such as Audemars Piguet and Jaeger-LeCoultre were developed here. They were later joined by names such as Patek Philippe, Blancpain, Breguet and Vacheron Constantin.

Today 7000 people work in the valley. It has a population of 6600 (including children and the retired). That means that the watch industry employees a large number of cross-border workers: 4000 French citizens travel to the valley on a daily basis for work.

The cross-border workers have been coming from much further afield than the regions just over the national boundary, they now come from all over France. For the companies it is easier to employee someone from Paris than it is from the Lake Geneva region. For them, the two passes leading up into the Swiss Jura hills, are apparently insurmountable psychological barriers.

(Photos: Thomas Kern, Samuel Jaberg,

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