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Souvenirs from Switzerland : Watches and Cuckoo Clocks

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Switzerland may be neutral in many areas of international relations

but when it comes to finding out the time and wanting a time piece to look like a piece of jewellery, or become an ornament for the home, the Swiss really are the best in the world.

Swiss Watches

In terms of watches, the origins, like many country’s trademarks, comes from quite a backwards and strange way. In 1541 the French theologian John Calvin was a very influential figure in the period of the Protestant Revolution and was powerful enough to cause many of the Swiss population to change the way they not only act but also dress. Jewellery quickly was taken off the menu so the jewellers had to conjure up new ways to keep business alive. This came in taking the existing clocks and just making them a lot lot smaller. Geneva was the hubbub and the craft quickly took off and by the end of the 16 Century it was the capital of the watching making world and even had its own Guild.

The skilled workers then all started moving to the Jura Mountain area, where they set up what would soon become a labour force, thanks to Daniel Jeanrichard, and by around the late 18th Century Switzerland were exporting up to 60,000 watches. As technology then advanced, the Swiss led the way and the perpetual watch and the pendant winding watch all came through. A big turning point came when the pocket watch moved down the arm and onto the wrist, getting smaller along the way. By the end of the First World War it was very much in vogue. Nowadays the like of Tag Huer and Omega make Switzerland the leading watch exporter and the most prestigious devices in the world. Good enough for James Bond at least.

Swiss Cuckoo Clocks

At the other end of the spectrum but still in keeping with time (or time-keeping at least) there is the infamous Cuckoo Clock. The very first Cuckoo Clocks were made in the German area of the Black Forest in the 17th century. The region’s woodcraft had been a long-running tradition for years so it wasn’t a surprise this new skill took off. The clocks haven’t changed very much at all over the years. They are pendulum driven and strike bellows and pipes thus making a chime that resembles that of a cuckoo cooing. Then there is also the famous feather or more traditionally wooden cuckoo figure that comes flying out of the little hole.

The Swiss took the idea in the late 19th Century and added a few little bits of their own. The Swiss Chalet Style Cuckoo Clock has more intricate figures and the likes of children on swings etc, as well as the lead character of the cuckoo.

Top 5 Swiss Chalet hotels in Interlaken

Photo of cuckoo clocks in Lausanne, Switzerland, by Gingerbeardman


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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer phil mcdonald

Phil is a freelance writer working on various writing and editing projects ranging from feature film scripts to travel writing. He enjoys writing from experience and sharing information on the many places he has visited over the years

4 responses to “Souvenirs from Switzerland : Watches and Cuckoo Clocks”

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  1. Susan Geraeds says:
    December 19th, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    And not be be forgotten: chocolate!

  2. cuckoo clocks antique says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 6:59 am

    The black forest clocks of Germany are the finest mantle and cuckoo clocks in the world today–and have been since the 1700’s. The tradition of cuckoo clocks and mantle clocks around the world has been growing of late and cuckoo clock collectors are once again combing the globe for the rare and antique cuckoo clocks of yesteryear. As a collector its nice to read about these treasures.

  3. SteveM says:
    January 5th, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Being very familiar with the Black Forest background of the cuckoo clock, this was interesting on the Swiss takeoff. Got me in the mood to do some research on their Chalet style, which is very dominate with the musical cuckoos, These styles are probably my favorite because of all the animation the Swiss have added. Would make a great article.

  4. USA box says:
    August 4th, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.
    Nice words, dude :)


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