“Watchmaking in Geneva. The Magic of Craftsmanship, Treasures of Gold and Enamel”

Watch Making in GenevaOn display through April 29, 2012 at the Musée Rath in Geneva, Switzerland, is the exhibition Watchmaking in Geneva. The Magic of Craftsmanship, Treasures of Gold and Enamel showcasing more than 1000 watches, clocks, jewelry, miniatures, and enamelware pieces from the 16th century to today from the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire collections.

Geneva is well-known as one of the world’s most important centers for the watchmaking industry, craftsmanship and technology. This exhibition presents masterpieces, some on public display for the first time, from minuscule to monumental, showing intense precision combined with creative fantasy.  It evokes the role of the artisan workshops as birthplaces of creation and highlights the modern relevance of a watchmaking tradition in Geneva that has been uninterrupted since the 16th century. On display is an extremely rich and diversified heritage that hasn’t been exhibited in public since the 2002 closure of Geneva’s Museum of Watchmaking and Enamelware after multiple burglaries.

Watchmaking in Geneva: Calendar watch, end of 18th century © Vacheron Constantin
Watchmaking in Geneva: Calendar watch, end of 18th century © Vacheron Constantin

According to the Musée Rath, “the exhibition brings to life the time when Genevan watchmaking was positioning itself in the niche of what is called today the high end segment: in the 17th century and up until the last quarter of the 18th century, Geneva watches were not stylistically or technically different from those made in England or  France. With the mastery of painting on enamel, which reached its zenith at the end of the 18th century, the decoration of Genevan watches earned the city its reputation, which the 19th century established in the technical field. The artistic craft trades, which are still present in the watch  “manufactures”, testify to the continuity of the expertise. That is why the exhibition devotes special areas to the “magic of craftsmanship”, in order not only to enhance the value of the specific tools and  furniture – which have become collector’s items – but also to remind us of the importance of the craftsman’s hand in the creation process.”

Watchmaking in Geneva: Pocket watch world time, 1946 © Vacheron Constantin
Watchmaking in Geneva: Pocket watch world time, 1946 © Vacheron Constantin

Get a preview of the exhibition in the video.

These fine examples of fantastic machines of precise time-keeping mechanisms combined with clever, elegant, and intensely detailed decoration are fascinating when function, creativity, aesthetics, and science converge. Each watch has its own style and personality, especially considering how varied the details such as the watch “hands” and “face” can be. A watch’s design reflects the wearer’s style. Using vintage watch parts from more quotidian collections found at flea markets and around, I choose to highlight these little treasures, preserving them in a sense, yet in a contemporary context, making them “timeless”. Read other posts about watches from this blog and see examples of art925 jewelry made with them. Is it just a coincidence I grew up in Illinois near the cities of Geneva and Elgin, where a historic watch factory once thrived?

 

François Dentand, Geneva. Pendulum pocket watch, circa 1700 © MAH, photo: M. Aeschimann
François Dentand, Geneva. Pendulum pocket watch, circa 1700 © MAH, photo: M. Aeschimann

L’Horlogerie a Geneve

Decenber 15, 2011 – April 29, 2012

Musée Rath
Place Neuve
CH–1204 Geneva
T +41(0)22 418 33 40

Open from 10 am to 6 pm; Wednesday from 10 am to 8 pm; closed on Monday
Admission: CHF 10.- | reduced rate CHF 5.-
Free until age 18 and on the first Sunday of the month

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