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UNESCO

Art of Swiss watchmaking awarded UNESCO heritage status

The craftmanship of Swiss and French mechanical watchmaking on Wednesday won UNESCO intangible heritage status, casting the spotlight on an art practised for centuries in the Jura mountain region straddling the two countries.

Art of Swiss watchmaking awarded UNESCO heritage status
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Inclusion on the prestigious global list highlights “a living and emblematic tradition in the French-Swiss Jura Arc,” the Swiss cultural ministry said in a statement.

The craftmanship getting the UNESCO nod sits at a “crossroads of science, art and technology,” the UN agency said.

UNESCO annually announces a list of cultural artefacts that encapsulate the spirit and heritage of their countries.

Switzerland and France had last year presented a joint application for their centuries-old cross-border watchmaking craft to be included on the list.

Their listing covers the skills related to the craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics, which are used to create watches, clocks and other objects designed to measure and indicate time.

But the manufacture of automatons, music boxes and mechanical songbirds are also included.

And techniques range from the manual and traditional to the cutting-edge and innovative.

“Though generally hidden, the mechanisms can also be visible, which contributes to the aesthetics and poetic dimension of the objects,” the UNESCO listing said.

The Swiss-French Jura Arc, stretching from Geneva to Basel, is considered the cradle of the European time keeping industry, with the craft practised there for centuries.

French theologian Jean Calvin, the influential reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation, actually played a role in embedding watchmaking in the region.

By banning the wearing of ornamental objects in 1541, he “in effect forced goldsmiths and other jewellers to turn to a different art: that of watchmaking,” the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry explains on its site.

The fact that numerous Protestants fleeing prosecution in France also fled into the city, bringing their watchmaking skills with them, also helped embed the craft in the city.

Today, the Jura region remains bustling with watchmaking companies, big and small, with highly qualified craftspeople and a multitude of training options.

In Switzerland alone, 57,500 people are employed in the sector, which counts a broad range of professions that are needed to assemble the casings and internal mechanics of a precision timepiece.

Watchmaking is the third largest export sector in the Alpine country, with exports ticking in at nearly 22 billion Swiss francs ($25 billion, 20 billion euros) last year. 

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CULTURE

These are the most (and least) trusted professions in Switzerland

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker don’t figure among the professions the Swiss people find most trustworthy. But these others do.

These are the most (and least) trusted professions in Switzerland

You may think the Swiss trust their bankers more than anyone else in the world. But if you believe that, you are wrong.

A new survey by Moneyland.ch, a Swiss consumer website, found that only 20 percent of study participants find bankers trustworthy.

On the other hand, the most trusted professionals in Switzerland (by 74 percent of respondents) are firefighters, followed by nurses (66 percent), doctors (64 percent), and pilots (63 percent).

An interesting pattern is emerging here: the Swiss put most trust in those who have the control of our lives and health.

Other professionals that are trusted by 50-plus percent of respondents are pharmacists, public transport drivers, police officers, farmers, and cooks — again, those who are responsible, in one way or another, for our health and safety.

The flipside: the least trusted are…

Bankers, as mentioned before, along with financial advisors, are fairly low in the trust ranking, the latter being seen as trustworthy by only 18 percent of study participants.

But they don’t fare as badly as other professionals.

For instance, only 14 percent of respondents trust their politicians, and even fewer put their faith in advertising professionals.

Speaking of faith, merely 22 percent trust members of clergy, which is compatible with data showing that an increasing number of people are no longer attending church.

Some other interesting findings…

Only 12 percent of the population trust Swiss football players (after all, they haven’t yet won any championships). More than that, however, 22 percent, trust journalists.

‘We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans

That is not a lot, but at least we fare better than footballers.

You can see the full study here.

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