When was the first asphalt road built?

When COBLOR first thought about combining historic asphalt with Swiss watchmaking art around 3 years ago, we could not have imagined what this idea had in common with the invention of the world’s first asphalt road. But today we know and we are amazed! Exactly 290 years ago, the basis for today’s asphalt roads was laid in Switzerland, just 30 km away from our watch manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds.  

In 1712, the Greek doctor Eirini d’Eirinis discovered the gigantic La Presta asphalt deposit in the Val de Travers in Switzerland. At that time, he was mainly interested in its medical application. Due to the technical advantages of this material, he finally wrote his “Dissertation on Asphalt or Natural Cement” in 1721 and with his investigations, he “open the road” to the modern asphalt technology. This laid the foundation for today’s roads. Today, almost 90% of the roads worldwide are asphalted. 

The first use of asphalt on roads was in 1824, when asphalt blocks were placed on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. The Jungfernstieg in Hamburg was Germany’s first street to be asphalted in 1838.
The modern road asphalt was ultimately developed by the Belgian immigrant Edward de Smedt at Columbia University in New York City. By 1872, De Smedt had developed a modern, “well-graded” asphalt with maximum density. This modern road asphalt was first used in Battery Park and Fifth Avenue in New York City in 1872, and in Washington DC on Pennsylvania Avenue in 1877.
We are happy to give people the opportunity to wear a piece of history on their wrist for the first time.The fact that we can offer this in a 100% sustainable way, is very important for us.
Source: Wikipedia

Postcard of the La Presta asphalt pit in the Val de Travers from 1904.
Source: G. Grundmann collection/Wikimedia Commons

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