NESCO has registered the craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics on its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.The organisation considered this application as outstanding, as it raises awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in a cross-border area.
The craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics includes the traditional craftsmanship of watchmaking in the Jura Arc, an area that stretches from Geneva to Schaffhausen, and from Biel to Besançon; it includes as well as the production of mechanical automata and music boxes in the Sainte-Croix region.
These skills, at the crossroads between science, art and technology, bring together individual and collective, as well as theoretical and practical knowledge in the fields of mechanics and micromechanics. This border region between France and Switzerland is home to a wide range of craftsmen, businesses, training institutions, museums and associations that promote and transmit these techniques that require the human’s hands. Those highly skilled techniques combine tradition and innovation.
While watchmaking and art mechanics play a primarily economic role, they have also shaped the architecture, urban landscape, and everyday life of these regions. The recognition of these skills also highlights the complementarity and continuity between tangible and intangible heritage, with the site of La Chaux-de-Fonds/Le Locle having been inscribed as a World Heritage Site of Watchmaking Town Planning in 2009.
Presented jointly by Switzerland and France in March 2019, the application was prepared by the Swiss Federal Office of Culture (FOC) with a binational steering group that included craftsmen, trainers and representatives from museums and French local authorities (Grand Besançon area and the Pays Horloger). The proposed safeguarding initiatives cover the areas of documentation, training and transmission, as well as awareness-raising and enhancement.
A European Interreg project, “Arc Horloger” (Watchmaking Arc), led by arcjurassien.ch on the Swiss side, was set up at the time of the application in order to implement these initiatives transnationally. This framework will make it possible to promote the UNESCO inscription and to formally establish a joint coordination structure.
The first tangible result of the impetus for cultural heritage generated by the application is a photograph exhibition curated jointly by the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Museum of Time in Besançon. It is focusing on the scope and implications of the inscription.