How did Geneva become the renowned capital of watchmaking, and more precisely of luxury watchmaking? Explanations.
If the first wristwatch was created in 1810 by Breguet for Caroline Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon I and Queen of Naples, the wristwatch was then considered as an exclusively feminine jewel, men preferring the fob watch.
The First World War favored the development of the wristwatch among men, because it was more practical in the trenches. It was indeed much more practical to have a watch on the wrist in the trenches. In 1969, the invention of the quartz movement democratized the purchase of precise and inexpensive watches.
Geneva and watchmaking
In the 16th century, the theologian Jean Calvin fled France to Switzerland and helped the council of Geneva to reform the laws. A reform of 1541 forbade ostentatious luxury such as jewelry, leaving the many Geneva jewelers in a more than precarious situation.
In order to be able to continue to practice their trade, they turned to watchmaking. Considered as scientific instruments, clocks escaped Calvin’s reform. The goldsmiths therefore had a field day and produced richly decorated clocks.
A few years later, the wars of religion in France pushed the Huguenots to immigrate to Switzerland in 1572 and 1685. Geneva and the Jura basin saw an influx of qualified workers who brought their know-how in watchmaking and medicine, contributing to the development of goldsmithing. Geneva even saw the birth in 1601 of the very first corporation of watchmakers in the world.
In the 18th century, the watchmaking industry was so important in the Jura Arc that many farmers decided to supplement their income by doing small-scale work on watchmaking components during the winter. As watchmaking became more and more famous and contributed to the economy of the city, at the end of the 19th century, nearly 4 out of 10 employees worked for the watchmaking industry.
Nowadays, it is the strategic location of Geneva that has favored its development. Indeed, located at the crossroads of France, Italy and Germany, Geneva is ideally situated for the trade and export of its most beautiful pieces. The presence of numerous international organizations such as the WTO or the UN, which attract a public from all over the world, has also contributed to the development of the watchmaking sector in the region.
Featured photo : © Wikimedia Commons
Passionnée depuis son plus jeune âge par l’art et la mode, Hélène s’oriente vers une école de stylisme, l’Atelier Chardon-Savard à Paris, avec une option Communication. Afin d’ajouter des cordes à son arc, elle décide de compléter sa formation par un MBA en Management du Luxe et Marketing Expérientiel à l’Institut Supérieur de Gestion à Paris dont elle sort diplômée en 2020. Elle a notamment écrit des articles lifestyle et beauté pour le magazine Do it in Paris et se spécialise en rédaction d’articles concernant le luxe, l’art et la mode au sein du magazine Luxus Plus.********** [EN] Passionate about art and fashion from a young age, Hélène went to a fashion design school, Atelier Chardon-Savard in Paris, with a Communication option. In order to add more strings to her bow, she decided to complete her education with an MBA in Luxury Management and Experiential Marketing at the Institut Supérieur de Gestion in Paris from which she graduated in 2020. She has written lifestyle and beauty articles for Do it in Paris magazine and specializes in writing articles about luxury, art and fashion for Luxus Plus magazine.