|Le Locle and around|
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Eight kilometres west of La Chaux is the small town of LE LOCLE, where Swiss watchmaking was born. Daniel Jeanrichard, a native of Neuchâtel (where he made his first watch in 1681, aged 16) settled in Le Locle in 1705 and taught the trade to his family and a small group of apprentices, who then took the skill on to La Chaux and elsewhere in the Jura. Today, there’s not an awful lot to see in the town, although if the watch bug has bitten you, you’ll enjoy the Musée d’horlogerie in the grand Château de Monts above the town (Tues–Sun: May–Oct 10am–5pm; Nov–April 2–5pm; Fr.6; SMP), its rooms furnished in eighteenth-century style crammed with ticking timepieces of all kinds, including a roomful of whimsical and intricate mechanical figures by Maurice Sandoz.
The Col-des-Roches underground mills (daily: mid-June to mid-Sept 10am–5.30pm; May to mid-June & mid-Sept to Oct 10am–noon & 1.30–5.30pm; Fr.7; SMP) are 2km west of Le Locle on the French border. These vast, dank chambers were chiselled out of the rock little by little in the seventeenth century in order to take advantage of the flow of water heading down to the Doubs basin: there are two mills for grinding flour, a saw mill, and various other bits of heavy machinery down there, none of it particularly gripping.
A sideroad branches 3km north from the Col-des-Roches down to the small riverside village of LES BRENETS, where the Doubs broadens slightly to form a long bulge, optimistically called the Lac des Brenets (or, to the French on the other bank, the Lac de Chaillexon), which freezes over in winter to form the largest natural icerink in Europe. At its eastern end, through an impressive craggy gorge, the lake terminates in the impressive, 27m-high Saut du Doubs waterfall.
From La Chaux, it’s easiest to get the regular buses #60 or #61 to Le Locle, which stop at the central Place du Marché. Hourly postbuses from Le Locle to La Brévine stop at the Col-des-Roches mills. There are CMN buses and narrow-gauge trains from Le Locle down to Les Brenets, where you can take a boat on the lake as far as the falls (20min journey; service provided by NLB; 032/932 14 14, www.nlb.ch). The bus drops you at the NLB jetty; from the train station walk left down through the village for twenty minutes to the river bank.
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