Since about 1725 watchmaking here developed in homework and in small workshops. Well-known brands founded here are Blancpain (1735) and Minerva (1858). It is also birthplace of the automaton builder Pierre Jaquet-Droz.
In 1932, Blancpain was purchased from the founding family and a new entity was formed, named for the village. Called Rayville, this would become a major producer of watch movements especially after it was brought into SSIH in 1961. In the 1980s, the Blancpain brand was sold and Rayville became a factory for movement production as part of ETA. In recent decades, the former Rayville is the main assembly point for chronometer movements for Omega, still part of ETA. This facility was dramatically expanded and modernized from 2013 to 2015. The modern Blancpain is situated over 100 km away in Le Brassus but continues to celebrate their heritage with the “Villeret” range of watches.
Minerva operated independently in Villeret since its founding in 1858 as H. & C. Robert. It was able to survive alongside Blancpain through the turmoil of the following century, though greatly diminished after the quartz crisis. After Richemont acquired Minerva in October 2006, the Villeret facility became Montblanc Manufacture, a high-end producer of limited-edition complicated mechanical watches for the famous brand. Today, Montblanc uses the “Villeret 1858” brand name on these watches.
The Cartier Group established a corporate office in Villeret in 1989 and took over the Fluckiger dial plant in nearby Saint-Imier the year later. In 1992, Cartier consolidated these operations in Villeret in a new factory designed by famous architect Jean Nouvel. This plant produced Cartier, Baume & Mercier, and Yves Saint Laurent watches and remained in operation through 2003.
- Villeret, official website