Our history


Laboratoire Temps-Fréquence (LTF-Time and Frequency Laboratory) was founded on February 1st 2007 in the Institute of Microtechnology (IMT) at the University of Neuchâtel (UniNE) as a result of the transfer of the academic and applied research activities of the former Observatoire Cantonal de Neuchâtel (Observatory of Neuchatel), which had a longstanding expertize in accurate time and frequency measurements. The Laboratory was transferred to the Institute of Physics one year later.

Created in 1858, the Observatory has played a major role during the 20th century in assessing and rating the accuracy of mechanical timepiece movements for the Swiss watch industry based on astronomical observations. Until the late 1960s and the advent of the quartz watch movement, the Observatory issued a certification to the mechanical movements that passed a stringent series of tests.

After the introduction of the atomic coordinate time standard in 1967, the Observatory played a major and recognized role in the development of atomic clocks. Indeed, all atomic clocks that will equip the future European global navigation satellite system Galileo have been developed at the Observatory of Neuchatel.

The Time and Frequency Laboratory is continuing the pioneering activity initiated by its predecessor in the domain of atomic clocks and precision time and frequency metrology, in particular by studying improved compact atomic clocks for the second generation of the Galileo system, by developing a unique continuous cold caesium atom primary frequency standard as well as novel optical frequency comb technologies.