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Geneva 'bird's nest' bridge named after Rolex founder

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Photo: Patrick Nouhailler
10:49 CEST+02:00
A new Geneva bridge with an unusual design was officially inaugurated on Thursday after being entirely financed by the foundation that owns the Rolex watch company.

The distinctive 85-metre span with its elliptical steel truss, described as a “bird’s nest” because of its interwoven girders, crosses the Arve River, connecting the city’s Vernets and Plainpalais neighbourhoods.

The bridge is named after Hans Wilsdorf, the late founder of Rolex, who established a non-profit foundation that continues to operate the luxury watch brand.

The Hans Wilsdorf Foundation is also committed to funding charitable projects around Geneva.

In this case, it decided to fund a bridge to replace a small crossing that was built as a temporary structure by the Swiss Army in 1962.

The design was conceived by Geneva architects Brodbeck & Roulet.

The structure is held in place by 1,500 tonnes of steel and 1,500 tonnes of concrete, according to the bridge’s engineers, Amsler, Bombelli & Associates.

Built in less than three years, the project was a public-private partnership, although the Rolex owner picked up the entire tab.

The discreetly run foundation has not revealed the cost of the bridge.

The crossing provides one additional access to the Rolex headquarters, which are located in a modern glass and steel complex not far from the bridge in the Vernets neighbourhood.

Rolex’s founder Wilsdorf (1881-1960) was a Bavarian watchmaker who initially launched the Rolex brand in England after being trained in Switzerland.

During the First World War he returned to Switzerland where he developed the Rolex company and founded Tudor, a lower-priced brand of watches.

He established the Hans-Wilsdorf Foundation after the death of his wife in 1944.

With no heirs, he left all his shares in Rolex to the foundation.

View a slideshow of the bridge's construction compiled by engineers Amsler, Bombelli & Associates.

Story continues below…

See also: City of Geneva video of the architects' plans.

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