Residents of Switzerland’s Val-de-Travers are said to regularly report seeing a “green fairy.” While this might be due to the allegedly mind-altering absinthe made in this region, a green fairy could also reference the racing mountain streams, secret caves, narrow gorges, peaceful rivers, and superb forests that characterize the area located between the French border and Lake Neuchâtel.Nestled in among the mountainous green forest overlooking the valley’s larger towns of Fleurier and Môtiers is one of the area’s historical attractions of the human kind: a stone castle whose earliest sections were built in the early fourteenth century by Rodolphe IV, count of Neuchâtel. Originally called Vauxtravers, today we know it as the Bovet Château de Môtiers, even if locals still tend to call it Vieux-Château.
Successively occupied by the valley’s lords, in 1835 the castle was purchased from the state by Henri-François Dubois-Bovet, who turned it into a farm complete with a barn near the main house.
In 1957, Dubois-Bovet’s great-grandchildren donated it to the canton of Neuchâtel, who used it for cultural and local events such as weddings. Classified as a national historical monument, it was also a tourist attraction.The 5,800-square-meter historic castle is located just one kilometer south of the village of Môtiers and overlooks Fleurier.
In 2006, the castle was purchased by Pascal Raffy, who had bought Bovet in 2001 and had already transformed STT in Tramelan into Dimier 1822, a manufacturing facility.
After being offered the Château de Môtiers by Neuchâtel’s authorities, Raffy thought to use the castle as a production site for his growing brand; currently Bovet’s luxurious watches are assembled in the location.
Raffy could hardly have chosen a more dramatic venue.
He began by renovating the former barn, known simply as “la grange,” to house production workshops. While these workshops were originally scheduled to open later in 2008, Raffy’s knowledgeable local building team was very motivated, and the renovations of this picturesque building were completed within five months.The spacious workshop overlooks both Fleurier and Môtiers thanks to large windows that flood the watchmakers in plenty of natural light. No expense was spared to make this new workshop as high-tech as possible in a controlled atmosphere designed to keep dust particles at bay and the temperature and humidity within a comfortable range.Raffy believes this is instrumental to preserving the quality of the assembly of the haute horlogerie timepieces completed there.
La Grange houses watchmakers for assembly and technicians for quality control. Bovet manufactures approximately 2,000 watches annually, many of which are unique specimens whose dials and/or cases have been custom designed and decorated to the wishes of their future owners.
Bovet Château de Môtiers, a historical monument
Raffy has also renovated the main castle building, which took quite a bit more time and patience since the company was not allowed to move any stones in the renovation of the protected edifice.A four-cornered tower called Tour de Diesse, originally home to the castle’s dungeon, staunchly overlooks the valley. Today it serves Raffy as a private dining room.
And yet another of the spacious rooms featuring a spectacular view was renovated for Raffy to use as an office.
Other rooms in the main château are used for Bovet administration and to display the brand’s private collection of pocket watches.