Mechanical watchmaking and art receives cultural heritage recognition

Adjusting the mechanism on an android, an automaton reproducing human gestures such as writing and drawing. It is animated by an exclusively mechanical system made up of cams, gears, levers and springs. Alain Margot

The craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics has been added to UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This content was published on December 17, 2020 - 12:02

This is in recognition of the living tradition that characterises the region of the French-Swiss Jura Arc, according to the Federal Office of Culture.

“The Jura Arc is an area in which craftsmanship remains particularly dynamic thanks to the presence of highly qualified craftspeople and companies that promote the skills and a full range of training options,” said UNESCOExternal link, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

“Historically, entire families were involved in the practice, developing apprenticeship practices and professional and family alliances. Skills were initially learned in training schools. Nowadays, practitioners also share their know-how via online blogs, forums and tutorials and collaborative open source projects.”

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UNESCO said that as well as serving an economic function, the skills have also shaped the architecture, urban landscape and everyday social reality of the regions concerned.

“The practice conveys many values such as good workmanship, punctuality, perseverance, creativity, dexterity and patience, and the infinite quest for precision and the intangible aspect of time measurement give the practice a strong philosophical dimension.”

The candidature was launched jointly by Switzerland and France in March 2019.

The Federal Office of Culture said in a statementExternal link that watchmaking and artistic mechanics encompassed the art of watchmaking along the Jura Arc from Geneva to Schaffhausen and from Biel to the French city of Besançon, as well as the manufacture of music automatons and music boxes, which is typical of the Sainte-Croix region in Switzerland.

The watchmaking industry in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle was already inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009.

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