The Swiss president, Pascal Couchepin, has handed the Russian city of St Petersburg a gift of 100 clocks to mark the Russian city’s 300th anniversary.
The timepieces are to be placed in prominent places around the city.
Couchepin said the clocks were chosen as gifts because they had universal appeal.
“Switzerland wanted to give something that the entire population of St Petersburg, and not just the privileged people, could enjoy,” he said.
Couchepin presented the commemorative timepieces to civic officials at a ceremony in Russia’s second city.
The cortège of Russian and Swiss officials then made its way across the city to hang up the first set of clocks.
St Petersburg’s citizens will now be reading the time from Swiss clocks in the newly renovated Ladoga train station, main squares, the airport, metro exits and even in some churches.
Among the clocks is the familiar Swiss railway station clock with its red second hand.
“We wanted to offer something which is immediately linked to Switzerland and the Swiss railway clock is known worldwide,” the chief executive of Presence Switzerland, Johannes Matyassy, told swissinfo.
Presence Switzerland, part of the Swiss foreign ministry, has been coordinating the programme surrounding Switzerland’s participation in the city’s celebrations.
“We wanted to offer something which is useful to the whole population and something that will ensure a sustainable presence of Switzerland in St Petersburg,” he added.
Flying the Swiss flag
The clocks, in two versions, will feature on the dial the Swiss national flag of a white cross on a red background.
A competition has taken place for the city’s inhabitants to suggest suitable locations for some of the station clocks.
The winners are to receive a wristwatch version of the railway clock.
Under the “100 Clocks for St Petersburg” programme, Swiss clockmakers have also been working with Russian experts on restoring the highly treasured Mendeleyev Clock.
A Swiss company is assembling a modern mechanism for the clock, which is situated under the Triumphal Arch of the General Staff building. The arch opens on to the impressive Palace Square with the Hermitage, the former Winter Palace.
The city of Geneva is presenting the city with a floral clock that will be installed in the Alexandrovsky Park, while the Rado company is offering a Meeting Point clock.
swissinfo, Robert Brookes
The Swiss Days programme in St Petersburg (July 6 – 13) features activities focused on architecture, science, youth, economy and timepieces.
The first Swiss watchmakers in St Petersburg were two men from Geneva, Jean-Pierre Ador and Robert Jurrine.
The Swiss Railway Station clock was patented in the 1940s and is produced by the Moser-Baer company (Mobatime).
The official Swiss railways watch is manufactured by the Mondaine Company of Zurich.
The official Swiss gift to the city of St Petersburg is 100 clocks.
They will be installed at the airport, in railway stations and in the city’s main squares.
Swiss clock makers have been helping Russian experts restore the city’s priceless Mendeleyev clock.
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