Must-Visit Travel Destinations for Watch Enthusiasts


Photo courtesy of the Clapham Clock Museum Photo courtesy of the Museum of Islamic Art

Most watch enthusiasts will make the obligatory pilgrimage to Switzerland, the Mecca of watchmaking, at some point in their lifetime. If you love a particular brand, you may plan a trip to tour the factory or visit the maker’s museum. But, what if you’re traveling to New Zealand, India, or Israel? What if you want to know the best watch destination right here in the States? Maybe you’re looking for something more interactive than a museum—like a hands-on experience building your own timepiece from scratch. There are loads of opportunities around the world for watch lovers to deepen their passion and knowledge beyond visiting brand museums. Here, we’ll explore seven unique travel destinations for watch enthusiasts.

Israel: Museum of Islamic Art

At first glance, you might consider something other than the Museum of Islamic Art in Jerusalem to be a horological destination. However, it’s home to a selection of rare clocks and watches from one of the foremost horological collectors and historians of the twentieth century, Sir David Lionel Salomons. Salomons has a particular interest in complicated watches built on advanced mechanical principles, and his collection reflects that. Among the 200 items are a wide array of horological objects, including 55 watches and clocks from Abraham-Louis Breguet. Salomons was one of Breguet’s most prolific collectors, so much so that he wrote a book on the esteemed watchmaker’s life and work entitled Breguet. Among the watches is perhaps one of the most significant pieces ever crafted by Breguet: watch No. 160 (WA 69), today known as the “Marie Antoinette.” This particular object took nearly 40 years to complete, featuring astonishing innovations, such as a calendar complication that adjusts to leap years, a thermometer, and the equation of time, among others.


The Marie Antoinette. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Islamic Art

Czech Republic: Olomouc Astronomical Clock

While many will travel to Olomouc to visit the Holy Trinity Column, its secular counterpart is the original gothic building of the city hall, which dates back to the fourteenth century. The centerpiece of the city hall building is a 500-year-old astronomical clock that’s one of the only heliocentric clocks in the world. Originally built sometime between the mid-1400s and early-1500s, the Olomouc Astronomical Clock displays the Earth and planets revolving around the Sun at the center of the universe. At the time, this defined the popular belief of geocentrism, which placed Earth at the center. Over nearly 600 years, the Olomouc Astronomical Clock has been reconstructed several times, with the latest update occurring in the 1950s by the artist Karel Svolinský. Svolinský is responsible for introducing the folklore motif of the Ride of the Kings at the top of the recess alongside various portrayals depicting characteristic work for each month of the year.

France: Atelier Du Bracelet Parisien

A more unconventional stop on your horological travels might include a bespoke maker like Atelier Du Bracelet Parisien. Just steps away from Place Vendôme in the heart of Paris, home to numerous watch boutiques and the Breguet Museum, you’ll find one of Europe’s premier custom strap makers. What initially appears as a modest workshop is home to every type of leather in every color you can imagine, including vegan options like cactus, grape, and pineapple. Atelier Du Bracelet Parisien is a small, family-owned company spanning two generations that has been operating for over two decades. It has been certified as a “Living Heritage Company” by the French state since its products are entirely handmade in the Paris outpost according to centuries-old techniques and traditions. Here, you can custom-build each and every element of your strap, from the thickness to the stitching and the tip shape to the keepers.

New Zealand: Clapham Clock Museum

Photo courtesy of the Clapham Clock Museum

Whangarei is New Zealand’s most northern city, made up mainly of rural land that gives way to the Bay of Islands. Thanks to its quaint charm and modest size, it’s the type of place where everyone knows your name, especially when you have a big personality like Archibald Clapham. Clapham moved from his home in Yorkshire, UK, to Whangarei in 1903. He quickly developed a reputation for his fun-loving personality and collection of over 400 horological objects, which included a vast range of timekeepers, from his bespoke pieces to more historically significant ones, like ancient water clocks. In 1961, Clapham sold his collection to the local Council, and a year later, they opened the Clapham Clock Museum in his honour. It’s now home to over 2100 clocks and timepieces, each carrying on Claphma’s unique spirit, making it one of the largest collections of horological instruments in the Southern Hemisphere.


India: Jantar Mantar

When you think of Jaipur, India, you might picture fine jewelry and luxury textiles. However, the Pink City is also home to a unique destination that attracts horological enthusiasts and architects, artists, and historians. Jantar Mantar comprises a collection of observatories, each with a specialized function for astronomical measurements, which date back to the beginning of the eighteenth century. The construction started in 1724 when Maharajah Sawaii Jai Singh II of Jaipur commissioned these five astronomical observatories to be built in northern India. At the time, most astronomical instruments were brass, but Maharajah Sawaii Jai Singh II wanted these structures to showcase locally sourced marble and stone. Among the observatories that make up Jantar Mantar is the world’s largest stone sundial, measuring over 88 feet. The Samrat Yantra or “Supreme Instrument” is not only aesthetically striking but also technically impressive. The dial can measure time with astonishing precision, boasting an accuracy of two seconds.

United States: Harvard University’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments

In 1948, Harvard University established its Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. Today, it’s grown to contain over 20,000 objects, making it one of the three largest university collections of its kind. Among the array of horological and astronomical instruments is the largest collection of sundials in North America. This gift from David P. Wheatland, class of 1922, includes ivory pocket sundials made in Nuremberg, Germany between 1575 and 1645.

Still, the most remarkable of the horological items found in the collection is Boston clockmaker Joseph Pope’s grand orrery. In it, you see the planets and moons of the planets as they were known at the time moving around the sun, turned by an elaborate set of gears. In addition, the exterior is decorated with wooden figures cast in brass by Paul Revere. The grand orrery is not just an incredible object within itself. It embodies the ambitions of scientists in the eighteenth century, and therefore, it is the perfect representation of what the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments has to offer.

Switzerland: Initium

We’d remiss not to include a stop in Switzerland on this watch enthusiast’s journey around the globe. However, instead of a more typical destination like a brand museum or factory, we’ve opted for a more unconventional one. At Initium, you have the opportunity to make your own Swiss watch alongside Master Watchmakers. Options are available for either a half-day or daylong experience. The daylong workshop is the most robust and immersive. It begins with coffee, croissants, and an introduction to watchmaking that includes disassembling and reassembling the heart of the watch: the movement. After a lunch break, it’s time to build your bespoke timepiece. No experience is required to participate, and workshop sizes are kept small to maintain a warm atmosphere and to guarantee a personal experience. You also have the option to fully customize the timepiece you build, making it a true personal staple of your collection.