Visiting the Vallée de Joux from Geneva
The Vallée de Joux, or Rock Valley in English (Joux in the local dialect meaning “rock”), is located in the Swiss part of the Jura Mountains, 50 kilometers from Geneva and part of the canton of Vaud. The valley, cradled by limestone peaks, is mixture of lakes and rocky fields where the animal population surpasses the human. There are three major bodies of water in the valley of which the Lac de Joux is the largest. Along its shores you will find towns like Le Brassus, Le Lieu and Le Sentier. The lake is well known for its winds and attracts avid windsurfers and sailors in the summer months. It is also a great place for ice sailing and skating in the winter.
Attractions in the Vallée de Joux
The Vallée de Joux is most famous for being the centre of haute horlogerie manufacturing, a fact that is surprising for many people who wonder how this rural and almost inhospitable place became the production site of Switzerland’s finest timepieces.
Before the emergence of the watch industry the area was well-known for its precision instruments and tools. When religious dictates banned jewelry in the middle of the 16th century, neighboring French goldsmiths and jewelers developed a symbiotic relationship with the talented craftsmen of the Vallée de Joux. From this humble beginning some of the world’s most complicated and beautiful watches and timepieces have been created in Jura wilderness.
Espace Horloger can be loosely translated at the Watchmaker’s Space. Within the walls of this exhibition space in Le Sentier historical objects related to the development of watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux are proudly displayed. Visitors are introduced to fine watchmaking techniques and principles, such as the chronograph, the tourbillon, the flyback and the minute repeater.
Note: The Espace Horologer will be temporarily closed from October 2011-May 2012 for renovation.
Centre d’Initiation à Horlogerie
Also in Le Sentier is Olivier Piguet’s Initiation Centre, a dream come true for watch afficandos. Piguet, a native of the Vallée de Joux and competent watchmaker, has set up a training centre in his vintage farmhouse where the objective is to teach laypeople to dissemble and reassemble a variety of watches while discovering their inner workings and the theory behind them. ww.olivierpiguet.ch
The Valley de Joux is also an ideal place to treat both mind and body. The Centre Triveni in Le Lieu and the Hotel les Horlogers Philippe Guignard in Le Brassus both offer jacuzzis, saunas and cardiovascular equipment. At the Centre Triveni you can also be guided in meditation and try various therapies helping you to find your inner child or establish emotional balance.
Getting to the Vallée de Joux
Getting to the Vallée de Joux by Car
The drive from downtown Geneva to the Le Sentier is about 60 kilometers via the motorway and mountain roads. Leave Geneva in the direction of Lausanne, exit at Nyon and drive towards the mountains, following the signs for Saint Cergue/La Cure. You will pass briefly into France before reentering Switzerland just after Bois d’A’mont. There are approximately 10 kilometers between Bois dA’mont and Le Sentier.
Getting to the Vallée de Joux by Train
There is direct train service from Cornavin station to Le Sentier every hour during the week and continuing service to the other small towns along the Lac de Joux. The trip is approximately two hours and a one way ticket is priced at CHF 18.70. www.cff.ch
Hotels in the Vallée de Joux
Accommodation in the Vallée de Joux tends to be more functional more than luxurious. Almost every town will have a local hotel with clean but basic rooms. Service ranges from attentive to almost non-existent which, when taken in context, can be considered part of the region’s rustic charm.
One preferred place to spend the night in the Vallée de Joux is the Hotel Bellevue de Rocheray in Le Sentier. This picturesque establishment along the banks of the Lac de Joux offers attentive service and fine dining. The cost of a double room starts at CHF 180 per night.
Don’t forget the Hotel les Horlogers Philippe Guignard mentioned earlier. After pampering yourself can spend a night for the attractive price of CHF 90.