Horological attractions continue as soon as you leave Geneva, and the Swiss Tourism board has mapped out a Watchmaker's Route for visitors to follow, though it is not comprehensive. The first stop of note is Franck Muller Watchland, the factory of one of the most successful new brands in fine watches, just over a decade old.
Less than half an hour away, you cross the mountains into the Joux Valley, also fittingly known as the Watch Valley, and almost immediately upon descending the steep pass you enter the mainstreet of the twin villages of Le Sentier and Les Brassus. Several heavy hitters of the fine-watch world sit here: Audemars Piguet on the left, then Blancpain to the right, and Jaeger Le Coultre to the left again - all within walking distance. Farther down the road sits Breguet, whose founder, Abraham Louis Breguet, was the most renowned innovator in watch history and whose watches were worn by Napoleon and Marie Antoinette. Audemars Piguet has a small museum, open by appointment, tracing the history of the company and its signature Royal Oak line of watches, including one of the three original special editions worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Audemars collector, in Terminator 3.
Because of growing traffic from watch enthusiasts and trade to the factories of the Joux Valley, the families who own Audemars Piguet just bought and refurbished a hotel right next door, easily the best choice in the entire Joux Valley. The Hotel des Horlogers ("watchmakers hotel") has comfortable, renovated rooms, is decorated with watch art and antique watchmaking equipment, and features two cozy and very tasty country French restaurants. It sits across the street from Blancpain, which, last October, relocated its manufacturing facility to this renovated, historic barn. The new facility offers perhaps the best individual, behind-the-scenes watchmaking tour in Switzerland. Rich in history, Blancpain produced the first true professional dive watch, which was worn by Jacques Cousteau, and today it's one of only a handful of companies making a watch featuring the equation of time, an extremely intricate complication that displays the difference in the length of each day between our calendar and solar time.
Also in Le Sentier is the Espace Horloger ("watchmaker's space"), a museum with five main exhibits, including the history of watchmaking, watchmaking today, and the clocks that preceded watches. This is one of two important watch museums in the Joux Valley. The second is the larger and more modern International Watch Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds, less than half an hour from LeSentier. You'll find more than 4,000 items on display here, from ornate medieval tower clocks and chronometers that have been in space to antique wristwatches. La Chaux-de-Fonds is also the birthplace of the famous architect Le Corbusier, and today, his home, Villa Turque, houses the Ebel Public Relations Center.