jean claude nicolet

Prix Gaïa 1993 – Jean-Claude Nicolet. Catégorie Artisanat-Création

He won the prize for his works and his contribution to time measurement as watchmaker, clockmaker and teacher, together with the human and pedagogical qualities he developed all throughout his career.


Master watchmaker, teacher

Selected works

  • Audacieuse, a clock equipped with a single gear
  • Prototype of a clock with a 19-m pendulum
  • Development of a visible self-winding watch placed next to the dial.

Before Gaïa

After he completed his CFC training as a watchmaker at Technicum, a watchmaking school in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jean-Claude Nicolet started his professional career in the industrial world. He was first employed as watchmaker at Cortébert Watch Co, then moved to Zenith. Appreciation for his skills earned him several prizes for his chronometers at the Neuchâtel Observatory competition at the tender age of 23.

His deepest wish was to share and transmit his knowledge to posterity. And it was for this reason that he applied for a position at watchmaking school in 1955. At not even 25 years old, he already started teaching the art of timing.

In 1979, he obtained a masters in watchmaking, followed by an operations technician diploma at Ecole Technique (formerly known as Technicum) in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Jean-Claude Nicolet

Throughout his career, he created several amazing and original creations with the contribution of his students. Among them is Audacieuse, an exceptional clock equipped with 119-lost-strikes escapement and a single gear, which can be found in the collection of the International Museum of Horology.

Another example is the innovative clock he placed in the staircase of Technicum in Neuchâtel. The time on this clock could only be read on the fourth floor of the building as the pendulum was over 15 meters.

A few years later, Jean-Claude Nicolet took up the project again by proposing an even bigger clock that would be placed in the Espacité tower, a 14-story building on the Avenue Léopold-Robert in La Chaux-de-Fonds, built in 1994. He then developed a prototype featuring an escapement wheel that rotated once every hour and a 19-m pendulum. The mechanism and the time display were placed at the bottom of the pendulum. However, the final and perfect version, though inspired by the prototype, was developed by others. Nicolet also came up with a self-winding piece with the mass visible on the side of the dial.

The 3 laureates : Jean-Claude Nicolet, André Margot and Henri-Louis Belmont

In parallel with his teaching and designing jobs, Nicolet also published several books and articles about the unknown aspects of watchmaking. One such example is the book “Pendulerie”, which is today still a reference in the industry. Same goes for the book “Le taillage et fraisage dans la réparation d'horlogerie” . (Cutting and milling in watch restoration).

Jean-Claude Nicolet

After Gaïa

After he won the Prix Gaïa, Nicolet continued sharing his knowledge through teaching and publishing books and articles until he retired.

Freed from his professional obligations, he continued his artisan-creator work in watchmaking. One of his most famous pieces is an astronomic clock equipped with several complications. 

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

The obituary of Jean-Claude Nicolet, first prix Gaïa winner

By Joël A. GrandjeanContributor
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Jean-Claude Nicolet, former watchmaking professor who some regard as "the last of the great 'orlogeurs' ", gave me the text of a talk given...