Craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List
On 16 December 2020 UNESCO inscribed the craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This inscription highlights a living tradition emblematic of the Franco-Swiss Jura Arc.
The nomination was considered as exemplary by UNESCO for its highlighting of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in a cross-border area.
The 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage decided on 16 December 2020 to inscribe Craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics on its Representative List.
The craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics includes the watchmaking skills situated along the Jura Arc from Geneva to Schaffhouse, and from Bienne to Besançon, but also the manufacturing of automata and music boxes characteristic of the Sainte-Croix region. At the crossroads of science, art and technology, this craftsmanship combines individual and collective as well as theoretical and practical knowledge and skills in the field of mechanics and micromechanics.
In the Franco-Swiss area, a wide variety of artisans, companies, schools, museums and associations highlight and transmit these manual skills, which combine both tradition and innovation. As well as serving an economic function, the skills have also shaped the everyday social reality of the regions concerned
Jewels of the French watchmaking industry are all based on a few kimometers perimeter
Morteau-based Emile Péquignet has opened a store in Besançon centre
Ambre designs and makes watches under licence for Zadig et Voltaire, Younger & Bresson’s women’s range, as well as Yéma, Prima Classe and others
Charquemont is home to prestigious brands Saint-Honoré (125 years of history) and Herbelin.
In Maîche, the Christian Bernard group has been entrusted with the design and distribution of Cacharel and Replay watches.
And finally at Les Fins, the TWC Clyda groups designs watches for Cerrutti, Christian Lacroix, Ted Lapidus, Thierry Mugler, etc.
Besançon, capital of time and luxury
The traditional home of French watchmaking, Besançon continues to reinvent itself and to innovate, maintaining its position at the forefront of a highly specialised sector in which it has excelled for over 200 years.
A unique body of know-how passed down the generations, espousing all the flagship technological developments of the times. Today, the watchmaking capital still enjoys a certain pulling power thanks to a synergy of skills rooted in the watchmaking industry. And it is no coincidence if prestigious brands are opening new sites or developing existing ones in the capital of Franche-Comté to conduct new projects and invent the watches of the future.
Inspired by excellence
Today, many of the top watch and luxury goods brands have found in Besançon an environment conducive to their development.
Designer, creator and watch developer, that’s how this man from Biel defines himself. M. Benjamin brand offers exclusive watches in which mechanical excellence, the beauty of shapes and the requirement of materials are dedicated. A partnership with the prestigious American brand Jacob&Co is a real step forward in terms of volume and notoriety for Benjamin Muller, who is already working on new concepts.
In 1995, this prestigious Swiss brand chose Besançon as the location for its European after-sales service, as well as a training center for future Breitling watchmakers. In 2012, the company confirmed its location by constructing an ultramodern building in TEMIS technology park.
For nearly 30 years, the DECAYEUX STI Group has been supplying the big names in leather goods; they still represent the bulk of the Group’s business and the luxury markets account for nearly 40% of its turnover. By taking over TECHLAM and setting up DECAYEUX LUXE in Besançon, the group is expanding its customer base by positioning itself in the jewelry and watchmaking sectors.
Since 1857, Dodane has been the official supplier of the French Air Force headquarters as well as many pilots throughout the world.
Today, the fifth generation continues to supply the aeronautical fleets of many armies in the world. The advanced technical developments of the on-board chronographs have given a unique quality and authenticity to the Dodane type 21 watches and wrist chronographs, recognized by professionals as irreplaceable instruments.
Creator and subcontractor in jewelry, EBS BIJOUX makes pieces to order, individually or in series. Jewelers for 4 generations, the company combines the tradition of know-how and high technology to provide its customers with highly qualitative and very competitive services. With about fifty passionate craftsmen (jewelers, creators, jewelers, setters, polishers and engravers), EBS BIJOUX works with the major jewelry and luxury brands.
Established since 2000 in Besançon, Festina French distribution subsidiary brand sells nearly 1 million watches annually ! Official timekeeper of the Tour de France, Festina has also developed its European after-sales service in the French watchmaking capital.
Last French manufacture to perpetuate the know-how of the MAYET brothers from Morbier (Jura), who in 1660 invented and perfected the mechanical clock movement called “cage-fer”.
Manufacture Vuillemin perpetuates the tradition and develops new collections of clocks.
The ticking sounds of the clock remain the same, but the comtoise clock is reborn and opts for innovation.
Mademoiselle Anne is based in Besançon area, land of watchmaking. Industrial designer and graphic artist, Mademoiselle Anne practices her profession with passion and conviction.
Mother of 2 young children, she first thought of them by designing their first watch, the one with which we learn the time.
Created 70 years ago in Besançon, the french specialist in mail order watches and jewelry has more than 500 employees specialized in the manufacture, expertise, repair and marketing of more than 4,000 references !
A recognized French know-how that has given birth to many exceptional jewels and watches in the Besançon workshops.
Sometimes forgotten, the traditional clock remains an important part of the heritage of municipalities. It is important to preserve or restore it according to the rules of art. From their manufacture until the middle of the last century, through their transformation into electromechanical systems, this company is one of the most recognized in their restoration.
SFM – Société Française de Manufacture en Joaillerie – is positioned as one of the main players in the jewelry industry and offers its customers the best guarantees of quality and professionalism inherent to the excellence of french manufacturing.
In 2015, SMB signed an agreement to exploit the mythical brand LIP for two major collections: the historical collection (de Gaulle, Churchill, Himalaya, T18, Mermoz, Herzog models…) and the design models (with the famous colored push buttons) by Roger Tallon and Michel Boyer. Since then, original LIP creations have been created.
Philippe Labru is a manufacturer and designer of contemporary Comtois clocks and watches. He clearly displays his attachment to the city of Besançon with its latin motto.
Not to mention monumental creations: two clocks hung on the Museum of Time and a six-ton model that marks the time of the new Besançon – Franche-Comté TGV station and another in the heart of Tokyo on the pediment of the Viabus Stop concept store.
Jules Haag high school in Besançon offers several microtechnology courses directly related to watchmaking, starting with the Baccalauréat STI Microtechniques, followed by the BTS CIM (Design and Industrialization in Microtechnology) and MAI (Mechanics and Industrial Automatism).
Edgar Faure high school in Morteau has been at the head of a network of watchmaking training schools since 2008. Its watchmaking program includes a CAP (Certificate of Professional Aptitude), a Brevet des Métiers d’Art (BMA) and a Diplôme des Métiers d’Art (DMA). A partnership with the GRETA (Groupement d’Etablissements Publics) also offers training for adults (cross-border CAP diploma).