Art of watchmaking wins UNESCO heritage status

The craftmanship of Swiss and French mechanical watchmaking on Wednesday won UNESCO intangible heritage status, casting the spotlight on an art practised for centuries in the Jura mountain region straddling the two countries, AFP reported.

Inclusion on the prestigious global list highlights "a living and emblematic tradition in the French-Swiss Jura Arc," the Swiss cultural ministry said in a statement.

The craftmanship getting the UNESCO nod sits at a "crossroads of science, art and technology," the UN agency said. UNESCO annually announces a list of cultural artefacts that encapsulate the spirit and heritage of their countries. Switzerland and France had last year presented a joint application for their centuries-old cross-border watchmaking craft to be included on the list. Their listing covers the skills related to the craftsmanship of mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics, which are used to create watches, clocks and other objects designed to measure and indicate time.

The Swiss-French Jura Arc, stretching from Geneva to Basel, is considered the cradle of the European time keeping industry, with the craft practised there for centuries.

In Switzerland alone, 57,500 people are employed in the sector, which counts a broad range of professions that are needed to assemble the casings and internal mechanics of a precision timepiece. Watchmaking is the third largest export sector in the Alpine country, with exports ticking in at nearly 22bn Swiss francs (€20bn) last year.

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