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Feature article: The Hallmark of Geneva, historical origins and modern developments

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Since the beginning of the 19th Century Geneva established itself as the world capital of watchmaking.

The founding of the Ecole d’Horlogerie (Watchmaking School) in 1823 contributed to strengthen Geneva’s worldwide reputation for excellence in the industry.

Geneva watchmakers like Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe had a key role in the development of mechanised production systems - just think of the pantograph invented in 1839 by Vacheron Constantin’s watchmaker Georges-Auguste Leschot for the production of perfectly identical copies of components - which made it possible to increase production and further expand sales.

Most cabinotiers - watchmakers but also jewelers, engravers, guillochers, stonecutters and enamelers with a solid reputation for quality of work, attention to detail and precision - did not trust in mechanization and mass production so watchmaking firms had to find a delicate balance between industrialization and craftsmanship.

The suburb of Saint-Gervais in Geneva. From the 17th to the 19th century, it was the district of the cabinotiers.


Les Cabinotiers au XVIIIe siècle, Christophe François von Ziegler (1879). The cabinotiers took their name from the “cabinet”, a small workshop on the top floor of a house where there was the most natural light.


With yearly production approaching a million pieces, Geneva watch exports represented more than a third of total Swiss exports in value at the end of the 19th century.

Nonetheless, the advent of industrialization in watchmaking posed a potential threat for the leadership of Geneva...

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