La Fabrique


Category:
Traditional craftsmanship
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Description

“Visit the Saint Gervais quarter. All the watchmaking of Europe seems centred there!” This extract from a letter by Rousseau to d’Alembert encapsulates the uniqueness of the "Fabrique genevoise". This term has been used since the early 18th century to describe the community of craftsmen – watchmakers, goldsmiths, jewellers and other highly skilled artisans who worked with precious metal – that clustered in one particular area. Their expertise ranged from drawing, engraving, guilloche work, enamelling, as well as making watch hands, springs, fusées, casings, chains, carry cases and other boxes. In short, it was these craftsmen who brought elegance and finesse to the art of watchmaking.

The Saint Gervais quarter is at the heart of this hive of activity. Each individual workshop was assigned a particular task, which became more intricate as work progressed. It was this attention to detail that often ensured the beauty and quality of the finished product. Thanks to this array of talent and expertise, various horological fabrication and decorating techniques were developed that were typical to Geneva alone, such as the “Émaux de Genève” (Geneva enamel), “Boules de Genève” (ball-shaped watches), as well as the “Poinçon de Genève” (Geneva Seal). All are sources of an imagination and ingenuity that continues to nurture the high esteem in which the luxury watchmaking industry holds the city of Calvin.

Image gallery

  • Cabinotier’s workbench in the Musée des Cabinotiers, Gilbert Albert collection © Musée des Cabinotiers-MAH/MAH, Ville de Genève
  • Christophe François von Ziegler, 1879: scene from an 18th century watchmaker’s workshop, Geneva. © Maurice Aeschimann/MAH, Ville de Genève
  • Moulinié & Legrandroy, circa 1850: view of Geneva from Pregny, a fine example of Geneva enamel work © Maurice Aeschimann/MAH, Ville de Genève
  • Craftsman delicately applying the enamel with by brush © MAH, Ville de Genève (in:« L’Email et les Couleurs à peindre sur émail. Leur nature et leur fabrication »)
  • Le Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal)
  • Anita Porchet’s workshop: Work in progress on the face of the Vacheron Constatin watch «Hommage aux compositeurs illustres» © Vacheron Constantin © Succ. Marc Chagall
  • Hand-filing workshop, Vacheron Constantin © Vacheron Constantin
  • Atelier Métiers d’Art: engraving, Vacheron Constantin © Vacheron Constantin
  • Ateliers Métiers d’Art : Guillochage, Vacheron Constatin © Vacheron Constantin
  • Vacheron Constantin pocket watch, 1925. The enamelled face is the work of Marie Goll and is a reproduction of Nicolas Poussin’s “Les bergers d’Arcadie” (the shepherds of Arcadia) © Vacheron Constantin
  • Cabinotier’s workbench in the Musée des Cabinotiers, Gilbert Albert collection © Musée des Cabinotiers-MAH/MAH, Ville de Genève
  • Christophe François von Ziegler, 1879: scene from an 18th century watchmaker’s workshop, Geneva. © Maurice Aeschimann/MAH, Ville de Genève
  • Moulinié & Legrandroy, circa 1850: view of Geneva from Pregny, a fine example of Geneva enamel work © Maurice Aeschimann/MAH, Ville de Genève
  • Craftsman delicately applying the enamel with by brush © MAH, Ville de Genève (in:« L’Email et les Couleurs à peindre sur émail. Leur nature et leur fabrication »)
  • Le Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal)
  • Anita Porchet’s workshop: Work in progress on the face of the Vacheron Constatin watch «Hommage aux compositeurs illustres» Coll. Métiers d’Art Chagall & l’Opéra de Paris © Vacheron Constantin © Succession Marc Chagall
  • Hand-filing workshop, Vacheron Constantin © Vacheron Constantin
  • Atelier Métiers d’Art: engraving, Vacheron Constantin © Vacheron Constantin
  • Ateliers Métiers d’Art : Guillochage, Vacheron Constatin © Vacheron Constantin
  • Vacheron Constantin pocket watch, 1925. The enamelled face is the work of Marie Goll and is a reproduction of Nicolas Poussin’s “Les bergers d’Arcadie” (the shepherds of Arcadia) © Vacheron Constantin

References and documentation

Publications
  • Antony Babel : La Fabrique genevoise. Neuchâtel, 1938

  • Estelle Fallet : L’Horlogerie à Genève. Magie des métiers, trésors d’or et d’émail. Ed. Musée d’art et d’histoire, Genève. Genève, 2011

  • Anne-Marie Piuz, Liliane Mottu-Weber et al. : L'économie genevoise, de la Réforme à la fin de l'Ancien Régime. Genève, 1990

Documentation
  • La Fabrique

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