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Geneva Watch Days can look back on a record edition and new digital platform



The Watch Library, a charitable foundation registered in February 2022, is committed to preserving and promoting the world’s watchmaking heritage. A new chapter opened with the launch of a digital platform that offers public access to over 320,000 archival documents.

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The Watch Library project began when watch publishing house Europa Star, established in Geneva in 1927, digitized its own archives. The gradual release of magazine issues spanning nearly a century triggered a broader reflection on the importance of heritage for the world of watchmaking. In March 2020 the Maillard family joined forces with Martine Depresle (The Talented) to conceptualize, create and develop the project.

The project was conceived as a non-profit foundation to facilitate access to the documents and enable the implementation of open data policies wherever possible. The Watch Library Foundation was established in September 2021 and granted charitable status by the Swiss Confederation in February 2022.

The Foundation is built around the core belief that making watchmaking heritage accessible to the widest possible audience will stimulate imagination, creativity and innovation across the sector. Prominent horological institutions including the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds and the Horological Society of New York were quick to join the project and commit to serving the Foundation's mission.

Audemars Piguet and Richard Mille were among the first patrons, and were instrumental in getting the project off the ground. They were soon joined by other watchmakers, including TAG Heuer in the summer of 2023, as well as other major industry partners who prefer to remain anonymous, in accordance with their philanthropic values.

An industry-wide movement was mobilized around the goal of preserving and promoting their forgotten horological archives. It was given further impetus by the recognition of watchmaking savoir-faire by UNESCO in December 2020, which rallied many partners around The Watch Library project. Arc Horloger, the Franco-Swiss entity that championed the candidacy, sits on the Board of Trustees of The Watch Library, whose funding is secured by public and private patronage.

The Watch Library is non-partisan, working exclusively towards preserving and increasing the visibility of watchmaking heritage. A scientific committee made up of experts is tasked with identifying and validating the relevance of the archives to be preserved and incorporated into The Watch Library's online platform, which was launched on 1 September in Geneva during the Geneva Watch Days. The technological side of the project turned out to be just as time-consuming as the preservation of the archives themselves. The convergence of analog heritage and digital technology found its full resonance with the launch of The Watch Library online platform, which has been thoughtfully designed and built around its users. A panel of watch enthusiasts, both industry professional and aficionados, were involved in testing the platform and providing insights that shaped its features.

The platform's first version already hosts over 320,000 documents and archive pages from a dozen different sources. Enabling real-time search among tens of thousands of documents of varying formats, sizes, and sources presented a genuine challenge.

Charitable foundation, non-profit

  • Over 320,000 items digitized so far

  • Publications, magazines, catalogs, almanacs, notes, books, drawings, photos, videos – the platform covers a huge variety of watch-related content

  • Principle of free access

  • Shared goal of preserving and passing on watchmaking heritage

The pavilion at the Rotonde du Mont Blanc was open to the public for four days and welcomed 8’000 people from the public. All images ©

After a week full of launches, meetings and lively discussions, Geneva Watch Days can look back on a record edition: 39 participating brands and nearly 1,500 industry professionals, including 600 media representatives and 300 retailers, came from all over the world to gather on the shores of Lake Geneva.

The pavilion at the Rotonde du Mont Blanc was open to the public for four days and welcomed 8’000 people from the public, who were able to admire the latest offerings from the brands in 51 display cases grouped around three themes. 450 of them enjoyed guided tours led by three experts. The six symposiums on issues dear to the heart of the watchmaking industry were also a great success, each one drawing in fifty or so listeners to the auditorium. The brunch organized on Saturday, September 2 by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie attracted about 100 watch lovers to put their knowledge to the test in a quiz. Students, collectors and business executives had the opportunity to talk directly with the CEOs of the participating brands at three informal breakfasts. Finally, the charity auction held on August 30 organized jointly by Geneva Watch Days and Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo raised CHF 110’000.-for a fund dedicated to worthy students at the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève who find themselves in economic difficulty.

"Naturally, the success of this edition is down to our participating brands, and also to our partners. I would like to thank the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Geneva Tourism, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Horopedia, the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève, the Watch Library, Worldtempus, GMT magazine and Revolution magazine for their valuable support," said Antoine Pin, President of the Geneva Watch Days Association and Director of Bulgari Watches. Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling, is thrilled by the way the event went: "I am proud and delighted to play a part in and be a witness to this initiative - a collaboration that has been growing steadily ever since it was established three years ago. It's a cultural moment, a unifying event and a platform for dialog in the watchmaking industry." "Informal but professional, decentralized but welcoming, this salon is the perfect format for launching our new products for the last quarter. Girard Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin are proud to be among the founding members and to contribute to its continuity," added Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of the two brands. Maximilian Büsser, founder and director of MB&F, cannot conceal his enthusiasm either: "Launching beautiful mechanical objects opposite the Jet d'eau, right in the cradle of watchmaking, can only be a delight. In a world where digital is gaining the upper hand, it remains crucial to share and exchange views with both industry professionals and the general public." Boosted by this success, the salon is all set for its fifth edition in 2024 and is becoming an essential get-together in the industry's calendar.

The Geneva Watch Days are an industry salon founded in 2020 by eight prestigious watch brands: Breitling, Bulgari, De Bethune, Girard-Perregaux, H. Moser & Cie, MB&F, Ulysse Nardin, and Urwerk. The event is based on a modern and unconventional philosophy that emphasizes straightforward cooperation. It is a self-managed organization that is light, flexible, and agile, providing a common space to showcase the latest developments in watchmaking, while giving participating brands the opportunity to host decentralized activities. Held in partnership with the Canton and the City of Geneva, and with the support of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Services (CCIG), the show caters to industry professionals including retailers and media, while also being completely open to the public. The 2023 event brought together the following brands: Alpina, Angelus, Armin Strom, Arnold & Son, Artime, Bausele, Bianchet, Breitling, Bulgari, Byrne, Konstantin Chaykin, Claude Meylan, Corum, Czapek & Cie, De Bethune, Doxa, Frédérique Constant Group, Girard Perregaux, Greubel Forsey, Hautlence, HYT, Jacob and Co, Krayon, Laurent Ferrier, Louis Erard, Massena Lab, Maurice Lacroix, MB&F, H. Moser & Cie., Oris, Perrelet, Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo, Raketa, Reservoir, Ressence, Singer, Trilobe, Ulysse Nardin, and Urwerk. With the valuable support of: the State of Geneva, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Horopedia, the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève, Worldtempus, GMT magazine, and Revolution magazine.

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